Read Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris Jordan Bridges Online


Immediate New York Times Best Seller . . . The Challenge to Religious Dogma that has Sparked a National Debate! "Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years," writes Sam Harris. "Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually belieImmediate New York Times Best Seller . . . The Challenge to Religious Dogma that has Sparked a National Debate! "Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years," writes Sam Harris. "Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency." In response to his award-winning bestseller The End of Faith, Sam Harris received thousands of letters from Christians excoriating him for not believing in God. Letter to A Christian Nation is his courageous and controversial reply. Using rational argument, Harris offers a measured refutation of the beliefs that form the core of fundamentalist Christianity. Addressing current topics ranging from intelligent design and stem-cell research to the connections between religion and violence, Letter to a Christian Nation boldly challenges the influence that faith has on public life in our nation....

Title : Letter to a Christian Nation
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Letter to a Christian Nation Reviews

  • Steve
    2019-03-15 04:19

    I agree with other reviewers that there are no new or surprising arguments here. He goes over ground which is thoroughly familiar to those who think critically of religion. What makes the book so worthwhile is not, therefore, any (ahem) great revelations.What I found thrilling about this book, as an atheist of 50 years, was the startling, forceful simplicity, directness, beauty, and artistry with which he made his points. Consider one quote: "If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the history of Christian theology is the story of bookish men parsing a collective delusion."Beautiful. Just beautiful. Took my breath away. There are similar sparkling passages throughout the book. I'll read it again, for the sheer pleasure of the writing.

  • Manderson
    2019-02-21 04:21

    What is interesting about this book, as in most atheist thought, is that in lambasting fundamentalist institutional religious dogma, the author ends up doing exactly what he accuses his opponents of: polarizing, claiming to know what truth and reality are better than anyone else, and pushing moderates into extremism. He claims, as all atheists do, to be speaking solidly from the standpoint of reason. As a reasonable man, then, he should have recognized that fighting antagonism with greater antagonism will not convert any Christians to his cause. I agree completely with his points, especially when he tears down the idiocy of opposing stem-cell research, and questions the morality of those who call themselves Christians who would uphold the life of an embryo over that of a living adult, or prevent the distribution of condoms in HIV rampant countries. Yes, these are indeed problems that need to be addressed.But my issue here is with his approach: it does absolutely no good to simply directly label all Christians and Muslims (he side-steps addressing the Jewish religion) as complete morons. There are some very intelligent people who adhere to a religion (and/or a religious culture), and while they can understand his criticisms completely, it doesn't aid the cause of reason to bitterly strike out against all religions of the world and label a majority of the populace as idiots.I felt like his final pages were the most cohesive, level-headed writing of the book, and I would rather see that kind of analytical approach to these issues more than the kind of "I'm superior because I am a rational atheist" line of argument that does nothing constructive except for those who already agree with him.

  • David
    2019-03-09 11:13

    This seems like a completely unhelpful, pointless book. Sam Harris knows full well that the likelihood the people he purportedly addresses in his 'letter' (conservative Christians) will actually read it is close to zero. OK: he does state in the preface that its primary purpose is to "arm secularists", which I guess means he really had a different audience in mind from the start. Fair enough. But why use the particular framing device that he does - a belligerent, hectoring letter to fundamentalist Christians? They're not going to read the book anyway, and there's nothing helpful about the 'angry attacking letter' framework. In fact, it's particularly unhelpful.I consider myself a rational person; definitelya priorilikely to be receptive to the line of argument I had expected to find in this book. But my immediate reaction to it was one of annoyance and dislike. Annoyance at its overall tone, and dislike because I think the author indulges in such a selective interpretation of the Bible, history, and the world's current political situation that it simply undermines the case that he wishes to make. The best that I could say is that reading the book made me re-examine some of my own beliefs. But to no greater extent than reading the newspaper can sometimes have the same effect.Towards the end of the book Harris acknowledges that "this letter is the product of failure". To paraphrase Lear: "nothing comes of nothing". This book must be judged a continuation of that failure. It may generate some heat in the ongoing debate, but it fails to add any useful light.No stars, because I view the book as being actually detrimental.

  • James
    2019-02-20 10:34

    Wow! Concentrated essence of critique. This book is passionate, and tightly reasoned and put together. It catalogues some of the problems organized religions have inflicted on humanity, past and present, ranging from causing division, hatred and war to putting the brakes on truly free scientific and intellectual inquiry.Harris takes a number of common arguments in favor of the existence of God and/or the validity of various bodies or tenets of dogma, and shows that under logical consideration they just don't stand up. As in his book The End of Faith, he argues that even though liberal and moderate religious communities may not advocate actions that hurt society or other individuals, by providing religiosity with a cloak of respectability they create a niche, immune to logic, where fundamentalists can operate, whereas if all human movements were expected to meet the test of providing some objective evidence to support their beliefs, they'd have nowhere to go. For that matter, he classes totalitarian political systems that aren't overtly religious, such as fascism or communism, as being similar to religion in that dogma is held higher than rational questioning and following the rules is more important than relieving human (or animal) suffering.For myself, I differ with Harris in that although I do not subscribe to any organized religion I am not an atheist; but I believe his criticisms of religion are valid and agree that spiritual belief systems should be able to stand up to the same kind of analysis as any other belief systems.Together with his other book, The End of Faith, this is must reading for anyone exploring spiritual questions.

