Letter to a Christian Nation
|Great and terrible|
|On our shelf:|
Letter to a Christian Nation is a 2006 book, in essay form, by Sam Harris, to serve as rhetorical ammunition against the arguments of Christianity — specifically, to refute the inaccuracies, inadequacies, and inconsistencies of American religious fundamentalists (i.e., the Christian Right) and is a response to criticism to his earlier book, The End of Faith.
Given the timeframe, being post-9/11 and during the second term of the George W. Bush administration, many of the arguments are directed at the hot-button issues of that period in history when compassionate conservatism was in heavy practice.
In the beginning, Harris employs the use of binary logic to set up his assertions: for example, either the Bible is true, or it isn't; either Jesus is the savior of mankind or he isn't; either Christianity is the one true path to God or it isn't. While this set-up approaches false dilemma, it is, in fact, the very same argument that theologians would use, save that theologians don't recognize the possibilities of "isn't" in either case. In his preface as well as his first paragraphs, he explains that his argument is not directed towards the religious liberal or even the religious moderate, but the religious conservative. More to the point — religious liberals/moderates offer up the possibilities of a spectrum of belief systems, whereas atheism and fundamentalism are mutually exclusive. Harris does not want a spectrum; he wants the debate to be over, with a clear winner and loser.
“”I have little doubt that liberals and moderates find the eerie certainties of the Christian Right to be as troubling as I do. It is my hope, however, that they will also begin to see that the respect they demand for their own religious beliefs gives shelter to extremists of all faiths… Even the most progressive faiths lend tacit support to the religious divisions in our world.
Harris uses Bible quotes to show the target Christian the insanity or inanity of Christian beliefs, quoting passages that he assumes the average Christian has probably not read to show that their morality is not based in the Scriptures — for if it were, they would be killing friends and family members for blasphemy and apostasy, delighting in the Spanish Inquisition and trading in slaves, including one's own daughters (as in Exodus 21:7-11).
He makes comparisons to other religions, such as Islam and Jainism, whom both he and the fundamentalist Christian would ridicule, to show that Christianity is equally deserving of the aforementioned ridicule — but not before noting that some religions are inherently less violent than others; e.g., if Jainism is inherently less violent and judgmental than Christianity, then how can the Bible be the definitive guide to ethical conduct?
He blames fundamentalist Christianity for a lack of a consistent life ethic, which not only prevents medical breakthroughs (particularly in regards to stem cell research and HPV vaccines) but also promotes death in undeveloped nations as well as infringing upon the rights of pregnant mothers everywhere.