The End of Faith

The End of Faith Sam Harris     ** out of  ****

The End of Faith is a thoughtful book. His reasoning is better than many who have written and spoken on the subject of religion. The problem is that there are times Harris makes sweeping generalizations and never backs those generalizations up with facts. At points, Harris spent some time thinking on the issue of faith, reasoned it out to a certain point, and then stopped. But, these half-thoughts undermine a well written book with sloppy reasoning that cannot stand up to scrutiny.

The first example of his sloppy reasoning is in the first chapter, Reason in Exile. He attempts to explain how unreasonable people of faith actually are. He tells us that modern knowledge “is incompatible with scripture” and makes it impossible to believe what is in the Bible. I was waiting for specifics and when they came, he disappointed.

One reason a belief in the Bible made us unreasonable was disease. “Having heard something about the medical discoveries of the last hundred years, most of us no longer equate disease processes with sin or demonic possession.”

The Bible does not connect all disease with sin. Jesus Himself debunked this when He encountered a blind man. The disciples ask, “How sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus responds, “This blindness had nothing to do with sin.” Scripture does not blame disease exclusively on sin.  

A second evidence of sloppy reasoning appears in his discussion of faith on 64-65 he claims that the religious belief is simply faith based on faith. He quotes Hebrews 11:1 and concludes that faith believes because of hope without evidence. But that is not where the Christian story focuses it belief. We believe in an actual event in history. In I Corinthians 15:17 says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Christ’s death and resurrection are our focus. Faith is only as good as the object one believes in. And if Christ’s death and resurrection are not real, our faith is worthless. So, for Harris to paint faith in faith as the center of Christian believe is misleading and sloppy.   

A third evidence of his sloppy reasoning is found in the strangest moment in the book. On page 52-53, Harris says, “The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others.”

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