  • Werner
    2019-03-07 05:43

    New Atheist spokesman Harris published an earlier book attacking religion, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, in 2004. Written in response to "hostile" mail, mostly from Christians, reacting to the first one, this second book is designed as a concise (91 pages of text) distillation of his argument, both to irrefutably "demolish" any possible case for theism in general and Christian theism in particular, and primarily "to arm secularists... who believe that religion should be kept out of public policy, against their opponents on the Christian Right." Harris uses the term "Christian" loosely, apparently including various types of nominal "Christians" and Christian-influenced Americans; but he directs his attack here on those who hold to the traditional form of the faith, though defined somewhat inaccurately and treated as monolithic, without nuance. As a Christian, I obviously didn't come to the book without a prior opinion. But I did honestly seek to give it a fair hearing, considering his case on its merits, and seriously interacting and engaging with it. (That's been an intellectually stimulating and enriching process, despite the fact that the book itself is disorganized and poorly argued, IMO; I did quite a bit of study as a result, and learned some significant things.) I've attempted to organize my review topically, rather than following the rambling order in which subjects are treated in the book. First, I'll consider his arguments against theistic/Christian belief; second, his critique of Christian positions on social issues; and third, the significance of New Atheist attitudes for our common life in a pluralistic culture.Truthfully, given the hype surrounding the book, I expected a much more cogent case against Christian faith than Harris makes. There are actually no arguments here that I hadn't heard before, and they're for the most part shopworn chestnuts that have been bandied about (and already answered) by village atheists for generations, delivered with an in-your-face stridency and belligerence. (Calling it a rant is an objective description, not a deliberately pejorative epithet.) Due to time and space constraints, I won't touch on every point he makes, but I'll try to cover the most important ones.1. Theism, Harris says, has no evidential basis as all; it's believed in on faith (which he regards as by definition blind belief without evidence), and so is obviously irrational. But "rational" scientists believe in the existence of various real things that are, like God, not themselves directly observable; they're believed in on the indirect evidence of their effect on things that are empirically observable. That's the basis for Christian theistic faith, which turns out to have a lot of indirect empirical evidence, all of which Harris ignores here. (The most exhaustive summary of this that I know of is Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict; Frank Morison's more narrowly-focused Who Moved the Stone?: A Skeptic Looks at the Death and Resurrection of Christ is also instructive.) In weighing this kind of evidence, there is obviously a subjective element; most of us assess the cumulative force of the case to justify a decision one way or the other, and base our faith (in theism or atheism) on that, recognizing that it stops short of absolute demonstration. This isn't the same thing as blind belief without evidence.2. Harris argues that a benevolent God could not possibly allow human suffering (represented here by natural disasters, viruses, and crimes against innocent children); the existence of the latter cannot possibly be explained if one posits the former. However, Christians explain it by the fact that God created humans endowed, like Himself, with a free will; we're not robots or clones, but conscious beings who make real choices and enter into voluntary relationships. But that autonomy carries with it the possibility of making wrong and even horrendous choices as well as good ones, and those choices have meaningful effects. This affects even the natural realm. God created the Garden of Eden as a paradise in which He would have directly controlled nature for humanity's benefit; but because of the Fall He has backed off to allow natural law to operate, for the most part, without His direct intervention. This allows humans an environment in which their spiritual choices are not coerced, and that provides the maximum scope for purgative character formation. IMO, that explanation makes sense. Harris may subjectively disagree; but it is not an explanation that's illogical or fallacious on its face.3. Unlike some atheists, Harris admits that objective morality exists, and can be recognized by humans apart from special revelation. On that basis, he argues that atheists are more moral than Christians, based on lower crime rates in "blue" states than in "red" ones, and on the supposedly Utopian state of society in Western Europe and other Western nations that have lower rates of religious belief than the U.S. He admits that the red/blue state dichotomy isn't a "perfect indicator of religiosity." This is true, given that blue states are often blue due to the presence of large numbers of blacks (who are more Christian proportionately than the white community) and Catholic Hispanics, as well as of ethnic white Catholics who traditionally vote Democratic. It also seems to be true that the high crime rates of red states are driven by the rates in their blue counties, and that lower crime rates in blue states owe more to low rates in their red counties than in their blue ones. In general, Harris ignores every other factor, like income and education, that affect crime rates as much as religion. Those factors are particularly applicable in other Western nations with cradle-to-grave welfare states (which may not be economically sustainable). However, despite the myth of the "happy atheists" in those nations, the two countries with the largest per capita use of antidepressants are Iceland and Denmark, and four Western European countries have significantly higher suicide rates than the U.S. (see and .) [Note: that Wikipedia link does not work; see message 4 below for one that does.] And it happens that several recent university studies that actually DID measure the effect of religious affiliation on crime (unlike Harris' red/blue state comparison) all demonstrate that communities with a higher rate of religious affiliation have less violent crime ( .)It should be noted that Christians don't claim that every individual Christian is more moral than every individual non-Christian. All humans are fallen, and marred by psychological shortcomings; all humans also have consciences, and most to some degree receive the subconscious ministration of the Holy Spirit to move them in a better direction. Genuine Christians benefit from a moral reorientation and a more conscious attempt to cooperate with the Spirit, so that they're in a process of becoming morally better than they individually would have been without conversion. But the results don't break down into a "Christians=perfection, nonbelievers=monstrous vileness" dichotomy, and the Bible doesn't suggest that it does. So Harris' suggestion that the moral shortcomings of Christians across the 2,000 year history of the faith disprove the truth claims of Christianity has no more validity than a claim that the moral shortcomings of some atheists, such as serial-killer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, who defend moral nihilism on the basis of what they consider a legitimate interpretation of atheism, in themselves disprove atheism.4. According to Harris, the Bible teaches an objectively horrible code of ethics, his main example here being that it supports slavery. This charge and a good many others are rebutted in Paul Copan's book, Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (which I've reviewed elsewhere).5. Christian morality, in Harris' view, is inferior to the morality of Jainism, summed up in the command, "Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being." In other words, Jainism draws no distinction between the lives of humans and of lower animals. Atheists who eat meat, use glue and leather, euthanize their terminally ill and suffering pets, and omit to strain their drinking water through layers of thick muslin (to avoid swallowing and digesting an innocent microorganism) may see Jain ethics as more problematical than Harris does. (And might also have a problem with the ideal of suicide by self-starvation, which Mahavira is said to have attained, as the pinnacle of moral performance.) Jain pacifism may have influenced Gandhi's development of non-violent civil disobedience, which M. L. King in turn borrowed from Gandhi (and from Thoreau, who was a Deist and whom Harris does not mention). But he got his pacifism from his interpretation of the Bible; what he got from Gandhi