OPEN LETTER TO SAM HARRIS (BOOK REVIEW)

Dear Sam Harris,

Firstly, it's important for you to know that in your book 'Letter to a Christian Nation' your underlying assumptions about Christian morality are fundamentally false. This single fact discredits more than half your book.

On page 8 you write: "Questions of morality are questions about happiness and human suffering. This is why you and I do not have moral obligations to rocks."  Your presumptions are wrong, Christianity does not see morality in this way. Christians hold that good stems from God, not that God conforms to some outside abstraction called good. Happiness and human suffering are unrelated to Christian morality.

On page 7, you write: "You [Christians] believe Christianity is an unrivaled source of human goodness." Yes, we do, but because we believe it represents God’s will (and God's will defines what is good).

Because of this single misunderstanding most of the rest of your book is pathetically inadequate as a criticism. For example, you argue that human suffering is absurd because God is either not powerful enough to stop it, or else he is malevolent. In phrasing the question this way you fail to present the most obvious option: that God is beneficent in ways we can’t understand.

Most everyone would agree that stabbing a baby is an evil thing to do, but most of us would also agree that vaccinating a baby (by stabbing it with a needle) is usually always a good thing to do. Everyone agrees these two sentiments are compatible.

It's likely this world’s sufferings are the vaccination we need to enter into a greater and healthier life.

Besides this, God cannot and should not be held accountable to human moral standards (even those he himself lays down). If God is responsible for the death of millions of people in a bad storm this does not in any way suggest that he's a murderer. He gives life, and he can take it away. As humans, we're not allowed to murder because it's not our sphere of authority. God’s sphere is different than ours.

Secondly, you argue that since Muslims are equally convinced of their god, Allah, as Christians are of theirs, Christians should realize their religion is equally absurd. This line of argument is unbelievably childish. The members of the Flat Earth Society are probably as confident of the flat earth as the rest of the world is of a circular earth, but this does not invalidate the circular earth position.

There are very good reasons why Christians view their religion as more reasonable then Islam. For example, the founder of Islam was a rich, blood thirsty, genocidal, pedophile, warlord who performed no witnessed miracles, and whose religion was spread by the edge of the sword; that sounds like the power of men. In contrast, the founder of Christianity was born in a feed trough, performed witnessed miracles, died on a cross, and his disciples were all poor uneducated nobodies who led a pacifistic religion from a backwards province to dominate the entire globe by getting persecuted; it’s so unlikely it almost has to come from a deity.

Another of your arguments suggests the Bible is so morally obscure that no one can interpret it properly. You cite the slavery issue as an example. However, this sample is absurd because all you end up doing is displaying how dishonest the human race is, and how bad people are at reading their Bibles.

Personally, I'll be the first to tell you the Bible does, in fact, condone slavery. The Bible is clear on this fact; but, this does not discredit the Bible. The Bible condones slavery just like it condones marriage. There are many abuses in marriage (beatings, rape, etc.) but no one in their right mind would ban marriage. It will exist.

Today, slavery survives as wage slavery and human trafficking. Slavery has not diminished just because we banned it. God understood this and sought to regulate the institution. This situation proves Biblical wisdom rather than refuting it. We, in our imagined wisdom, have made slavery even worse by pushing it underground and removing regulations on it. All we’ve successfully done is put it out of our sight and mind (we made it easier to feel good about it).

If Christians are this bad at interpreting their Bibles on the issue of slavery, how much worse might they be at interpreting their Bibles when it comes to the Inquisition, or any of the other "Christian" atrocities you mention. The Bible might, in fact, be very clear on many issues, but Christians might be corrupted by their own ambitions.

On page 60, you discuss the issue of prophesy. You write: "just imagine how breathtakingly specific a work of prophesy would be, if it were actually the product of omniscience. If the Bible were such a book, it would make perfectly accurate predictions about human events. You would expect it to contain a passage such as ‘in the latter half of the twentieth century.'"

By suggesting this, however, you unwittingly show your profound ignorance of Biblical principles. For example, In Mark 4, Jesus addresses this issue when his apostles ask him why he speaks in parables: "to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.'"

The Bible speaks about how life is similar to the process of purifying gold. It’s about weeding out those that don't seek after God and don't have faith in him. What kind of challenge would it be to have faith in God if it was so obvious that no one could reasonable deny it; if none of it was based on the desire of a person's heart?

If we are to be rulers in the life after this (as Jesus suggested in the parable of the talents), what kind of prep work would our current life be if it wasn't a challenge?

I find your quote on page 68 laughable: "All complex life on earth has developed from simpler life-forms over billions of years. This is a fact that no longer admits of intelligent conversation." You repeat similarly strong affirmations throughout the section of your book dealing with evolution as if you are trying to convince yourself of this "fact" called evolution. The reality is that evolution is on the precipice of collapse due to modern discoveries in science like the Cambrian explosion, entropy, the Big Bang, DNA reproduction, etc. The theory of evolution is rapidly falling apart. Besides all this, the Bible has nothing to say about the age of earth.

All in all, your book is based on the underlying assumptions of materialistic philosophy which assert that the only way of knowing something is with the senses. Because of this, you reject all personal experience, faith, etc. but you never address the major hole in that philosophy which is that there is no irrefutable proof that one’s senses are reliable. In fact, every night we go sleep and they deceive us in the form of dreams. Your atheism is just another philosophy masquerading as logic, and you shouldn't pretend to be above philosophical presumptions.