Letter to a Christian Nation
Prices for book: Letter to a Christian Nation
Book ISBN: 9780307278777
Author(s): Sam Harris
Document type: Trade Paper
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There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
As a prelude to this review, let me state the pertinent elements of my background. I have a PhD in chemistry and was a research scientist for many years in universities and research institutions. I therefore consider myself to be particularly familiar with the human faculty of rationality and its relationship to the scientific method. I have also spent the last 20 years of my life committed to the realization of Truth; not from the perspective of conventional religiosity, but rather from that of esoteric spirituality.
In 'Letter to a Christian Nation' the author states his case with clarity and eloquence, brilliantly conveying the falsities of the irrational beliefs underlying Christianity and religious beliefs in general. His use of Biblical references to undermine the absurdities of those trying to reconcile its text with scientific evidence is convincing. This alone makes the book a worthwhile and necessary read. It is likely to appeal to those who enjoy rational argumentation and the discrediting of religious faith as absurd and dangerous.
However, there is a lot more to discovering the nature of Reality than that presented by rational logic and scientific materialism. If the author was to pursue that with the same fervor he displayed in formulating this book, then not only would conventional religions be seen for the farce they are, but so would rationality and the scientific method, especially as representations of Truth. I would write about it myself, but I do not have anywhere near the flair this author has displayed in the writing of this book.
Having said all that, all things considered, I must confess I would rather have this world comprised of people with views similar to Sam Harris than those of religious fanatics.
lightweight and trite. Mr. Harris offers no new intellectual insight but rather a dull and predictable rant. His work is rife with rhetoric that he shrilly insists are "facts." The result is an inane piece that fails to challenge one's intellect or beliefs. After reading Mr. Harris's "letter" I was left feeling "there's 45 minutes of my life I can't get back." So much for his concern about human suffering!
Sam Harris's final call for the intellectuals to wake up before it's too late! A brilliant analysis that is so effortless to read at one-sitting!
Slawomir Apel (Amazon.com)
The Poverty of Religeous Books
Most of the time when I read a book of Christian apologetics it pushes me toward atheism, and when reading a book defending atheism it pushes me toward theism. And I'me not talking about Harris' books or the ones by Dawkins, Dennett et al, but the much superior works by Bertrand Russell, David Hume and George Santayana. Even H.L. Mencken was at least quite funny. On the religeous side I can only think of G.K. Chesterton. The most recent stuff is almost unbelievably bad, though there are flashes of mediocrity. Two quick examples. Out of a combination of opportunity and curiosity I once attended a meeting of the flat earth society. I noticed that many of the members seemed to be there on a tongue in cheek basis, but most were believers. Their reasoning seemed to be on a level with believers in biblical inerrancy. Even for a believing christian, there is almost nothing to be said for it, while at the same time it is a most powerful engine for creating disbelief in former christians while turning off anyone who is even mildly skeptical. On the other side an example might be the use of the term ID-Creationist. To paraphrase Napoleon "this is not only a lie, but worse a blunder". Many leading proponents of ID not only believe in evolution(macroevolution), but insist on it. Michael Behe and Michael Denton are examples. Some such as David Berlinski, a secular jew, are not even theists. Most of course have a Christian agenda, but this is irrelevant to their arguments. Although I'me sympathetic, I certainly thought the evidence and reasoning of opposing counsel in my lawsuit should be disregarded by the jury, since he was obviously in the pay of the other side. In any event a point worth making is that whenever you say something thats obviously exaggerated or untrue, you have just given the unbiased or skeptical person a reason to disregard everything you say. I hope if there is anyone I've failed to offend, you'll reply and I'll try to rectify it.
Carl Grant (Amazon.com)
Harris is a strong thinker
This is an outstanding little book that you can read through in one sitting. Indeed, you won't want to put it down if you're in the freethought camp because Harris taps into much of what freethinkers see wrong with Christian and other forms of superstition. Without going into specifics, one of the key points you should glean from this book is that Christians, and indeed religious people generally, become extremely hostile whenever their precious dogma is critcized. Why is that? For people who understand how thought systems survive and replicate (in a memetic sense), it's clear that beliefs based on religious superstition are "set up" to cause a hostile reaction in the "host" whenever they are challenged. This ties in very closely with the idea of Hell, where people are frightened into both believing and then not abandoning those beliefs even though they don't jive with common sense (and I speak very much from personal experience here). I think it would be interesting to know what percentage of believers are believers because of Pascal's wager. This is a number you could never get, but I would speculate that it is a high one.
One final observation: In this book, Harris is addressing the more fundamentalist side of Christianity, although he argues that "moderates" are to blame for essentially providing cover for fundamentalists. This is a crucial point and one I think readers should consider carefully. Paul Gehrman, Author, Kaleidoscope
Paul Gehrman (Amazon.com)
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