Book Review: The End of Faith

I find it exceptionally easy to slip back into my Christian thinking. To be easily swayed back along the lines of reasoning and arguments made at me to justify my belief in God for decades. I need to sever blind belief at the source, and I need to understand why I am losing my faith.

I bought this book to help me set my mind straight. The cover is a talking point in and of itself, a bloody handprint with the fingerprints being represented by different religious icons.

Now, imagine a piece of paper that a 2-year-old has scrawled all over – it’s multicoloured, messy, crossed over and confused. As a parent I am sure it is great to look at and oddly you can feel a little bit proud, but now imagine if that is how your mind feels as you go through a deconversion. It can feel like mayhem and chaos.

Jumbled confusion and momentary missteps, this is the best case scenario most of the time for me, especially when I am left to my own wandering thoughts and mind games.

My Harris does a fantastic job of working through how we have given up reason for pretence, why we believe in the first place and on what basis do we honestly believe in a God. He finally lands us in a truly fascinating final few chapters on thoughts, reality, ‘I’ and consciousness. 

This book isn’t on Kindle – which is usually how I purchase and read most of my books these days. I found it really odd carrying around a physical book and physical highlighter and marking the sections that stood out to me the most.

For someone coming to the realisation that they have lost their religious beliefs, and is slowly working through the fallout from that, I found the first chapter the most helpful. It delves into how we put aside reason for our religious beliefs without a moment’s thought, whereas we don’t do that for any other arena of life. Time and time again Mr Harris slams his point home in succinct, relevant and clever sentence structure. It almost feels as though he has collected a ton of great twitter quotes and linked them together to form a book.

I ended up developing a new (for me) physical highlighting technique when reading this book. Underline good points, highlight through great points, and highlight through and fold the corner of the page down for massive blows that I felt he landed well.

A lot of what Mr Harris puts across, especially in the final two chapters of the book, feels far ahead of anything else I have read on spirituality and reason – two things that you rarely hear talked about together. But he draws them up and explains the need for both in a rational way – yup, I didn’t see it coming either.

I often meditate with an app called Headspace, and found his thoughts on thinking, consciousness and ‘I’ really insightful, though I could imagine it would be a bit of a step too far for those not expecting it to turn up within this book, or if the reader has not thought, experienced or practised mindfulness before.

I believe his book ‘Waking Up’ explores the points raised in this book in more detail – I will have to order a copy.

A couple of very profound (for me) quotes from The End of Faith:

‘Those who are destined to suffer terribly throughout their lives, or upon the threshold of death, often find consolation in one unfounded proposition or another. Faith enables many of us to endure life’s difficulties with an equanimity that would be scarcely conceivable in a world lit only by reason. Faith also appears to have direct physical consequences in cases where mere expectations, good or bad, can incline the body toward health or untimely death. But the fact that religious beliefs have a great influence on human life says nothing at all about their validity.’

‘The child born without limbs, the sightless fly, the vanished species – these are nothing less than Mother Nature caught in the act of throwing her clay. No perfect God could maintain such incongruities. It is worth remembering that if God created the world and all things in it, he created smallpox, plague, and filariasis. Any person who intentionally loosed such horrors upon the earth would be ground to dust for his crimes.’

From the other reviews I have read it sounds like believers and atheists alike feel that Mr Harris is militant and overly aggressive in his destruction of faith. The main reason behind this is that every worldview has to hold a faith (or belief) in something, atheism included.

Atheism is not an active position; it is a belief that God is not real. That there is not enough evidence to support the claim in a deity as presented at this time, and within the whole of recorded history.

I guess we do all have faith. I have faith that the next cup of coffee I drink as I write this will give me a boost and help me finish this review. I have faith that my company will put my wage into my bank on payday.

Saying that, I think the heart of what Mr Harris is saying is that faith, belief, hope or trust can be placed in scientific or provable and repeatable practices, rather than claims made with no proof whatsoever to back them up.

To close, this book takes us for a fascinating look from the outside, into the heart and mindset that religious people take in their reasoning and faith stances. It is hard hitting, broad ranging and bleakly honest into its purpose and time.

If we don’t begin to talk about these things, we will continue to destroy each other blindly over religious stances that are based on nothing. We will destroy ourselves for nothing.

Don’t forget – you can follow me on Goodreads to see what I am reading here, I joined just before Jan 2020 🙂

_End of Blog Blurb_

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share about my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.

Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better, and ask you reader to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.

Time Frame: This blog is roughly six to nine months behind where I currently am at in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting.

If you want to connect with me, then you can get in touch via any of the social media links that can be found at the top of the page. If you want to get every post straight to your inbox then you can do that by either following directly via WordPress or with your email address, whichever you prefer – the links are to the right.

I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂

-Sam

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