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Letter to a Christian Nation Hardcover – September 19, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1ST edition (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307265773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307265777
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 4.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (926 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Sam Harris’s elegant little book is most refreshing and a wonderful source of ammunition for those who, like me, hold to no religious doctrine. Yet I have some sympathy also with those who might be worried by his uncompromising stance. Read it and form your own view, but do not ignore its message.”
–Sir Roger Penrose, emeritus professor of mathematics, Oxford University,
author of The Road to Reality

“Reading Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation was like sitting ring side, cheering the champion, yelling ‘Yes!’ at every jab. For those of us who feel depressed by this country’s ever increasing unification of church and state, and the ever decreasing support for the sciences that deliver knowledge and reduce ignorance, this little book is a welcome hit of adrenalin.”
–Marc Hauser, Harvard College Professor, author of Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Sense of Right and Wrong

“I can’t sign my name to this blurb. As a New York Times best selling author of books about business, my career will evaporate if I endorse a book that challenges the deeply held superstitions and bigotry of the masses. That’s exactly why you should (no, you must) read this angry and honest book right away. As long as science and rational thought are under attack by the misguided yet pious majority, our nation is in jeopardy. I’m scared. You should be too. Please buy two, one for you and one for a friend you care about.”
–Unsigned, New York Times best selling author

“It’s a shame that not everyone in this country will read Sam Harris’ marvelous little book Letter to a Christian Nation. They won’t but they should.”
–Leonard Susskind, Felix Bloch Professor in theoretical physics, Stanford University, author of The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design

“We all know about good things that have been derived from bad ideas. Modern religions serve many social goods such as health care for the poor. The problem is that is also services many reprehensible ideas. Harris blows the whistle, pointing out the religions of the world are based on human generated vengeful stories. Read this book and you decide your stance for the future.”
–Michael S. Gazzaniga, Director of the Sage Center for the Study of Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Ethical Brain

“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

About the Author

Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times best seller The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, winner of the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.

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More About the Author

Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling books, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, and Lying. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His latest book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, will be published 9/9/14.

Mr. Harris's writing has been published in more than 15 languages. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, Newsweek, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.

Mr. Harris is a cofounder and the CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.

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Customer Reviews

What a well written, concise little book.
J. Dodson
In this book, Sam Harris makes several good points about religious fanaticism.
Jill Malter
The book is very short, so it takes a couple of hours to read at the most.
James I. Huston

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

341 of 384 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on March 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I just read that the "Harvard University Humanist Chaplain" (?) Greg Epstein is calling Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins the "atheist fundamentalists." "He sees them as rigid in their dogma, and as intolerant as some of the faith leaders with whom atheists share the most obvious differences" (Chicago Sun-Times, March 31, 2007).

It is not supposed to be a compliment.

Harris replied that "atheist fundamentalist" was ''a silly play upon words,'' noting that "when it comes to the ancient Greek gods, everyone is an atheist and no one is asked to justify that to pagans who want to believe in Zeus."

Epstein sees Harris as too rigid and too confrontational.

Harris says "In our next presidential election, an actor who reads his Bible would almost certainly defeat a rocket scientist who does not. Could there be any clearer indication that we are allowing unreason and otherworldliness to govern our affairs" (p. 39, The End of Faith)?

I guess Epstein is right. Harris IS confrontational. BUT... does the world need more Epsteins, or Harrises?

I vote for Harris.

Letter to a Christian Nation is Sam Harris' rebuttal to the arguments from Christians to his viewpoints in The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. It's a slim book, barely over 100 pages.

What does he say?

"People have been cherry-picking the Bible for millennia to justify their every impulse, moral and otherwise" (p. 18).

"If you think that it would be impossible to improve upon the Ten Commandments as a statement of morality, you really owe it to yourself to read some other scriptures" (p. 22).
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119 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Taylor S. Kendall on March 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think its great the way Sam Harris defies conventional thinking in this book. As someone who has struggled with theses arguments with family members all my life, it is nice to be backed by by intelligent arguments. Also as a scientist I would like to say that it is nice that he has addressed the need for the end of faith as a survival priority for the species.
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317 of 369 people found the following review helpful By Carl Flygare on October 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Letter to a Christian Nation" is a rallying cry to rationalists everywhere and should serve as a wakeup call to retrograde Christians eagerly toiling away to displace science with magical thinking, overturn a woman's right to choose, relegate gays and lesbians to second class citizenship, or ensure the apocalypse.

Harris presents concise arguments with lucidity, brevity and impact. If you haven't read his prior book "The End of Faith" the thesis of "Letter to a Christian Nation" will be startling and new. If you have, this worthy distillate of his prior work specifically focuses on the fundamentalist follies and foibles of America's cleverly marketed McJesus movement. With deft strokes Harris pens a number of reasons not to be a Christian - or religious at all. He exposes the unreasonableness of faith, explaining with clarity and philosophical rigor why there is no real justification for believing in God, and how the notion of "faith" does little to justify any unfounded belief, or merit respect for same.

Moral arguments come next as Harris, using examples ranging from Mother Teresa to the hatred of homosexuals, demonstrates that the Christian value system easily leads to ethically repugnant behavior - despicable in principal and practice because of the widespread and very real human suffering it creates. Christianity's maniacal obsession with people having sex is revealed as morally destitute - religious right political mandates that keep condoms out of Africa only increase the staggering AIDS death toll. Earlier this year Christian luddites unsuccessfully attempted to block the life saving Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, which will prevent many cases of cervical cancer because - in their twisted moral calculus - it might lead to teenagers having a little more sex.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on April 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ever since the truculently effective Madalyn Murray O'Hair disappeared, atheists have been pretty quiet on the national scene. It seems most non-theists are content to be left alone. Then too, unlike the godly who appear to need constant reinforcement, there are no ceremonies where the godless come to celebrate non-belief. By the same token, atheists are notoriously difficult to organize, to the extent that no collective voice on a national scale has arisen. Thus popular myths concerning both belief and non-belief continue to abound, while the most regressive arm of Christianity seeks to undo two centuries of church-state separation with its own version of Taliban rule. All in all, what's shaping up is not a pretty picture, particularly for the future of non-belief in America.

I'm glad Harris has taken a public stand beyond those worthy yet weightier books likely to be read by only a few. "Letter..." is an inexpensive booklet, scarcely 100 pages with an introduction and wide spacing. It's not a work of depth or intricate argument, but then neither depth nor complexity is necessary for dispelling many popular myths surrounding a "godless world". Rather the book is written for the occasional thoughtful Christian in accessible prose with a revealing perspective on aspects that the ordinary believer may not have considered. And though the author assails Christian moderates for providing cover to the literalists, the material appears directed almost exclusively toward debunking the latter.

The text revolves mainly around the question of morality, a traditional foundation of religious belief. Specifically, the concern is with such key aspects as -- Can there be morality without religion?-- Is the Bible a source of moral wisdom?
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