The End of Faith

Sam Harris’ book The End of Faith is a critically insightful book.

He understands that at the heart of religion lies a realization about our own experience, but that that realization has been corrupted.

A particular way in which it has been corrupted, he says, is in the form of an Islam which preaches hatred and death. He makes a compelling case that that ideology represents a major threat to the entire world order. I myself am not nearly knowledgeable enough about that religion to judge his conclusions, but the case he makes is very strong.

Harris’ book resembles Dennett’s Breaking the Spell in its condemnation of “faith”, but is much more coherent and closely reasoned.

However, it fails to address a potentially key aspect of the problem: the neurological roots of people’s belief in religion.

6 Responses to “The End of Faith”

  1. Wolfgang Brinck Says:

    the neurological roots of people’s belief in religion: my general gripe with this approach is not that it shouldn’t be taken but rather that its tone tends to be dismissive. i.e. religious belief is only a neurological phenomenon and hence has no corresponding real world reality. It is, in short a mental abberation, a useless illusion.

    However, it seems to me that if you don’t trust your brain on religion, what makes you think you can trust your brain on anything else, say, reason or perception. The attack on religion via the brain seems to be based on the assumption that the sensual perception part of the brain (vision, smell, hearing etc.) gives you a valid mapping of reality whereas religious perceptions by the brain lack any real counterpart, that is, the mapping is imaginary. The perception of religious truths originates entirely within the brain and is not a mapping of an external reality.

    Well who knows. Maybe they’re right. But I think that the phenomenon of religious experience, even if it originates within the brain is not to be easily dismissed because for one thing, what distinguishes the religious experience from the conventional experience of reality is its greater authority and the conviction it carries. That is, religious experience is invariably more real than conventional experience and more convincing. When one has it, it supercedes conventional perception in its conviction.

    Finally, there are mind-altering drugs. The question they pose is very simple and also threatening to the dominion of conventional reality, namely, if a small amount of neuroactive chemical can disrupt our perception of consensus reality, then what is the authority of conventional perception of reality. Its validity seems to be entirely an accident of biology and chemistry becomes the ultimate arbiter of reality.

    The answer to the chemistry dilemma that is usually given seems to be survival of the species. Consensus perception of reality helps us to re-create. Religious or drug induced perceptions do not. Oh well, and how did we come by that valuation? By means of brain process supposedly. In other words, we should accept this form of experience because is conforms with our belief of what constitutes reality. I would call this approach faith-based.

  2. Mehtap Says:

    Why is everyone who has nothing else to do, influenced by main stream and media and obviously with too small of a brain judges a religion that they dont have the slightest clue about. Theory and Practice, Propaganda and Reality are obviously different to each other. Publishing this article on your side makes you no different to the author. Your mind and your ego runs your life. Until you have freed yourself from the mind you may consider not adding salt to an existing problem of miscommunication and assumptions. Muslims at the end of the day are people like you and me. They eat, they cry, they laugh, they aim, they are angry, they love and they protect etc. Let the evolution decide, you are the author or anyone is the judge.

    I am sick of injust!

    Live and let live. Accept and let go. Is it difficult?

    Mehtap

  3. Numenware, a blog about neurotheology » Blog Archive » Book review: Letter to a Christian Nation Says:

    [...] called Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” a “critically insightful” book. Now [...]

  4. Numenware, a blog about neurotheology » Blog Archive » Book review: Letter to a Christian Nation Says:

    [...] called Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” a “critically insightful” book. Now [...]

  5. Numenware, a blog about neurotheology » Blog Archive » Book review: Letter to a Christian Nation Says:

    [...] called Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” a “critically insightful” book. Now [...]

  6. Numenware, a blog about neurotheology » Blog Archive » Thanks for your comments Says:

    [...] comments included those on the article Science and Buddhism on craving and suffering and The End of Faith. On my post on Bill O’Reilly: unlikely neurotheology [...]

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