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Meditation 258
The End of Faith

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Following is a brief extract from the recently published The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris, published by Norton.*

"...most of the people in this world believe that the Creator of the universe has written a book. We have the misfortune of having many such books on hand, each making an exclusive claim as to its infallibility. People tend to organize themselves into factions according to which of these incompatible claims they accept...

Each of these texts urges its readers to adopt a variety of beliefs and practices... All are in agreement on one point of fundamental importance, however: "respect" for other faiths, or for the views of unbelievers, is not a view that God endorses.

While all faiths have been touched... with the spirit of ecumenicalism, the central tenet of every religious tradition is that all others are mere repositories of error or, at best, dangerously incomplete. Intolerance is thus intrinsic to every creed.

Once a person believes -- really believes -- that certain ideas can lead to eternal happiness, or to its antithesis, he cannot tolerate the possibility that people he loves might be led astray by the blandishments of unbelievers. Certainty in the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one.

For a well-researched argument against religious authoritarianism, I recommend this book. Buy it, or at least ask your local library to do so.

* Website