le 26 août 2008
At its heart, this book is about the difference between faith and reason. Faith is blind. It is not based on evidence or reason, and therefore offering evidence or reasons will not shake the faithful from their beliefs. Harris thinks that is very, very dangerous. It will come as no surprise to anyone that he began writing this book on September 12, 2001.
Harris argues that relying on faith instead of reason is a bad way to lead your life. It leads to all sorts of weird and dangerous beliefs, prevents important scientific discoveries, and stirs hatred between people who hold mutually inconsistent faith-based beliefs. Of course, people make mistakes when they rely on evidence and reason, but at least if we rely on reason and evidence, we are moving in the right direction and we are open to changing our minds when we are wrong. If our beliefs are based on faith, we are stuck forever.
This book will make religious people uncomfortable. Harris says exactly what he thinks, without making an attempt to spare the feelings of the religious. He does not, however, call anyone names or say anything in order to be mean or offensive. He simply states that facts as he sees them.
Some reviewers claim that Harris is "intolerant" or a "fundamentalist." They are wrong. Harris, unlike many religious leaders, fully supports the right to think, say and believe as you wish. He opposes any form of oppression. On other hand, Harris also reserves the right to think some beliefs are foolish. You probably do not respect the belief that Elvis is alive. Harris feels the same way about religious beliefs. He certainly would not want to see Elvis believers put in jail or denied rights, but he feels free to say that belief in Elvis is just plain wrong.
le 30 novembre 2014
Wow, what a powerful book! I read it twice (which is rare) and some pages over and over.
Harris is not only a scientist but a serious philosopher. His musings about ethics, morality and the real meaning of love are fascinating. He is clearly blindly intelligent and has considerable pedagogy. His eloquence is impressive, though sometimes daunting (you need a dictionary to hand). To reach a broader public he might be advised to use simpler words at times.
I am an avid reader of books critical of blind faith, which is poisoning our world as it has for centuries and is driven by books such as the Bible and the Koran which are necessarily unreliable and have been transformed by clerics and theologians into user manuals of hate, torture and human suffering. Academic critics like Richard Dawkins are simply irritated by irrational religious beliefs, feeling insulted on behalf of all the people who strive daily to make our world a better place and expand our knowledge. But Sam Harris's message is different - and much more alarming.
Harris writes as he speaks, in short, eloquent, carefully constructed phrases backed by copious illustrations. He builds his case against ignorance and obscurantism progressively with statements which in most cases are impossible to refute. He recounts the appalling crimes and genocide committed over the centuries by fundamentalist Christians. Today it is clear that Christianity has moved on, though sometimes reluctantly, in the face of our greater enlightenment. But Harris points out that the same cannot be said for fundamentalist Islam which is seeing a sharp revival, no doubt due in part to the failure of this religion to modernize (which is difficult since its theologians have deliberately structured its scriptures to prevent this), leaving its followers feeling frustrated, and even insulted and humiliated by the glowing successes of western liberal (and largely secular) democracies.
Harris sees Islam and THE big threat to our survival in this century. As he points out, the Christian crusaders 800 years ago had to travel a long way on horseback then kill innocent people by the sword. Today's Islamic crusaders have massive financial resources and access the modern transport and weapons.
The concept of mutually assured nuclear destruction (MAD) has saved us from major conflicts for 60 years. Why? Because the Soviets are people more or less like us, leaving aside a few cultural differences and maybe a little less respect for human life, as evidenced by their recent history. But this will not work with Al Qaeda. We are facing fanatics with a 13th century outlook keen to murder people for the tiniest imagined crimes against their faith. These people are actually keen to die, looking forward to going an extended stay in paradise abusing young women at will.
The attack of 9/11 was seen as an act of war. The US President had to attack someone, anyone, the American people required it. Fortunately Afghanistan, though not directly involved, provided a convenient candidate. Harris asks us what the 19 middle-class, well-educated 9/11 attackers would have done if they had had a nuclear device. We all know. So what will the US do when this happens, which it might - soon? The riposte will probably have to be nuclear and any country helping these people will be judged by the company it keeps. We know who they are. The destruction of Iran , Pakistan maybe, Saudi Arabia possible will be not only tragic but will lead to unprecedented global instability. What will Israel do in the face of the subsequent Moslem uprising. How will India react. What a tragedy, all due to ignorance and irrationality.
Harris, like most other atheists, is in no way opposed to private spirituality and mysticism which appears essential to many people. But blind faith is dangerous - possibly lethal today. How can we deal with this enemy? How can you even talk to people with a 13th century mindset? Harris can be forgiven for not proposing an answer. You will lay down his book feeling perplexed.
le 17 mai 2014
Harris began writing the book in what he described as a period of "collective grief and stupefaction" following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
It speaks about organized religion, the clash between religious faith and rational thought, and the problems of tolerance towards religious fundamentalism.
A very interesting book and very nicely written.