Letter to a Christian Nation
A review of Sam Harris', "Letter to a Christian Nation," by Jonah Haddad.
Harris, Sam. Letter to a Christian Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. 96 Pages.
In his recent follow up to The End of Faith, Sam Harris has written a short but heartfelt plea to his beloved countrymen to finally rid themselves completely of the superstitions that have jeopardized the mind and rationality for so long. Through this Letter to a Christian Nation he directs his attack not only to religion in general, but particularly to Christianity which he sees as America's greatest threat to reason, science, and morality.
Sam Harris, who holds degrees in philosophy, religion and neuroscience, may be counted among a growing number of philosophical materialists in a movement known as “new atheism.” Along with his peers (i.e. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and others) Harris brutally condemns not only belief in God, but sympathy for others who believe in God. New atheism not only finds religion to be misleading and irrational, but purely evil, as a manifestation of the worst malevolence known to human kind. The militant attack of new atheism is designed to make belief in God a completely socially unacceptable embarrassment. Harris' apocalyptic stance warns that if religion is allowed to survive then all civilization will be completely eradicated.
Harris argues against the rationality of the Christian scriptures, and against the perceived scientific idea of intelligent design. However, Harris' main thesis is that Christianity has produced a false or pseudo-morality that fails to supply humanity with a proper basis for ethical treatment of all nature. In fact, he claims that Christianity has led to centuries of abuse, oppression, slavery, insult, torment, torture, and death.
In spite of Harris' advanced degrees in philosophy and religion, he demonstrates a profound ignorance of both the Christian and Muslim faiths. On more than one occasion he equates Christian and Muslim monotheism. He claims that Muslims have just as much “reason” for their faith as Christians have for theirs. (p.6) Obviously Harris has neglected to observe the drastic differences between Christianity and Islam, historically, theologically, and philosophically. Later he groups all dominantly religious nations together when he states that such nations rank lowest in human development. (p.44) He claims that it is the secular western nations that rank highest in education, human rights, low crime, and high technology. Yet again, he says nothing of the fact that North America and Europe developed through two-thousand years of strong Christian influence. He wrongly equates the Christian worldview with the destructive animistic, Islamic, and eastern mystical views that dominate much of the world.
The most egregious and obvious errors occur in Harris' treatment of atheistic morality. He kicks off his defense of the goodness of atheism by pointing to frequent Muslim riots and rampages by stating: “When was the last atheist riot? Is there a newspaper anywhere on this earth that would hesitate to print cartoons about atheism for fear that its editors would be kidnapped or killed in reprisal?” (p.39). In all reality, this sort of thing happens quite frequently in atheistic communist countries. Harris is correct, however, that atheists do not generally cause riots. Instead, nations founded on atheism cause all out war and genocide in places like the Soviet Union, and China, where they killed well over a hundred million people in the name of Marxist idealism. It is certain that with all the education that Harris possesses, he must be aware that atheistic regimes have killed more people in the twentieth century alone, than all the combined religions in the world have killed in all of known history.
Harris' response to this is that the atheistic tyrants of our world are irrational, delusional human beings who embrace life-destroying myths. (pp. 40-41) One must stop to consider whether advocates of new atheism might qualify to be counted among such tyrants, considering their irrational dismissal of intelligent design, their delusional appeal to have all religions suppressed, and their life-destroying and genocidal propaganda against human children of all races through abortion. Harris foolishly responds by claiming that Hitler was a “Christian” and the killing fields of Russia and Cambodia were the result of “dogma” not unlike that of Christians and other religious adherents. Harris goes on to say that totalitarian mythology and religion spring forth from dogma and so it is all dogma that must be rejected. (pp. 42-43) Again, we need look no farther than Harris himself to discover the philosophically materialistic dogma that he tries to mask beneath a cloud of bad reasoning.
The doctrine of the Darwinian evolutionistic assumption is seen by Harris as “a fact that no longer admits of intelligent dispute.” (p.68) He states this multiple times while failing to give evidence, and scoffing at Christians for attempting to gain advanced degrees in science. There are countless other “facts” that Harris points out as well. For instance, faith and reason are incompatible, religion contradicts science, and Christians have suppressed learning in this country for so long that our children now score lower on math and science exams than their peers in Europe and Asia.
It is interesting that low science scores are attributed to Christianity, considering that evolutionists have the monopoly on every facet of education in the public schools. Harris makes it clear throughout his entire book that he would rather manipulate facts, and give minimal information on the subjects he covers.
Harris rivals Richard Dawkins in his attempt to bear the title of Master of the Straw Man Argument. Harris sets up a caricature of the Christian he wants to attack and then finds examples to fit the caricature. For example, he claims that all Christians believe that condom use is wrong and that HIV is a good population controller, simply because some Christians believe this without biblical support. Again, he asserts that all Christians believe that natural disasters are God's way of punishing unbelievers. However, the existence of natural disasters, sickness, and death must all be understood in proper context to the creation, fall, and redemption of a world that is hostile to a good and sovereign God. Finally, Harris alleges that Christianity promotes murder and irrationality simply because some misled proponents of Christianity burned perceived witches at the stake. I will grant that Christians do not have a perfect track record. The farther they remove themselves from God's word the closer they come to folly. However, Harris has completely failed at understanding the Christian worldview and the nature of God, and this has made his attack on the Christian faith silly and asinine.
It is in Harris' best interest to reconsider his militant ideology, and his presuppositions of philosophical materialism. He ought to subject his own worldview to a far more rational critique than the one he gives Christianity.
Jonah Haddad, M.A.