Sam Harris. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York/ London: W. W. Norton, 336 pages.
This is the very first book penned by Harris, a Stanford graduate and doctoral candidate in neuroscience, and I should say up front that I look forward to reading his next book, whatever its subject matter may be. Not only does he know how to think, he also writes excellent prose.
In this work, he has turned his attention to a rather topical subject—the pernicious dogmas of religion and their role in politics and terrorism—, and he has approached it with a great deal of vim and vigor.
There are plenty of publications in the marketplace that are critical of religion (or what Harris refers to perhaps somewhat misleadingly as “faith”). But not many contemporary philosophers have dared to launch an all-out attack on the irrational components of religion—not merely Christianity but, with decisive political incorrectness, also and especially Islam. Harris likes to call a spade a spade, and at this late hour in the present civilizational survival game one must agree with his direct approach. I also happen to share his view that religious fundamentalism—whether of Christian or Islamic or any other provenance—is dangerous to the health of contemporary society and a great risk to our future.
In particular, I agree with him that terrorism—even if today it is more about political power and money—is closely tied into Islam’s fundamentalist doctrines. Terrorists have learned how to manipulate those dogmas to find the support they need for their destructive agenda. Recognizing that this is so does of course not alter the historical fact of the United States’ long-standing and damaging meddling in the Middle East and elsewhere. Nor does Harris mean to exonerate his nation on this score.
Harris writes as a latter-day Angry Young Man of whom, I believe, we need many more. No doubt, he knows that his brave book will alienate any number of readers, colleagues, and the moral majority. In me, for one, he has found an appreciative reader and moral supporter.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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