Here is one especially provocative quote from the first chapter:
"By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally...Religious moderation, insofar as it represents an attempt to hold on to what is still serviceable in orthodox religion, closes the door to more sophisticated approaches to spirituality, ethics, and the building of strong communities. Religious moderates seem to believe that what we need is not radical insight and innovation in these areas but a mere dilution of Iron Age philosophy. Rather than bring the full force of our creativity and rationality to bear on the problems of ethics, social cohesion, and even spiritual experience, moderates merely ask that we relax our standards of adherence to ancient superstitions and taboos, while otherwise maintaining a belief system that was passed down to us from men and women whose lives were simply ravaged by their basic ignorance about the world. In what other sphere of life is such subservience to tradition acceptable? Medicine? Engineering? Not even politics suffers the anachronism that still dominates our thinking about ethical values and spiritual experience." (p. 21)
Despite my sometimes pointed arguments against traditional religious beliefs, I've tried to be tolerant and even respectful of people who embrace these beliefs even when I consider the beliefs themselves to be absurd. But it isn't always easy to respect those who embrace beliefs that seem absurd or to honor and follow political leaders who embrace those beliefs and cite them as the basis of their policies. Also, how readily can and should one respect or "tolerate" anyone who spouts what one considers to be religious nonsense? If someone came to you and went on and on about how you should believe in Santa Claus or Zeus, or someone running for political office championed these beliefs, how much would and should you tolerate and respect either, and how inclined would and should you be to vote for this person?
Is traditional Judaism, Christianity, or Islam REALLY any different than belief in Santa Claus or Zeus? I honestly don't think so. And thus I find myself in a real quandary about how to regard and respond to religious people. I'm hoping that Sam Harris can help me to figure it out.