“Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris- Part 1


One of the leading voices in New Atheism is Sam Harris. Harris, 40 years old, if not a leading voice, is definitely one of the loudest and most aggressive ones. His brash arrogance is very popular in a world of sound bites, as people are more intrigued by style than substance. I believe one of the reasons Harris has been so successful and popular is because he’s not afraid to voice his opinions, and usually does so with resounding confidence.

One of his more popular books is “Letter to a Christian Nation”. A couple months ago I sat down to read through this ‘Anti-Christian Manifesto’ to see what Harris was all about. I have to be honest. When I initially started reading, I was somewhat concerned with reading something that was really going to make he stop and think. I wasn’t thinking that he was going to shake me to my foundation and mortally challenge my faith, but I thought I would at least run across an notion that I had not heard and that would cause me to seek out an answer from someone wiser than I. When I finished my reading through the book, I was very unimpressed. I didn’t run across any ‘silver bullet’ arguments. Instead, all I found was a bunch of ‘straw-man arguments, unfair representations, arrogant commentary, and gigantic leaps to conclusions.

I made many notes as I was going through this book, so this will be a multiple-post topic. I realize that not many people want to read on huge post, but that it is easier to digest multiple smaller posts.

Harris begins his book by making his first generalization, saying that many of his ‘hostile communications’ have come from Christians. He’s quick to point out that Christians claim to be the ‘loving’ religion, and therefore this is hypocritical. If its one thing that Harris loves to do, it is combining all of Christianity into one lump. The thought that there are many different types of “Christians” and ways of thinking doesn’t seem to cross his mind. He’s more content with pointing out any inconsistency and use it to attack a belief in God. There are numerous examples of this, and I will be pointing them out as I go through.

His point is to “demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms.” He’ll attempt to do this by presenting rerun arguments and old accusations. Something that has been a comfort to me is that the Word of God has stood the test of time, and when men like Sam Harris roll around, they aren’t raising any accusation that hasn’t already been raised and defended. These attacks usually just come with different packaging.

One of Harris’ main arguments is against the idea of “intelligent design”. Harris says that it is frightening how so many people believe in a God-created world. It is troubling, he says, because it offers no compelling evidence for an intelligent designer and countless examples of unintelligent design.” (He goes on to offer some laughable examples of this ‘unintelligent design’, which I’ll cover later) Harris may not find it ‘compelling’, but some others do. There is evidence out there, that we believe points to a Creator, he just chooses not to find it ‘compelling’.

Harris seems to equate the idea that the earth was Created with the belief that the world has to be 6,000 years old. He never mentions that there are Christians who believe that the world is actually older, or that it may have even been created with age, just as man was created as an adult, not an infant. He says that we believe that dinosaurs lived on the ark, although I wasn’t aware that I believed that.

Another example of mischaracterization is Harris note that 44% of Americans believe that Christ will return in the next 50 years. Who are these 44%? I’m sure he didn’t just make this number up, but he doesn’t provide the source. He says that most Christians also believe that things on earth will get a lot worse before Christ comes. Therefore, he concludes, most Christians would be happy were New York engulfed in a ball of fire.

According to Harris, America should catch up with the rest of the world and abandon our Christian roots. This, seemingly, has led us to be a ‘lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant.’ He says that a Christian faith will lead this country in the wrong direction socially, economically, environmentally, and geopolitically. But last time I checked the Bible, that wasn’t what Christianity was all about. It is meant to change people spiritually. The Bible doesn’t promise that things will go well economically or environmentally should a society ‘follow’ Him. The most important need is that this nation needs Christ for spiritual cleansing.

Well, that’s the introduction! As you can see, I have quite a bit to say, and being just 7 pages into the book, who knows how long this is going to take, but we’ll see.


7 comments on ““Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris- Part 1

  1. Dino says:

    I’ve always been interested in what the other side has to say so that I can be prepared. This reminds me of when i read a review on a documentary on the evolution v.s. intelligent design debate that they had some time in the 50’s, I believe. I din’t see the show but what I read from the review was basically they were “proving” that the intelligent design side did things like bribe the judges and so on(The writer of the review was an athiest). But I never saw a part where they addressed the issue itself, evolution v.s. creation. As for some of the things Harris says, I of course don’t know when the Tribulation is coming but it seems like it could happen very soon. Of course, Paul thought it would occur in his day, probably, but things like, the mark of the beast, they’ve invented technology for implanting a “credit card” device into your arm. The technology exists but ethics has so far prevented people for using it. As for dinosaurs on the ark, I believe that they did ride on it. The size is not a problem, as the average dinosaurs was the size of a pony, and for the giants, they could always use eggs, as they were no bigger than a football when born. As for their extinction, repitles have worse trouble adjusting to a different climate, especially big ones. Plus, reptiles eggs contain no water but must absorb it from the outside so a less humid enviroment would eventually kill off the population, as those eggs would require a massive amount. I don’t agree with what Harris says, but those were somethings I had to point out. Keep up the posts. I want to know what else this guy throws at us.

  2. Doug Wilcox says:

    Just something to remember:

    The Mark of the Beast only requires the technology of writing, and even that on an extremely rudimentary level—only requiring some sort of numerical symbol. We presume it will be technological, but that’s certainly not defined in Scripture, and absolutely doesn’t have to be the case.

    Further, embedding chips or scrawling a bar code on everyone would not necessarily be the Mark. The Mark of the Beast is associated with worship of the Antichrist. I’d get chipped today if I had access to enough services that used it.

    I was in Wal*Mart during the Left Behind heyday, and I really laughed when I saw that all the cashiers were wearing advertising buttons that said, “The Mark.” Think about it …

  3. Doug Wilcox says:

    The tendency toward straw man arguments is appalling, but every group seems to do it.


  4. ehudadams says:

    I agree Doug, and that’s why I try to not present New Atheism in a way that is selling them short. These guys just seem to be doing it to an extreme, and no one is calling them on it.

  5. Dino says:

    I never said it will happen now because of that. The mark doesn’t rely on technology and I never said it needed to. I just meant it would be more CONVINIENT to. It would be easier if when you had the mark, all you’d need to is have it scanned and be done. It also be harder to fake it that way.

  6. Letter to a christian nation was aimed at fundamentalists not moderate Christians

  7. ehudadams says:

    it was actually aimed mostly at moderates because Harris doesn’t believe that fundamentalists could have their minds changed. His greatest frustration is focused on those who casually accept Christianity. He finds the greatest frustrations there because he sees great inconsistency in their beliefs. He believes that it is ridiculous that they would hold to Christian beliefs, but reject doctrines like inerrancy. You can really see this if you read the beginning of “End of Faith”.

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