The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris: Harris would benefit from a sense of nuance. Millions of Buddhists, Sufi Muslims, Reform and Conservative Jews, Unitarians, Catholics and mainline Protestants adhere to religious teachings something like – and often more carefully considered than – the bizarre sort of of “spirituality” he endorses. The book is an extended version of the fallacy of the excluded middle – he devotes a great deal of ink to justifying the claim that moderate religiosity is basically as bad as the religiosity of suicide bombers, and that therefore religious moderates are to blame for suicide bombers. Of course, the book’s second endnote reveals the failure of that argument: “Some readers may object that the bomber in question is most likely to be a member of the Liberations Tigers of Tamil Eelam – the Sri Lankan separatist organization that has perpetrated more acts of suicidal terrororism [sic] than any other group.” He dismisses that argument as “misleading.” While acknowledging that “the motives of the Tigers are not explicitly religious,” he thinks it’s fair to call their actions “a product of religion” because “they are Hindus who undoubtedly believe many improbable things about the nature of life and death.” “Undoubtedly” is a handy way to wave off counterarguments without actual data.
That sloppiness with regard to evidence and the abuse of argumentum ad assertum characterizes too much of this book.