and Thoreau was a technique for affecting social change, given a stance of pacifism. Most Christians, however, agree with Harris that the Bible doesn't teach absolute pacifism; we just don't view that as a defect in a fallen world. When you confront someone raping and torturing a child, tearfully remonstrating with him accords with Jain ethics, but a hard punch to the jaw works better. Biblical ethics allows for the latter.6. To Harris, the idea that God will someday bring the current world order to an end and finally judge the wicked is so self-evidently vile that it discredits Christianity, and Jesus' acceptance of that idea can "justify the Inquisition." No, it can't, because Jesus' explicit teaching forbids His followers to try to assume God's prerogative of judgment; that will be His function in His own time (Matt. 13:24-30). Nor is the judgment directed, as Harris suggests, at everyone who isn't a Christian; classical Christian thought has always understood the Bible to teach that Christ's sacrifice atones for all those who follow the light of general revelation to the best of their understanding. (Even Christians who have a more exclusive view of salvation don't see their mandate as to slaughter unbelievers to send them to "hell," but rather to peacefully invite them to embrace a place in God's community.) Final judgment is reserved for those who make a deliberate choice to embrace egoistic selfishness and persist in it --and as long as they live, there's hope that they won't persist in it, so Christians can't presume to finally judge anyone. God's role as Judge is consistent with His role in the moral governance of the universe He created; and His plan to bring that universe to a final state of social justice and happiness is a constructive teleology that differs from the Utopia advocated by people like Harris mainly in that God actually has the capacity to really achieve it.7. As Harris sees it, "Science" categorically disproves the existence of God. (Since the National Academy of Sciences officially denies this, his response is to slur their collective integrity.) It does this by supposedly proving, through the dogma of Darwinian evolution, that life came into being without a Creator. This contention is rebutted in, among other books, Evolution: A Theory In Crisis by Michael Denton, The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis by Hugh Ross, and Science Speaks by Peter W. Stoner (none of whom are "young earth" creationists).This doesn't exhaust Harris' arguments, but it covers the most important ones; the others are more obviously flawed on their face. As for the pernicious positions of Christianity on social issues, Harris identifies four that he considers "obscene" and "genocidal."1. Christians oppose abortion. While Harris calls it "an ugly reality," without saying why he thinks it's ugly, he maintains that there is a "need" for it as long as there are unplanned pregnancies. Presumably, this is because raising an unplanned child might threaten a woman's career and financial well-being. Things like adoption, paternal financial responsibility, educational and employment options, affordable day care, community support for single mothers, etc. aren't seen here as solutions. (Slavery apologists, of course, saw a "need" for slavery if the white community was to be able to live the good life.) Christians base opposition to this on the fact that unborn human babies are, as Harris says about slaves, "human beings like [ourselves], enjoying the same capacity for suffering and happiness." Being at an earlier developmental state doesn't change that, and the comparison with skin cells brushed off your body (which "could" be grown into a clone using high technology, but won't naturally develop into a living being at all) is spurious. So is the argument that humans often naturally miscarry, and God doesn't prevent it. God allows people to die of a good many natural causes, but that doesn't establish that it's morally neutral to actively kill those who don't naturally die. Nor does it become innocuous to kill someone if they don't feel pain (although developing babies do at a fairly early stage); the injury to a murder victim isn't just in the pain of the act, but in depriving him/her of life.The point also needs to be made that the example of El Salvador's 30-year criminal sentences for women who abort does NOT, just because El Salvador's population is largely Catholic, demonstrate that punishing women in this situation is "the Christian position." It's entirely consistent with Christianity (and common sense) to regard abortion as an offense committed against the woman, not by her, even if it's supposedly voluntary; this recognizes the reality of women's social situation, in which economic, psychological or physical coercion almost always drives the felt need to abort. This reflects the common law tradition, and is the position of the (largely Christian) National Right to Life Committee. See .2. Christians, says Harris, oppose "stem cell research." Actually, that isn't the case; Christians only oppose obtaining stem cells by killing human embryos for them. There are a number of other ways to obtain them; research with these has already produced significant medical benefits, while embryonic stem cells research has produced none. See . ( is another site with a lot of useful information on this whole subject.) Interestingly, the Jain position, which Harris earlier held up as the epitome of what religious ethics ought to be, happens to agree with the Christian one on both these points.The other two issues relate to Harris' view (not shared by all atheists) that any sexual behavior done by consenting adults is morally neutral, and that Christian disagreement with this is because of "prudery" that "contributes daily to the surplus of human misery." Christian sexual ethics are based on a positive view of sex as designed to be an expression of committed love in marriage, and I would contend that they can be recognized as valid by humans generally, based on natural moral intuitions of the kind that Harris admits to be valid.3. Christians encourage teens to abstain from premarital sex. Harris waffles on whether or not this is actually pernicious (at one point, he appears to concede that it isn't), but he misrepresents "abstinence only" education as doing nothing except preaching abstinence and withholding all other information. In fact, abstinence education is as or more "comprehensive" as any other sex education program, including providing information about birth control and AIDS preventives (and including their limitations) but it emphasizes abstinence as the only completely responsible choice ( ). He also uses selected statistics to assert that abstinence education doesn't work, but a comprehensive review of the over 20 studies done to date demonstrates that they do ( ).4. He accuses Christians of deliberately trying to prevent the development of HPV vaccine, and of discouraging condom distribution, so that HPV and AIDs can be preserved as a boogey to prevent sexual activity. For the record, Reginald Finger, the evangelical member of the CDC's Advisory Commision on Immunization Practices that he falsely accuses of this (based on a secondary source that was incorrect) voted to recommend developing the vaccine, and fully supports it ( ; see also Letter to an Atheist by Michael Patrick Leahy). And the Roman Catholic opposition to condom distribution is based on opposition to birth control (which is not a general Christian position), not on resistance to AIDS prevention.Harris does not simply think religious belief is mistaken; he thinks it's dangerous and needs to be eradicated. His earlier book declares that "some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them." This is in a context of discussing Islamists, and he trades heavily on Islamophobic extremism ( ). But he makes it clear here that he considers traditional Christians just as potentially dangerous as he believes Moslems are. This kind of general tarring of ALL religious people as dangerous, intolerant maniacs is, frankly, disturbing. And it's doubly disturbing because he demonstrates himself here to be as intolerant and as hateful towards those who disagree with him as any of the medieval Inquisitors he condemns. ANY worldview, religious or atheistic, that demonizes its opponents and can't coexist in civil comity with them poses a threat to the peace of the majority of people, of various faiths or no faith, who have no problem sharing the world in peace together. (Comparing the faiths of the latter to religious terrorism isn't simply comparing apples and oranges; it's comparing apples and ergot.) It tends to poison the well of our civic discourse, and to foster a polarization and fear that nobody needs.Note: Links to a couple of other online reviews of this book, and citations for some print reviews, by other Christian readers, can be found here: .

