Sunday, November 26, 2006

Non-fiction - "Letter to a Christian Nation"

Sam Harris, the author of this book, is also the author of End Of Faith". "Letter to a Christian Nation" is Sam Harris's reply to critics of the first book. As he says in the introduction the responses he received were not only threatening him with hell, but also with bodily harm. He says that "The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians". The purpose of the letter is to challenge some of the Christian beliefs and to expose the hypocrisy of the believers.

The book makes many references to the Bible and to some of the doctrines and ask why they are not followed to the letter? For example, the Bible says that homesexuals should be stoned. But it also says that anyone who does work on the Sabbath must be stoned too. You don't have to believe me, check Leviticus.

For me this book clarified the method for figuring out what is and what is not moral. The fundamental idea is that moral acts will lead to relieve of suffering of others and immoral ones will cause others to suffer. For instance, being against distribution of condoms in Africa leads to more deaths from AIDs and to more suffering, so it is an immoral act. Now, as you know, the Catholic Church stands strongly against birth control and as a result of this stance many suffer and die.

Other sections of the book "pick on" various Christian beliefs. I know the author's goal was to expose the hypocrisy, but to me it felt as though you stuble into an ugly family secret that should not be exposed to all. Some of the points are almost too easy to make - for example, Jesus said that to gain entrance into Heaven you should sell all you possessions and give the money to the poor. I know many Christians, some who are quite devout, yet none of them did this.

Sam Harris also blames religious fervor for much of the violence in the world (after all it was not atheists who flew airplanes into WTC). However, I don't believe that absence of religion would necessarily lead to less violence as the author seems to imply.

If you are interested in challenging Christians in verbal arguments, this book provides quite a bit of amunition. However, I thought that Danniel Dennett's "Braking the Spell" was a much more interesting book about religions.


At 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may be interested in a new book that has just been published in response to Sam Harris. It is entitled "Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point" by RC Metcalf. It is available through Amazon and B&N or through the author's website at Please let others know about this important work!


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