REWIND: An important book on human reason and the failure of faith? Not on the bestseller list at Wally World, we can be sure.


There are times when it’s easiest to hit the archives for a rewind, and tonight is one. Given the gist of the week’s conversations, here is a book worth reading (from 12/20/2005).

My friend, sometimes collaborator and fellow longtime Open Air Museum curator, Joe, has come in from the gloaming after a characteristically lengthy sabbatical from the scene – and with a topical, incisive Christmas reading recommendation gleaned from C-SPAN’s book talk.

It’s “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason,” by Sam Harris.

As an enticement to run right out and purchase the book, which I almost literally did yesterday at Desperations … er, Destinations Booksellers, Joe provided this excerpt, which can be viewed along with other snippets of text at the author’s web site:

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.

According to reviewer Natalie Angier of the New York Times:

“The End of Faith” articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood… Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America … This in an important book, on a topic that, for all its inherent difficulty and divisiveness, should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason.

Perfect timing, Joe, and thanks for the tip. I’m up to page 40 already.

When I’m finished, she’s yours …