  • Jonathan Ashleigh
    2019-03-01 05:42

    As an atheist, this was an easy read. There was not anything that made "the god argument" over and done with but some points were well brought up. The problem with a book like this is that only atheists are going to read it, but I wont be reading much material which claims to prove god's existence either.

  • Chloe
    2019-03-11 07:31

    Can I just admit something straight off the bat? I. Don’t. Care. I don’t care whether you want to participate in ritualized cannibalism. I don’t care whether you think the soul resides on the top of the head. I don’t care whether you want to rub blue mud in your navel, ingest some psylocybin and commune with Gaia. I don’t care whether you want to build temples to a god who, at best, is enormously small-minded and petty or, at worst, is a genocidal tyrant bent on undoing the mistake of free will. I especially don’t care whether you do or don’t believe in any bi-polar sky god. I’m just done with it. It’s a discussion I’ve had more times than I can count and one where I’ve already heard every justification for and against. I just don’t care. While I am undoubtedly an atheist, there’s something very off-putting about this new wave of skeptics that makes me want to distance myself from them. Something about the missionary zeal with which this new group of atheists approaches religious discussions smacks too much of “we will save the heathens from themselves or they’ll die trying.” Tellingly, it is normally those who have recently lost their faith that are the most vocal challengers of deists, there is no fervor as powerful as that of the recently converted, be it to Christianity, Alcoholics Anonymous, or atheism. Yet what is the point of replacing one doctrine of ideas with another if it does nothing to change the tone with which we discuss things? People are still going to be assholes, regardless of which creed they are espousing today.Either all the accumulated evidence (and lack thereof) is correct and there is no god, or there’s a pantheon of every belief system floating somewhere in the ether. Either way it makes no actual impact on my day to day living, other than through interactions I have with a creed’s adherents. God is not going to do anything to either lessen my burdens or smite me with righteous fury. All we can do is live our lives in the manner that we feel is best for us. Any deity worth its salt should be able to recognize that, and any deity that does not recognize it is not deserving of anyone’s worship. That is not to say that I do not have severe issues with the ways in which people use “it’s just what I believe” as a justification for completely irrational and harmful behavior, and there is no faster way to earn my enmity than to try to write your morality into law. Do what you will, but keep it to yourself- live by example but without self righteousness. In his short polemic Harris lists point by point his, rather convincing, arguments against deism and the various reasons why coddling people’s faith and placing it beyond debate is both harmful and intellectually dishonest, in far more clear terms than I can ever manage. This is definitely a contentious book, but one that will make you think, regardless of which side of this argument you may sit. My main complaint with the idea of people moving beyond religion is I don’t think that Harris is taking into account humankind’s need for illusions. We all tell stories to ourselves to better understand the world and our place within it. For a majority of the world, this story involves a divinely imparted code of rules to adhere to or else. If we stripped away the belief systems of all of these people then what is left? Living without illusions is hard work, having to bear the responsibility for your choice on your own is a constant struggle. Some days I don’t think I would wish that on my worst enemy. Too much existentialism for a Thursday morning? Probably. It still doesn’t change the fact that I can conceive of no swifter way for the world to descend into chaos than to rip away the support structure of people’s existence. Slow and steady will win this race, the best we can expect is a holding action to keep God out of our statehouses and legislature.

