Author Topic: The End of Faith  (Read 842 times)

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Offline dean_saor

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The End of Faith
« on: January 18, 2008, 11:29:27 AM »
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, Sam Harris, Free Press (Simon and Schuster), London 2005 (first published in the USA by W. W. Norton & Co, 2004)

"Sam Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University. He has studied both Eastern abd Western religious traditions, along with a variety of spiritual disciplines, for twenty years. He is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience, studying the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The End of Faith is his first book.." (flyleaf blurb)

"This important and timely book delivers a startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in today's world. With penetrating clarity and accessibility Sam Harris asserts that in the shadow of weapons of mass destruction, we can no longer tolerate views that pit one true god against another. Beitifully written, provocative and lucid, The End of Faith is a stunning exploration of one of the most vital issues facing us in the twenty-first century" (outside back cover blurb)

There are fulsome praises from Richard Dawkins, Alan Dershowitz, Peter Singer, and that pretentious Guardian columnist Johann Hari.

I picked this book up today at an Oxfam Book shop in West London, and had a good read for the first few chapters, and a pretty good skim through the others, while sitting in a Caffe Nero drinking tea and eating a mini-pannatone.

My observations so far are that he starts off sneering at religion generally, and making sweeping statements about Islam and Muslims predominantly but also about Christians and Christianity.

He also makes claims that are questionable, like an assertion that the Tamil Tigers are religiously Hindus - this is arguable because they are self-proclaimed Marxists/Trotskyists (I don't know how syncretist the Hindus are).

The book was published first in 2004. Even allowing for the usual 12 month lead-time for a book to appear after receipt of the manuscript, and a conjectural 6 months to write the manuscript in the first place, I would have expected to see some more critical analysis about 9/11 than appears as he must have been writing it sometime in 2002.

Nowhere in the book does he define "terrorism" (I looked hard). I remember as a first year undergraduate being told that it is essential in social sciences to define terms. This point may even have been made forcefully by C. Wright Mills.

Furthermore there is no academic treatment of how Islam actually views "terrorism" to place his essay in a context. He quotes Bernard Lewis a lot, which isn't very encouraging. Compare this with the chapter "Conservative Ecumenism: Politically Incorrect Meditations on Islam and the West" (pp 139-158) written by the American Roman Catholic scholar Dr Antony T. Sullivan in Islam and Global Dialogue: Religious Pluralism and the Pursuit of Peace edited by Dr Roger Boase of Queen Mary College, London University, in which Sullivan gives a fairly good albeit brief run down of Classical Islamic scholars' and jurisprudents' views on hirabah.

To get a flavour of the man's writing let me take one quote (p 127), "We must not overlook the fact that a significant percentage of the world's Muslims believe that the men who brought down the World Trade Center are now seated at the right hand of God, amid "rivers of purest water, and rivers of milk forever fresh; rivers of wine delectable to those that drink it, and rivers of clearest honey" (47: 15). These men -- who slit the throats of stewardesses and delivered yoiung couples with their children to their deaths at five hundred miles per hour -- are at present being "attended by boys graced with eternal youth" in a "kingdom blissful and glorious."..." and a lot more in the same vein.

This overlooks the inconvenient fact that all the leading Islamic scholars - both Sunni and Shi'i - unequivocally condemned the perpetrators of 9/11 as having "exited Islam' if it were Muslims who did it. This condemnation was immediate. Qaradawi even went onto Kuwaiti television to say this.

The Quranic verse he adduces as presumably referring to "martyrs" actually refers to the Godfearing: mathalu-l jannati-llati wu'ida-l muttaqoun... "the parable/allegory of the Garden promised for the Godfearing is...".

And even in mid 2002 there was sufficient doubt being directed at the Official Narrative that a graduate philosopher from one of America's better universities would have known better than to make sweeping categoric statements about who did 9/11 and what was supposedly done by the perpetrators to the victims.

As a proclaimed philosopher, and apparent expert on Islam, the author strikes me as extremely lightweight. I would have expected much more rigour from an alumnus of an Ivy League college like Stanford.

This book belongs in the catgeory of diatribes, polemics, and general rants. I don't know why some poor tree was cut down in order to offer this to the world.

But then Sam Harris looks suspiciously oriental, rather than Welsh.


Poster's Comment: I tried to upload this first here, but for some reason the server wouldn't give me access. So pissed off was I by the book that I therefore put in on LF (shock! horror!). I see nobody's taken any notice of it yet.  :'(

Cha do dhùin doras nach d'fhosgail doras eile;
No door shut but another door opened

Offline Proemio

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Re: The End of Faith
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2008, 06:42:55 PM »
Poster's Comment: I tried to upload this first here, but for some reason the server wouldn't give me access. So pissed off was I by the book that I therefore put in on LF (shock! horror!). I see nobody's taken any notice of it yet.  :'(

;D - please be kind to the server. At least until the database is safely installed in the new one...

Writting thousands of money-losing, seemingly ridiculous books is what they do for ever. It's to be able to quote each other in the all-important, scholarly looking footnotes. But more importantly, it's how a bunch of tricksters can turn black into white over time - one minute step of gray each successive quote.
They try that in discussion forums as well...
Quote
There are fulsome praises from Richard Dawkins, Alan Dershowitz, Peter Singer, and that pretentious Guardian columnist Johann Hari.
Of course - a best-seller, no doubt...

A modern variation of the trick, is to spell names, places or events wrong at every occasion, including books, magazines newpapers and TV pieces. When the time is ripe, the unaware uses that spelling - from a post in a discussion perhaps - to make a search and get lots of hits with 'revised' data from autoritative looking sites constructed for no other purpose. It's quite effective with students who can't spell muchly to start with (I shouldn't talk too loud about spelling, but...). It's no more a waste than the thousands of books caper.

Offline dean_saor

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Re: The End of Faith
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2008, 01:35:23 AM »
Quote
Writting thousands of money-losing, seemingly ridiculous books is what they do for ever.
Where does one sign up? It sounds like good steady work.  8)
Cha do dhùin doras nach d'fhosgail doras eile;
No door shut but another door opened

Offline thomaspain

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Re: The End of Faith
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2008, 08:38:01 PM »
These men -- who slit the throats of stewardesses and delivered Young couples with their children to their deaths at five hundred miles per hour -- are at present being "attended by boys graced with eternal youth" in a "kingdom blissful and glorious."..." and a lot more in the same vein.
According to him, Mohammedanism is a scam. The 72 virgins turn out to be young boys.

Offline NewMath

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Re: The End of Faith
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2008, 08:41:10 PM »
Quote
At least until the database is safely installed in the new one...

i hope to see you over there, old friend.

Offline dean_saor

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Re: The End of Faith
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2008, 09:03:17 PM »
Perhaps he's really saying something deep about himself? I don't know where this 72 virgins business comes from - they repeat it a lot (so it must be true?). Perhaps WRS or clayman can shine some light into this darkness?
Cha do dhùin doras nach d'fhosgail doras eile;
No door shut but another door opened

Offline NewMath

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Re: The End of Faith
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2008, 09:10:01 PM »
ive heard it quite a bit too...just not from any muslims.

maybe its the stereotypical equivilent to growing a set of wings and playing a harp all day.

or being reincarnated as an american womans cat.