Sunday, January 14, 2007

*** Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

This book is a response to the conservative criticism Harris received over his previous book “The End of Faith”
It’s a short and sometimes hilarious read (for those of us who have a black sense of humor). I don’t expect his arguments to change anyone’s faith, since faith is an irrational and illogical method of thought, so I’m afraid that all of his logical arguments will fall onto deaf ears. Nice try though Sam.

The United States of Idiots
In a recent Gallup Poll only 12% of Americans believe that life on earth evolved through natural processes, without interference of a deity. 31% believe evolution was guided by God… 53% are actually creationists… 44% of Americans are convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead within the next 50 years! P X ( subscription necessary)

If you think it would be impossible to improve upon the 10 commandments as a statement of morality, you really owe it to yourself to read some other scriptures… The Jain patriarch Mahavira surpassed the Bible with a single sentence: “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.” Imagine how different our world might be if the Bible contained this as its central precept? P23

Religion allows people to imagine their concerns are moral when they are in fact highly immoral. This explains why Christians like yourself expend more ‘moral’ energy opposing abortion than fighting genocide. It explains why you are more concerned about embryos than the life saving promise of stem cell research. And it explains why you can preach against condom use in Africa while millions die from AIDS. P25

If you can believe it, the Vatican currently opposes condom use even to prevent the spread of HIV from one married partner to another. P34

Was she really a Saint?
Mother Teresa was a great force for compassion, and she did much to awaken others to the reality of the suffering of her fellow human beings. The problem was that her compassion was channeled within rather steep walls of her religious dogmatism. In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, she said:
The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion… Many people are very concerned with the children of India and Africa, where quite a number die of malnutrition, disease, and so on, but millions die deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today.
Mothera Teresa’s compassion is very badly calibrated if the killing of 1st trimester fetuses disturbed her more than all of the suffering she witnessed on Earth. P36

It has been estimated that 50% of all conceptions end in spontaneous abortion, usually without the woman even realizing that she was pregnant. In fact, 20% of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. There is an obvious truth here that cries out for acknowledgement: if God exists, he is the most prolific abortionist of all. P38

Atheism is a term that should not even exist. We don’t have words for people who doubt Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle… An atheist is simply a person who believes that the 87% of the population claiming to ‘never doubt the existence of God’ should be obliged to present evidence for his existence. P52

Can you prove that Zeus [or for that matter any other God past, present or future]? Of course not! And yet just imagine if we lived in society where people spent tens of billions of their income each year propitiating to the Gods of Mt Olympus, where the gov’t spent billions more to support institutions devoted to these gods, where untold billions in tax subsidies were given to pagan temples, where elected officials did their best to impede research out of deference to the Iliad and Odyssey, and where every debate about public policy was subverted to the whims of ancient authors who didn’t know enough to keep their excrement out of their food. Wouldn’t this be a horrific misappropriation of our material, moral, and intellectual resources? And yet that is exactly the society we are living in. p56

The core of science [and reason for that matter] is intellectual honesty. It is time we acknowledged a basic feature of human discourse: when considering the truth of a proposition one is either engaged in an honest appraisal of the evidence and logical arguments or one isn’t. Religion is the one area of most people’s lives where people imagine some other standard of intellectual integrity applies. P65

If God created the universe, what created God? To say that God by definition is uncreated simply begs the question. Any being capable of creating a complex world promised to be very complex… The only natural process we know of that could produce a being capable of designing things is evolution. P 73 OK since we each have no evidence on God. If I grant you that God created the universe in 7 days, then you should grant me that God was created in 7 billion years by evolution.

Again I don’t expect this to change anyone’s beliefs. Faith is not about reason. That is why the quote from page 65 above won’t resonate with the faithful. It’s why this whole book, and the dozens of the books that have preceded it over past 100s of years have failed as well. Humans are only sub-rational creatures. Most of our behaviors are motivated by instincts and feelings, and are later rationalized by our higher brain. Religion is not governed by the higher brain, and so arguments attacking it at this level, leave it unharmed in its subconscious fortress. We do however, each have the power to overcome our instincts and feelings, or we can succumb to them. Perhaps this appeal to those higher powers will allow some to make this transition. But I feel it is a transition that only 1 in 8 will make, and they will make it of their own accord without this book or any other, because frankly the idea of a God is not one a truly rational mind would ever make.


slcslc said...

Nice review, this sounds like a book I could really get into.

RC Metcalf said...

You may be interested in a newly released response to Sam Harris entitled "Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point" by RC Metcalf. Its available through Amazon or B&N and through his website ( Please let others know about this important work!