  • Jim
    2019-03-20 04:24

    Harris received a lot of hate mail from Christians for his book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason so wrote this to "...a Christian in a narrow sense of the term. Such a person believes, at a minimum, that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that only those who accept the divinity of Jesus Christ will experience salvation after death."He also says:...Consequently, liberal and moderate Christians will not always recognize themselves in the "Christian" I address....they will also begin to see that the respect they demand for their own religious beliefs gives shelter to extremists of all faiths....IOW, he makes it clear that he is addressing religious extremism.Unfortunately few, if any Christians can read this with an open mind since they seem to miss that part & then he attacks Christianity. If he had started with his conclusion, some might have read at least part of it & that would have made it a far more powerful book. He makes a great case against including religion in public decisions (or any, for that matter), but he belittles the religion too much & too early on. Understandable, but it's not the way to spread his message except to those of us who already believe as he does.Religious extremism is a danger & it is more prevalent than most think. As he points out, "ONE OF THE most pernicious effects of religion is that it tends to divorce morality from the reality of human and animal suffering." He gives some great examples for the removal of religion from our decision making.- Women are jailed for decades in El Salvador if they get an abortion even if the pregnancy was due to rape or incest due to Christian extremism. - Other women are killed if they report being raped in some Muslim countries since they're admitting to adultery.- The failure of Catholic missionaries to teach that condoms can prevent the spread of AIDs, because not interfering in procreation is more important to them, even when overpopulation is rampant, than preventing millions of lingering deaths.- People continue to kill each other over their religion. His brief list included Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, & more in a dozen spots around the world.The above are criminal actions with no moral or rational justification, but are perfectly acceptable, even required, from a religious standpoint. Those who moderate their belief with rationality still give credence, even deference, to the extremists in the name of 'freedom of religion'. Worse, it encourages tribalism when we need to form a global community. Early on he asks Christians, "Why don't you lose any sleep over whether to convert to Islam? ... Muslims are simply not making claims about reality that can be corroborated. This is perfectly apparent to anyone who has not anesthetized himself with the dogma of Islam.... Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way I view all religions." Then he points out a few of the illogical, irrational, & conflicting beliefs that Christians have citing chapter & verse. It's easy, of course. (Robert A. Heinlein: "One man's religion is another man's belly laugh.")He spends most of the letter giving secularists ammunition to educate their religious acquaintances in the hope of averting the disaster that the combination of great power & irrationality (stupidity?) may well cause. Laudable & the actual purpose of this book, so it was just poorly titled.According to on Gallup poll, almost half of the US population believes Jesus is coming in the next 50 years. It is truly scary to think that people making decisions that affect millions might believe this. Various Christians have been thinking 'the end of times' were coming soon for 2000 years. It hasn't of course, but they continue to believe it's just around the corner because their book says so - maybe, sort of, if you read a particular version a certain way... While the Shakers withered away, people who control armies and WMDs may not go so quietly.Hopefully, Harris' fears are extreme. Unfortunately, I think we've been really lucky that disasters far worse than 9/11 haven't happened on a more frequent basis.Update 2Feb2015: Werner is a devout Christian. While I don't agree with everything in his review, his knowledge & research from the religious side points out some possible flaws or inaccuracies, as well as shows the Christian POV here: sad part is that he makes Harris' point on slavery & the Bible without seeing it as a problem at all. According to their bible, slavery was OK for most of 2000 years, but when society finally came to its senses, Christians had to make it match or admit that it was wrong. The book hasn't changed, but they found a few vague passages to change their interpretation of it.The shame is that Christians will never admit that current interpretations could also be wrong. Not only does this continue to lend credence to the extremists, but it also takes their attention away from the horrors committed in the name of religion. Few of the 1 & 2 star reviews of this even acknowledge those horrors or they shrug them off & don't place the blame on religion at all. It also means they will continue to discriminate against those who don't hold the same irrational beliefs. Most still rail against gays & other-gender folks. Most finally allowed women to become preachers, although the Catholics still don't. Of course, they still believe in celibacy which they didn't come up with until around 1100 AD & we've all seen how well that's worked out. For all the supposed separation of church & state in the US, it's illegal for an atheist to hold office in 7 states.Update 28Feb2015: Recently President Obama said the current Muslim extremism was similar to the Christian Crusades. Of the 200 friends I have on Facebook, only the very religious Christians took offense. I noticed a trend. These were the same people who had posted ALL of the anti-Muslim posts I've seen & most were pretty nasty. Those with moderate Christian, other religions, or no religion hadn't posted any beyond some funny jokes which were spread among a variety of religions. 'Christian tolerance' is obviously an oxymoron.

  • Aaron
    2019-02-25 11:22

    It's clear thatSam Harris wrote this book out of frustration with Christianity in particular, and religion in general. The book's style and tone conveys the author's frustration--in such a way that makes it largely a turn-off for many Christians who might otherwise earnestly listen to what he has to say.That aside,Sam Harris makes a lot of good points, that I think many Christians today should take to heart. His view of Christians reflects many in our culture who see us as, for example, people that care more about showing the 10 commandments in the courts than helping the poor and oppressed in our cities and our world. Or people that gauge the best political leader on his theology in exclusion to his commitment to the environment, etc.WhereSam Harris goes that I don't follow is down the path of religion being utterly unreasonable and thus dangerous. His arguments seem contradictory at times, and born out of his frustration. For a good summary of a "rebuttal" book, I recommend Rich Vincent's review ofIs Religion Dangerous byKeith Ward.[]I can appreciate the act of debating what's reasonable and what isn't, but as my strengths aren't found in arguments and debating, I leave that to others. In the postmodern world, as I recently heard, "people are asking different questions". People aren't debating what is "reasonable" so much as they're asking "where do I find my meaning?" Those are the questions I'm interested in, and this book helped inform me of what other people's answers are to those questions.I'd highly recommend it to Christians who are not weak in their faith.

  • Bruno de Maremma
    2019-03-10 08:18

    Mr. Harris book is an easy and fast read as well as a 'must read' for anyone who values rational and moral thought over religious faith as a guide for behaviour. The current rise of the religious right in America frankly frightens me. As Mr. Harris says in his preamble 'the truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ's love are deeply, even murderously intolerant of criticism.' This quote from Jann Levin sums up the book nicely."“Sam Harris fearlessly describes a moral and intellectual emergency precipitated by religious fantasies–misguided beliefs that create suffering, that rationalize violence, that have endangered our nation and our future. His argument for the morality, the honesty, and the humility of atheism is galvanizing. It is a relief that someone has spoken so frankly, with such passion yet such rationality. Now when the subject arises, as it inevitably does, I can simply say: Read Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation.” –Janna Levin, Columbia University, author of How the Universe Got Its Spots and A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines.He actually does much more than describe an emergency. He gives you rational arguments to refute the claims of the those who would tell you that they are doing the will of their god. Please read this book.

  • Matt
    2019-03-20 04:30

    Sam Harris sets out to "demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms" in only 91 pages. Mr. Harris repeatedly refers to Christians as arrogant narcissists, yet he regards his own intellect so highly he only requires 91 page to snuff out 2,000 years of religious tradition and intellectual questioning of billions of people who have concluded there was something about Jesus that compelled belief. These 91 pages could have been put to far more productive use had Mr. Harris actually taken seriously the faith he set out to demolish. He largely attacks a caricature of Christian faith, one I certainly don't believe and wouldn't.One of my other complaints about this book is that I feel Harris does a disservice to utilitarian moral reasoning. He blames Christian belief for causing suffering without really establishing causality or defining suffering or weighing the resulting happiness against purported suffering. Suffering was whatever he said it was whenever it was convenient to his argument and it was caused by whomever he said it was.Harris closes this book by expressing his hope that "human beings learn to speak about their deepest personal ways that are not flagrantly irrational." A noble goal, and one I support. If Harris could have tempered his anger just a little I might have found this goal a little more believable; what I think he really, really wants is to to win an argument and he's quite emotionally invested. That's fine, let's just not pretend that's a purely rational motive.

