Recently in my philosophy of apologetics course, we have been studying the new atheism and responses to it. Thus, we read Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, one of the ‘figure-heads’ of atheists today. A very easy, accessible read infused with passion. Whether you are an atheist or a follower of a religion, you cannot help but be attracted by how much Harris cares about this topic. He attacks me different topics which fall under a few larger umbrellas, and these are what I will point out to you. His first criticism with Christianity is our so-called morality, namely the use of the bible to support what is right and what is wrong. He points out several Old Testament passages promoting the use of violence and therefore, suggests that the bible is immoral if anything. He writes, “Anyone who believes that the Bible offers the best guidance we have on questions of morality has some very strange ideas about either guidance or morality.” To me, the most nagging part of the topic of morality to Harris was more about our interpretation of scripture than the way we lived. It seemed as if he was more concerned about the annihilating the myth of the bible as completely authoritative than anything else. Not only is Harris disgruntled with this aspect of morality, but how it extends into the public specter. Harris thinks the morality that religion proposes and tries to keep is the reason for many of the sufferings in the world today (for example, by the church not advocating the use of condoms to protect against AIDS, millions are dying a year from it). This naivety or ignorance of the church leads into the topic of evolution, which is a specialty of Harris’. He addresses both evolution and intelligent design and how flawed creation appears to be.
I don’t want to write about all of Harris’ arguments and ruin them for you. For me, I did not feel they would persuade Christians to denounce their faith, but they did offer a very helpful critique that Christians should listen carefully too. His problems with the bible and our interpretation of it were some of the same things I have wrestled with. Even if you may not agree with anything he writes, it does cause you to stop and think about what you believe and how it comes across to those outside the Christian sub-circles that we often find ourselves in.