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Letter to a Christian Nation Paperback – January 8, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 1,083 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A breath of fresh fire." —Wall Street Journal“I dare you to read this book...it will not leave you unchanged. Read it if it is the last thing you do.” —Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion“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

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, which won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. He is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of contemplative disciplines, for twenty years. Mr. Harris is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience, studying the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). His work has been discussed in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Economist, and New Scientist, among many other journals, and he has made television appearances on The O'Reilly Factor, Scarborough Country, Faith Under Fire, and Book TV.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278777
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,083 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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3 Comments 53 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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.
12 Comments 147 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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"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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