  • Rob
    2019-02-23 05:23

    Seems to be more of a letter to atheists than to Christians. I've yet to find a truely compelling message to divert humanity away from religious thought, and Letter to a Christian Nation is far too accurate and on point to be convincing to a Christian mind.One concept which I've found to be unique in this book is this: the word "Atheist" should not exist. There is no term in English which identifies someone who denies the existance of Aliens. There isn't a word for people who deny that Elvis is still alive. Why then is there a term for people who deny a supernatural chum such as the judeao-christian god?Of course the word exists for a reason; over 80% of the country believes in this diety. That's kind of the problem.Interesting argument in this one about slavery being a very Christian idea, though they didn't create it, the bible very much supports it.

  • Elyssa
    2019-02-20 08:33

    I wish Sam Harris had written this before The End of Faith or I had read this book first. In Letter to a Christian Nation, he takes a more gentle tone and walks the reader through his disbelief in Christianity and other religions. I found it hard to dispute his point of view. The connections he makes between religion and flawed political policies (i.e stem cell research) are especially effective. I'm glad he put away the sledgehammer and decided to spoon feed his readers rather than beat them over the head as he did in The End of Faith. My main ongoing criticism of Sam Harris is that unless you are already a firmly established atheist, his books don't provide enough guidance around maintaining a life that includes elements of mysticism and transformative experience. He touches on this in both books, but I am left wanting more. I am also disturbed by the fact that he does not endorse Unitarian Universalism, which seems to be the best path for integrating rational thought with spirituality. I also wonder if he understands that many churches serve as positive community-building centers and are sometimes the only resource for disenfranchised individuals. I hope Sam Harris keeps writing and goes more in depth on living without religion and maintaining a sense of mystery and filling the social gap that many churches offer.

  • Kerrie
    2019-03-12 12:34

    A fair share of reviews mention his anger, but I see it more as frustration and very well-founded frustration at that. The statistic he cites that the U.S. placed #33 (out of 34, just above Turkey for cryin' out loud) of countries whose majority of population accepts the theory of evolution is an alarming one. As he states, we are a country built on ignorance which does not bode well for the rest of the world. Some have taken umbrage at his focus on the danger of Islam, but what I took from this book is that all religion is dangerous. It promotes ignorance, a "surrender of the mind" as Hitchens states. The satisfaction with not knowing, to say "God has mysterious ways" rather than seeking out knowledge or to take on personal responsibility for actions - it makes me want to tear my hair out.

  • Joey
    2019-02-28 11:17

    WOW! It’s a tour de force- a perfect apologia. Sam Harris is so brilliant that he has an acute analysis of the issue. So , atheists, particularly agnostics, should read it to become more enlightened and completely free from fear of going to “hell” and religious intolerance. The first book that gave me an idea about apologetics was WHAT IS SO GREAT ABOUT CHRISTIANITY by Dinesh D’Souza ( 5 stars ). In fact, the book introduced me to the said Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennet. Thereafter, I wanted to read their works on account of my agnostic itch of curiosity then. So, I have read Dawkins’ GOD DELUSION ( 5 stars ) twice, Hitchens’ s GOD IS NOT GREAT ( 3 stars ). Now it’s my first Sam Harris apologia. Harris intended to write this book in response to the hate letters sent by religious and political people out of his criticisms against major religions of the world in his book THE END OF FAITH. I enjoyed reading it because of his straight-to-the-point arguments- concise but clear and logically convincing. Upon reading it, I had four intellectual epiphanies :There is no such morality.There are many truths.The bible appears to be inconsistent.Therefore, for an atheist, and in general, God does not exist.On the other hand, the underlying cause on which I cast shed why deeply religious people tend to deny the fact that God does not exist is “IGNORANCE”. We are living in a civilization of ignorance as Harris put it. Or I would opine that we are all still ignorant although we are all civilized. We have been the archetypes of wrong education since time immemorial. So life has been complicated. See, pardon me if you may be feeling like blowing your top now, out of your devotion as if you want to engage in a heated debate with me. It is some kinda foolishness, isn’t it? But still I dare to uphold Sam Harris’s and other prominent atheists’ arguments. ^^

  • Obscuranta Hideypants
    2019-02-19 07:13

    In his later work, Letter to a Christian Nation, Harris takes up Christianity and the Bible directly. It is notable, however, that Harris never discusses Christians or the “Christian world” with the same language that he directs against Muslims.There is an incredible level of dishonesty involved here. Even if one were to accept Harris’ premises—that it is primarily religions belief that is responsible for acts of violence—one must, if looking at the situation objectively, conclude that the most dangerous force in the world is the United States, propelled by the Christian fundamentalism that permeates the entire American government, and particularly the Bush administration, which has taken great strides in the direction of theocracy. After all, the number of people killed by the US in the course of the war in Iraq by itself dwarfs the number killed in the attacks of September 11.This dishonesty is particularly repugnant coming from someone claiming to be a scientist (Harris, according to the biography on the cover of his book, is currently working on a doctorate in neuroscience by “studying the neurological basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty”), as it flagrantly disregards any observance of the scientific method. Harris tends to leave out any evidence that does not lead to the conclusions he prefers to draw.However, Harris’ principal targets are Muslims, largely because this focus provides a rationale for American foreign policy. In his Letter to a Christian Nation Harris makes statements, to take a couple of examples, that “insofar as there is a crime problem in Western Europe, it is largely the product of immigration. Seventy percent of the inmates of France’s jails, for instance, are Muslims,” he writes (pp. 43-44). Thus we are to conclude that Muslims in France are a bunch of criminals, and Harris says nothing about the repression and racism directed against the Muslim population and encouraged by the French government.Later we read, “Throughout Europe, Muslim communities often show little inclination to acquire the secular and civil values of their host countries, and yet they exploit these values to the utmost, demanding tolerance for their misogyny, their anti-Semitism, and the religious hatred that is regularly preached in their mosques. Forced marriages, honor killings, punitive gang rapes, and a homicidal loathing of homosexuals are now features of an otherwise secular Europe, courtesy of Islam.” This is just a repetition of the chauvinist and racist ideology of the extreme right in Europe.A call for reason is indeed needed at this time—perhaps more than ever before—but the tendencies expressed by Harris do not constitute this call.

