The End of Faith: Where Sam Harris Went Wrong

The End of Faith really shouldn’t be damaging to a Christian’s faith. That some ministers lost their faith as a result of this book shows the sad state a lot of the church is in response to education. If a man is not grounded in biblical theology and is unable to defend a biblical worldview in the face of opposition, he has no business being a pastor, PERIOD!

Yet why is this so? Sam Harris does bring up some information I do consider interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the aspects about memory. It seems that in those areas, Harris might have some skill. It would require more looking into that area to consider, but he did make me think about my own views on the topic.

I also agreed with him on Islam and I appreciated his bringing forth statistics. I do agree with him that Islam is a threat. When Sam Harris talks about the possibility of Muslim nations getting their hands on nuclear weapons and how they wouldn’t hesitate to use them, then I think we all need to wake up and realize that he could very well be right.

I also agree with him on the bankruptcy of moral relativism. I do believe with Harris that many of our moral absolutes are simply known intuitively. If I could not convince you that murder was wrong, I would probably not go out and try to find another argument. Instead, I would find a good bodyguard and find you a good counselor. (Who might prefer long-distance counseling.)

So where did he go wrong?

For one thing, Harris seems to assume a type of Christian and frankly, I can understand the error. He assumes a type of Christian who approaches Christianity differently from everything else with a false notion of faith. If Harris has a problem with a Christianity like that, he’s not alone. I have a problem with it also and I suspect that many of the pastors who abandoned their faith are the ones of that school who will go from being uncritical and unthinking Christians to uncritical and unthinking atheists.

If one reads Harris, they will have no idea that there are intelligent Christians out there who have written on the topics that he has raised up. Harris does not engage his opponents in any way. Indeed, from his work, one would think that his opponents just don’t exist. Instead, there are simply the intelligent atheists and a bunch of morons for Christians out there.

This brings us to his bibliography. The only Christian I could find was Augustine quoted twice and in those, he doesn’t give arguments from Augustine on the existence of God or the truth of Christianity. One who read Harris alone would have a completely wrong view of Augustine who was one of the greatest intellectuals of the medieval period.

Now I’ve said that I liked what Harris said about Islam, but even in his chapter on Islam, you don’t find Muslim sources. In fact, the only time he quotes a Muslim, it’s cited in someone else. One wonders if Harris has ever really read anything that he disagrees with. Now I grant that he quotes the Bible and the Qu’ran, but he could have just gone to the Skeptics Annotated Bible and the Skeptics Annotated Quran for those.

Primary sources would have done Harris a world of good. Instead, I found myself reading page after page of straw man and nothing in this book honestly made me blink. I did not read an argument and think “Geez. I really need to look into that.” All Harris has done is gone and attacked a weak form of Christianity and done so thinking he’s slaying the real thing.

If Harris wants to bring down that weak form, good for him. I’d like to see that form die out also. Who am I interested in as a disciple of Jesus Christ? I’m interested in those who are devoted to their faith, who want to learn the ins and outs of it, and be the ones that Harris will be afraid to write books against. Not because he’s afraid of criticizing a religious worldview, but he’s afraid the minds on that religious worldview would tear his arguments to shreds.

In conclusion, this one is more readable than the God Delusion and not as ranty, but it’s still just as full of misrepresentations. I am more and more inclined to believe the new atheists are just ignorant of what they attack.

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