Critical Book Review

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Critical Book Review


Letter to a Christian Nation is a non-fiction book by Sam Harris, written in response to feedback he received following the publication of his first book The End of Faith. Letter to a Christian Nation, which is an open letter to the many Christians who wrote to Harris in complaint, is even thinner. I have an almost infinite capacity for the consumption of atheistic texts, but there is a limit to how many times one can stub one's toe on the thick idiocy of some mullah or pastor."

Critical Book Review: Letter to a Christian Nation

In response to The End of Faith, Sam Harris received thousands of letters from Christians excoriating him for not believing in God. Letter to A Christian Nation is his reply. Using rational argument, Harris offers a measured refutation of the beliefs that form the core of fundamentalist Christianity. In the course of his argument, he addresses current topics ranging from intelligent design and stem-cell research to the connections between religion and violence. In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris boldly challenges the influence that faith has on public life in our nation. In his “Note to the Reader,” he writes:

Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years. According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will return only after things have gone horribly awry here on earth. It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen—the return of Christ.

It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves—socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.

Harris's book is also oddly free of dialogue. Surely the many emails included a few well-argued ripostes. In failing to address the most challenging arguments, he is in danger of provoking more trenchant missives.

The book seems like a slick way to cash in on his earlier success. Mr. Harris has consolidated his disdain for religion into a withering attack on Christianity, delivered in the form of an open letter. His new book may be smug in spots, but Mr. Harris makes a good case for a new and intellectually honest conversation about morality and human suffering.

We Reviewed that the letter that Harris claims is intended for a Christian nation is in fact wholly uninterested in ...
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