Sam Harris is one of four outspoken atheists of our time. The others are Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens. He is a philosopher by training. He is smart fellow and the book lays out a tight argument for a societal rejection of religion. The sins of religion are plain to see. Religion and its corollary god, are simply ideas, poorly thought out ideas, that have been elevated to sacredness.
God has written a lot of books, or so the priests tell us. Why then, as Harris points out, is he such a crappy writer compared to people like Shakespeare, whom he created?
The idiocies of religion are laid out in full, blood-red color. A few years ago, there was a fire in a building in Mecca. First responders refused to aid burning women inside the building because they were not properly dressed. The Bush White House was a rats nest of prayer groups and Christian circles as the US invaded Iraq to get their president another term.
When asked, most believers will tell you there is nothing you could say, do, or show them that would change their minds. Harris points out that this is an admission that, whatever their beliefs, they do not represent a model of the real world. It is easy to show that what comes next is rarely pleasant.
One point he makes, which should get a lot more attention, is the idea of true faith. If people, especially radical Islamists, really believe that the Koran is the last word of Allah, and that all the world should bow before him, them we are in grave danger. Any belief gripped that hard is a danger to society.
Fun fact 1: The RCC never excommunicated a single Nazi, but kept Galileo in jail for 300 years.
Fun Fact 2: The Nazis did not invent the yellow star of David as a Jewish ID badge. Islam in Baghdad did.
Fun Fact 3: Spain translates more books into Spanish in one year than Islam has translated to Arabic in 1,200 years.
Faith is the enemy. The large majority of believers in even the lesser Islamic countries agree that suicide bombing is a good thing, and that the bomber goes straight to heaven.
Harris points out that religion is in our society too. Stem cell research was banned by Bush for religious reasons. Prohibition and the enormously expensive war on drugs, like all victimless crimes, are a product of religion. Moral relativism is a scourge. Evil is evil and we need to come to grips with that.
The last chapter, which has been criticized by others, focuses on spirituality and meditation. Frankly, my brain seizes up when words are bandied about with respect to our internal conversations with ourselves. Harris is fairly well know for his thoughts in this area. The good news: he will not try to kill you if you disagree.
Faith -- true faith -- is the enemy.
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Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.