- (Photo: samharris.org)
Atheist author and neuroscientist Sam Harris announced a new book on Wednesday titled Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, set to be published later this year.
"Waking Up is for the 30 percent of Americans who follow no religion, but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history could not have all been epileptics, schizophrenics, or frauds," states a description for the book on Amazon.
"Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives – and, therefore, that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow."
The religious critic, who is famous for his previous books, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, refers to the growing number of people in America who do not identify with a religious faith, though the exact number is up for debate.
A 2012 Pew Forum poll said that a third of adults under 30, and close to 20 percent in total are unaffiliated. In comparison, a September 2013 survey of American college students by the Center for Inquiry found that 32.4 percent of students describe themselves as "spiritual," another 31. 8 percent as "religious," and another 28.2 percent as "secular."
Harris, who is also the co-founder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit group that advocates for scientific knowledge and secular values in society, has focused his criticism on a number of world religions, Islam and Christianity in particular, warning that they are incompatible with the modern world.
"It is taboo in our society to criticize a person's religious faith ... these taboos are offensive, deeply unreasonable, but worse than that, they are getting people killed. This is really my concern. My concern is that our religions, the diversity of our religious doctrines, is going to get us killed. I'm worried that our religious discourse – our religious beliefs are ultimately incompatible with civilization," he has said.
In 2009, Harris criticized President Barack Obama's decision to nominate geneticist Francis S. Collins to direct the National Institutes of Health, because of the scientist's evangelical faith.
The atheist author noted that Collins is an "accomplished scientist," but asked, "Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?"
Harris' book Waking Up is set to be published by Simon & Schuster on Sept. 9.