  • Tony
    2019-02-20 06:27

    If religion indoctrination as a child left you with an unsettling mind and controversial thoughts, then Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation” is a good, satisfying prelude to your curiosity. There is no dwelling on particular subjects, only enough arguments to stir the pot. The pot that, I think, should be stirred automatically by anyone equipped with common sense and rational thought-processing mechanisms. In the Zeitgeist we’re currently part of, it is substantial to scrutinize that which we have already took for granted. That narrow pathway you were launched into by sheer luck. And by sheer luck I mean the combination of odds putting together geographical location, parental religiosity and societal trend.“Letter to a Christian Nation” will not easily find its destined-for recipients. Mostly because Christian mothers like my own so fervently told us not to question our faith or invite anything into our lives that might wobble it. Alongside with priests, she continually preached that unless one is immaculately impregnated with scripture, unless one has the bible’s verses memorized and at their perpetual disposal, one should oto-lock himself. One should avoid unwanted, faith contaminating, Demonic causal agents. An impediment to reading this book can be this reason. It can be any other. Whatever it is, it can be easily surmounted by mere curiosity.Believing that God is the creator of the universe, that the bible is holy concrete for human morality are by no means easy claims. This book will positively provide quick yet relatively satisfying answers to some questions roaming in your Christian (or not so Christian) psyche. It’s a letter addressing its receivers by all means of common sense and rationality. As a healthy part of society, we’re bound to be subscribed to this VLAN, that of common sense and rational reasoning. Therefore, I hope “Letter to a Christian Nation” successfully reaches all those in this VLAN, in further hopes that it reaches more, in further ones.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-06 07:22

    Harris has all his arguments in order, all the footnotes covered and has layed out a perfectly rational essay. Yet nowhere, either here or in 'End of Faith' does he adequately address the fact that Atheism, in this country and other first-world countries anyway, is essentially a comfortable position for those who can afford it. I say this as an atheist, and I might recommend this book to anyone firmly entrenched in their religion who also has a safe house to live in and a lawn to mow. However I don't think I'll be telling anyone in ghettos or shacks to go out and pick up Sam Harris and throw off what little they have left.

  • Natali
    2019-02-24 11:42

    This book offers an answer to the question: What is the harm in someone believing in Christianity if they keep their beliefs to themselves and don't hurt other people? Harris' answer is that Christianity is a set of beliefs that intrinsically DOES hurt other people. It is no secret that religion is the number one divisor of humanity throughout history. Harris looks at the specific doctrines of Christianity that are detrimental to society such as opposition to stem cell research, abortion, and contraceptives, violence against women and slaves, and persecution of non-believers. He says that if we rid ourselves of religion in the next century, like so many developed nations have already done, "we will look back upon this period in human history with horror and amazement," similar to the way we look at age-old beliefs about slavery. He also rejects the Bible as the ultimate authority on morality. Growing up in a Christian house, I could not agree more with his observation that "people have been cherry-picking the Bible for millennia to justify their every impulse, moral and otherwise." It always struck me as odd that our study of the Bible was substantiated with scriptures presented in piecemeal. You can prove any point with any piece of literature if you read it out of order, ignoring sections that do not fit your agenda. While this is a well written and interesting book for anyone interested in deconstructing religious belief, it is not a scientific refute to Christianity. Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" is better for that. This book is a quick read, helpful for anyone who wants to debate the social validity and reliability of Christianity. Ultimately, what he calls for is "intellectual honesty." He says, "It is time we acknowledged a basic feature of human discourse: when considering the truth of a proposition, on is either engaged in an honest appraisal of the evidence and logical arguments, or one isn't. Religion is the one area of our lives where people imagine that some other standard of intellectual integrity applies." I could not agree more. I think it is more important to decide HOW you believe rather than WHAT you believe. In so doing, we should never resort to blind faith in anything. That isn't "intellectual honesty." It is intellectual laziness.

  • Radhika
    2019-03-06 04:31

    This book is very quickly read as it is pithy and direct. In it Sam Harris responds to the many comments and views addressed to him by believers in the United States. The idea of reason versus religion is not new and has been expounded as well by other scholars. However, Sam's approach is still valuable. I think such a "letter" to the Christians is needed as Christianity has, in many minds, taken on the veneer of civilization by being the major religion of the developed, modern, western world. I don't expect too many were converted by this book. But the nature of fundamentalist religion is dogmatic and those who are dogmatic are never easily swayed. But that doesn't make the work any less meaningful. Many of the criticisms in reviews written here state that atheists and authors like Harris are as fundamentalist in their conviction as those they are criticizing. This is a strange accusation. I don't find atheistic thought to be fundamentalist. Atheists do not go around knocking on people's doors or evangelizing. Not believing in a supernatural being is not fundamentalist. Telling those who proselytize to you to show cause is not fundamentalist. To use reason as a guide to moral behavior is not fundamentalist. To write a book about it is not fundamentalist. After all, it has not been required reading for all and no one, has yet been forced to purchase it. On the other hand, every hotel room I have stayed in had a religious treatise and I cannot even tell you how many bibles I have received as presents from well-wishers. The latest drivel I hear from people is that they are not religious but they are spiritual. When pressed I can't get a clear definition of spirituality which is distinct from a belief in the paranormal. One thing is clear, some of them cannot defend against the ills and violence caused in the name of god and thus, they are chary of being seen as religious. Which makes me think that spiritual is to religious what ID is to creationism. Just my two cents.

