“Thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.”
I finished reading Sam Harris' Letter To A Christian Nation and it's a worthwhile read, but not the great atheist hope that some have billed it as. My biggest problem with Harris is that he embraces a-lot of the same anger and fear that turn me off amongst the religious folks. He reaches out to Christians partialy by addressing the one thing they may have in common with atheists; a fear of Muslims. From here he points out that the obvious irrationality of Islam applies to Christendom as well. An interesting angle, but I think he misses one point as he describes the threat of the fast growing Islamic movement. He says it's not about being poor and undereducated, and cites individuals who were well educated and successful yet still willing to martyr themselves. In my view, individuals will always be present who are willing to subscribe to extreme views, but the more comfortable a populace is the less willing the masses will be to subscribe to beliefs that threaten that comfort. He himself points out the violent history of Christ's followers and the ease with which the Bible has been used to justify this violence and yet we've seen that the majority of Christians have become much less willing to take up arms (even if many are still a bit too willing to let others take up arms in their name and with their money).
I do not fear Islam as much as I fear the haves continuing to screw with and agitate the have nots in a way that has always led to a lack of stability for everyone. Harris sees a threat in the various world religions continuing to war with one another and in the fundamentalist masses supporting a Church/state. I agree that this is a frightening and real prospect, but I still feel very strongly that fighting poverty is the way to fight fundamentalism.
That said, this book makes some very strong arguments and is a great Christmas present for the agnostic or atheist in your life. It'd be a great present for any Christians you know who like to keep their debating skills sharp. When the book comes out in paper back I will buy a gross, and hide copies beneath the Gideon Bible whenever I stay at hotels.