A withering attack on what the author sees as the irrationality of religion, and the societal ills it spreads.
At a time when many people evade or denude religious disputes to avoid offense, Harrison’s relentless candor is a refreshing tonic. He presents religion as the historical foe of liberty and reason that embraces bondage and shuns intellectual progress. In defense of his thesis, he displays impressively broad erudition, tackling the major religious texts of the Western tradition, as well as some of the more obscure ones. The book’s underlying premise is that religion and science are best understood as competitors, with each stretching to comprehend the cosmos and shape moral order. As a consequence, the author rejects any claim of their peaceful cohabitation, instead asserting that a person must choose between them. His discussion of the relationship between science and Islam is particularly engrossing, as other authors often stage the contest between science and religion on Christian ground. He rightfully points out that ancient Islam embraced scientific as well as cultural progress; however, he seems too preoccupied with lampooning modern Islam to convincingly explain the change in the faith. Similarly, the book stridently caricatures Christianity and Judaism without fully explaining their great contributions to philosophy and art. Sometimes, despite its rigor, the book complacently indulges in sweeping, ad hominem attacks: “After centuries of murdering and discriminating against freethinkers, Christians brim over with contempt toward Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett and their books. Muslims are consistent; they just keep on with the killing whenever possible.” The author doesn’t consider these thinkers’ disdain of religion, which has caused some prominent contemporary philosophers, including atheists such as Thomas Nagel, to turn against them. Overall, this often meticulously researched book is undermined by its lack of rhetorical and philosophical restraint.
A gauntlet thrown down in the debate between science and religion that flatters the former and demonizes the latter.