  • Joseph Olivares
    2019-02-25 11:16

    I did not by any means feel the need to give this little book one star simply because it was written by an atheist; I deeply respect many atheist thinkers, and am very open-minded and appreciative toward the good that has been produced by many atheist philosophers and thinkers. But I just could not bring myself to give this any more than one star, because it is difficult to imagine how it could have been worse. Think about what the worst, least thought-out anti-religion and pro-atheist propaganda would look like in a little 100 page book, and you have a pretty accurate idea of what this awful piece of trash is like. What scares me is that it has an average rating of four stars. It is truly sad that so many people in today's society simply do not know how to think. Lacking even the most basic critical thinking skills, they hear any sort of anti-religious rhetoric and they're sold...Anyways, I wouldn't bother reading this if you want something that is at all meaningful or intellectually challenging and thought-provoking. If you already have a copy, I'd recommend using it at your next bonfire.

  • Andrea
    2019-03-08 05:35

    I approached this book as a person who has a religious/spiritual Christian background. While critical of many organized religions and the damage that they do, I still feel a connection to my spiritual roots.Perhaps it was too much to expect a well-reasoned invitation to dialogue in picking up LTaCN. Reading it, I could practically hear Harris spitting out each sentence with disdain. This tone left me in a place where I let his words glance off of me rather than delving into what he had to say. It wasn't until more than 3/4 through the book that I felt engaged with some meaningful issues and questions, especially those related to science, that he posed. By that time I was reluctant to open up to Harris, as he demonstrated many of the qualities he despises and criticizes in many Christians - shrillness, condescension, and antagonism. I didn't dislike this book because of my religious beliefs. I disliked it because of my spiritual beliefs - the ones that lead me to believe that coming to agreement and coexistence is not possible through rancor.

  • Mikey B.
    2019-03-15 05:33

    This book is a relentless attack on Christianity and raises a lot of good points. For instance – religious people claiming to be moral preach against condom use when AIDS is killing millions. Why are they so obsessed about abortion and not about genocide in Darfur? Why are they opposed to gun control - would Jesus carry a gun? Why do they believe so adamantly in books written centuries ago – in texts that promote slavery? Sam Harris explores many of these issues and more. Religion destroys our ability to reason and warps the soul.

  • Douglas Wilson
    2019-02-27 05:37


  • Michael
    2019-03-20 04:39

    This is a very good, concise rebuttal to many different aspects of Christian faith and is very effective in laying out the disastrous consequences of such beliefs on society. Harris also briefly touches on the problem of religious tolerance, an idea which sounds (and certainly partly is) wonderful, but which presents serious problems when it becomes inappropriate to criticize religious dogmatism, anti-scientific claims being taught in schools, and the often immoral consequences of religious teachings. The prominent example of this being in the liberal societies of the West where women, LGBT, non-believers and scientific (correct) education are (largely) respected and protected, but where many in the Muslim communities in these countries reject standards of liberalism, showing nothing but ignorance and intolerance. And then, in the name of "religious tolerance" many on the left either say nothing or throw themselves into an incoherent and hypocritical fury, branding even a sensible, non-bigoted discussion of these issues as "Islamophobic". This infuriatingly leaves fascists and morons like UKIP and Republicans as the main source of criticism. It's a very short book, and well worth a read.

  • Ana Rînceanu
    2019-03-17 06:24

    I started out really liking this book, but by the end I was kind of meh on the whole thing.The writing in Letter to a Christian Nation is straightforward so I'm going to be just as clear. Being a humanist myself, I agree on some points, but overall, I can't really be on board with the absolute confidence regarding the interpretation of religious doctrine show here. I'm sure that the billions of religious people in this world do not take the words of the Bible, Quran etc literally. We would be in so much trouble if that were the case and I get the feeling that Harris is saying that Muslims are worse than the others because all of them are fundamentalists. Maybe it's just me, but I prefer my atheism with a grain of salt.

  • Patricia Boswell
    2019-02-18 07:15

    I read this book out loud in about 2 hours to my son and husband. It's very accessible and quick to read. Good if you are really interested in Sam Harris, but don't have the time for reading _End of Faith_. He focuses specifically on Christianity too, which is one of the reasons I really liked it, since I have some basis for listening to his arguments, having been raised Catholic. His arguments are eloquently stated and highly compelling. His irony makes me laugh a lot. He is brilliant. Of course, the Christian Nation probably hasn't read it, but only rejected it, but it's still a good read for skeptical people like myself.

  • Tulpesh Patel
    2019-02-27 08:25

    A heartfelt polemic against Christianity written as a letter directly to Christians in the USA.Contains all the usual arguments against God (who created the creator, the Bible is of it's time, and doesn't make any sense or have any consistent internal logic, atheists have morals too etc.), but they are presented with a fantastic simplicity and clarity which is a product of writing the arguments as a letter - there is a lot packed in in less than 100 pages. Whilst I would like to think that those that the letter is written to will read it and reflect on the their faith and beliefs, the book functions better as a tool for arming the atheist against Christian argument for God.

  • Buckets
    2019-03-21 05:31

    I love atheist literature mostly because extremely intelligent people contribute to the body of works. This book, however, was a little extreme. Although I am a Bright and therefore agree with nearly everything said in this short number, I often found myself thinking thoughts defending the silly Christian right. Why? Not because I agree with them (please…) but because I automatically think skeptical thoughts when confronted with a quasi-militant agenda. Sam Harris lacks the delicate poise that other great Bright authors (such as my old man crush Richard Dawkins) express. A good read, but maybe Harris needs to chill for a bit.

  • Leon Aldrich
    2019-02-21 10:23

    The one book that belongs on everyone's reference shelf as a guide to never turn off your ability to reason and THINK about what we believe and why we should believe it. That we are connected by our humanity and yet easily divided by race, gender, age, orientation, culture, ethnicity, city, state, country and religion to name a few.