28 Best End of Faith Quotes

While I have been blogging for over three years, it was only two weeks ago when I first read and reviewed Sam Harris’s 2004 “New Atheist” bestseller, The End of Faith. I made it known in that review that The End of Faith is far from one of my favorite books, but I’ve found that it can be easy to separate the book as a whole from its quotability. Like his colleagues Dawkins and Hitchens, Harris knows how to throw down a quotable one-liner with the best of them. Admittedly, Harris often uses harsher language than I feel comfortable using myself, but at the end of the day our values are more or less in line with one another. At the same time, I find it worth noting that several of Harris’s political or societal themes written about in 2004 feel all too timely today in 2020. So without further ado, here are 28 of The End of Faith‘s most memorable quotes!

1. “Once a person believes—really believes—that certain ideas can lead to eternal happiness, or to its antithesis, he cannot tolerate the possibility that the people he loves might be led astray by the blandishments of unbelievers. Certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one.” p. 13

2. “It should go without saying that these rival belief systems are all equally uncontaminated by evidence.” p. 15

3. “The idea that any one of our religions represents the infallible word of the One True God requires an encyclopedic ignorance of history, mythology, and art even to be entertained.” p. 16

4. “Moderates in every faith are obliged to loosely interpret (or simply ignore) much of their canons in the interests of living in the modern world.” p. 17

5. “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.” p. 19

6. “Our world is fast succumbing to the activities of men and women who would stake the future of our species on beliefs that should not survive an elementary school education.” p. 25

7. “If history reveals any categorical truth, it is that an insufficient taste for evidence regularly brings out the worst in us.” p. 26

8. “If one didn’t know better, one would think that man, in his fear of losing all that he loves, had created heaven, along with its gatekeeper God, in his own image.” p. 36

9. “We live in a country in which a person cannot get elected president if he openly doubts the existence of heaven and hell.” p. 39

10. “It is time we admitted, from kings and presidents on down, that there is no evidence that any of our books was authored by the Creator of the universe.” p. 45

11. “The spirit of mutual inquiry is the very antithesis of religious faith.” p. 48

12. “Indeed, if there were no conceivable change in the world that could get a person to question his religious beliefs, this would prove that his beliefs were not predicated upon his taking any state of the world into account. He could not claim, therefore, to be representing the world at all.” p. 63

13. “Every child is instructed that it is, at the very least, an option, if not a sacred duty, to disregard the facts of this world out of deference to the God who lurks in his mother’s and father’s imaginations.” p. 65

14. “It is only by the most acrobatic avoidance of passages whose canonicity has never been in doubt that we can escape murdering one another outright for the glory of God.” p. 78

15. “Wanting to know how the world is leaves one vulnerable to new evidence. It is no accident that religious doctrine and honest inquiry are so rarely juxtaposed in our world.” p. 105

16. “We will find out that we need not believe anything on insufficient evidence to feel compassion for the suffering of others. Our common humanity is reason enough to protect our fellow human beings from coming to harm.” p. 106

17. “It is by no means a straightforward task to engage such people in constructive dialogue, to convince them of our common interests, to encourage them on the path to democracy, and to mutually celebrate the diversity of our cultures.” p. 150

18. “What constitutes a civil society? At minimum, it is a place where ideas, of all kinds, can be criticized without the risk of physical violence. If you live in a land where certain things cannot be said about the king, or about an imaginary being, or about certain books, because such utterances carry the penalty of death, torture, or imprisonment, you do not live in a civil society.” p. 150

19. “It seems true enough to say that the men and women on death row either have bad genes, bad parents, bad ideas, or bad luck. Which of these quantities are they responsible for?” p. 157

20. “The idea of a victimless crime is nothing more than a judicial reprise of the Christian notion of sin.” p. 159

21. “The very idea of privacy is incompatible with the existence of God.” p. 159

22. “Our present use of government funds suggests an uncanny skewing—we might even say derangement—of our national priorities.” p. 164

23. “Any person who lies awake at night worrying about the private pleasures of other consenting adults has more than just too much time on his hands; he has some unjustifiable beliefs about the nature of right and wrong.” p. 171

24. “It is obvious that an utter revolution in our thinking could be accomplished in a single generation: if parents and teachers would merely give honest answers to the questions of every child.” p. 224

25. “Nothing is more sacred than the facts. No one, therefore, should win any points in our discourse for deluding himself. The litmus test for reasonableness should be obvious: anyone who wants to know how the world is, whether in physical or spiritual terms, will be open to new evidence.” p. 225

26. “Indeed, we know enough at this moment to say that the God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.” p. 226

27. “We are the final judges of what is good, just as we remain the final judges of what is logical. . . . There need be no scheme of rewards and punishments transcending this life to justify our moral intuitions or to render them effective in guiding our behavior in the world. The only angels we need invoke are those of our better nature: reason, honesty, and love.” p. 226

28. “No myths need to be embraced for us to commune with the profundity of our circumstance. No person God needs to be worshiped for us to live in awe at the beauty and immensity of creation. No tribal fictions need to be rehearsed for us to realize, one fine day, that we do, in fact, love our neighbors, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish.” p. 227

Let me know in the comments which quote is your favorite!

7 Replies to “28 Best End of Faith Quotes”

  1. I don’t think I’d say it’s my favorite, but #3 is relevant to things I’ve been learning about recently.
    I find it baffling that there are, in fact, people who are knowledgeable about how religions have changed over time and influenced one another but lack the self-awareness to realize what this means for religions’ claims of being true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “If history reveals any categorical truth, it is that an insufficient taste for evidence regularly brings out the worst in us.” p. 26

    I think this one is in the category of timeless, as in many of our current political leaders that literally tell us they don’t care about evidence. It only makes sense we are in such a divided time, with the message of “belief before reality” being so pervasive.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post.
    I enjoyed this. #15 reminded me of you cuz evolution and science.
    My personal favs are #’s 19 and 20, but I liked them all. Good list, Rebekah.
    You said, “…Harris often uses harsher language than I feel comfortable using…” I can see that. I wonder why.

    Liked by 1 person

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