February 25, 2009

Faithless

I was thrilled when I first heard that Sam Harris had written a rebuttal book in the form of a letter to all the angry Christians about his book The End of Faith. I was equally excited when said book arrived yesterday, but that is when my enthusiasm slowly turned to disappointment.

The book itself is a slim 90-page recap of all the arguments Harris made in The End of Faith. While I agree with nearly every single point he makes, I was let down that there was not much new material.

Having said that, although, Letter to a Christian Nation does not break new ground, Harris does an adept job of creating a nice little handbook for every atheist arguing the absurdity of religion. He says himself:
The primary purpose of the book is to arm secularist in our society, who believe that religion should be kept out of public policy.
I suppose one could say that Letter to a Christian Nation is a valuable because of its brevity not despite it. Harris makes several compelling arguments, my favorite being the following:
Consider: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian. And yet you do not find their reasons compelling. The truth is, you know exactly what it is like to be an atheists with respect to the beliefs of Muslims. Understand that the way you feel about Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way I view all religions.
The rest of the book is littered with sharp nuggets like the following:
Faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail.

While believing strongly, without evidence, is considered a mark of madness or stupidity in any area of our lives, faith in God still holds immense prestige in our society.
In closing, books like Dawkin’s God Delusion and Harris’ own End of Faith are much more comprehensive arguments, but Letter to a Christian Nation is a nice read. I read it in one sitting and am happy that I did.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:57 PM

    at belief.net there is an AMAZING and quite long (which it seems you are looking for) dialogue between sam harris and (the articulate) andrew sullivan about GOD. do check it out.

    my own thoughts: i think it takes real guts to believe in god. and i think it takes real guts not to believe in god. it took all my courage to realize that i dont believe in the fairy tale version of the Western god...you know...an all-knowing, all-seeing supernatural being who lives up in the well-heeled firmament, wearing a flowing white robe and gold sandals and checking a box when i perform well, and tsk tsk-ing when i do not.
    yeah.
    i now believe that god is, as the chinese express it, qi (pronounced "chi.") god is that vital life force the coarses through everything, for which all life is dependant. why do we feel such an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder when we are in nature...it's not because god "made" it. it's because billions and billions of years have passed, and each second the world's collective chi has shaped and transmuted our world into the current sphere we are working our hardest to destroy.

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  2. I wish we had politicians who had the cojones to stand up and say that faith and religion are not the same thing. Faith can be a bedrock upon which one leans to get through hard times, while religion is far too often a gaggle of the hateful, led by the evil. It isn't hard to make the distinction, but it seems that nobody in our political apparatus is willing to do so. And that's a shame, because there are people waiting to support someone who had the balls to finally call this hateful nonsense what it is.

    I don't question anybody's faith, but more often than not I spit on their dogmas.

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