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Sam Harris: Letter to a Christian Nation

Harris, Sam. Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Knopf, 2006)

Harris states his purpose succinctly, to "demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms," but the book's brevity prohibits him from accomplishing so grand an objective. He does, however, score numerous points against "Christianity at its most divisive, injurious, and retrograde." (p. ix, Introduction) and the tendency of Christian moderates to be complicit in the acts of extremists.

As in The End of Faith, Harris objects to dogmatism of every stripe, and addresses the "atheist fundamentalist" bogeyman here:

It is time that Christians like yourself stop pretending that a rational rejection of your faith entails the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. One need not accept anything on insufficient evidence to find the virgin birth of Jesus to be a preposterous idea. The problem with religion--as with Nazism, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology--is the problem of dogma itself. I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs. (pp. 42-3)

His gift for snappy one-liners remains undiminished, as when Harris writes that the creationists "are building a civilization of ignorance" (p. 70) with their anti-science influence on American education. Unfortunately, there is not enough room for any of his indignations to build into a sustained critique. It's another forceful salvo in the "Christian nation" battle, but it does not decisively end the war.

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