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.