HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Letter to a Christian Nation
Author: Sam Harris
Publisher: Knopf, 2006
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Very mature, discerning older teens and adults
Rating: 0 stars (NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Harris, Sam. Letter to a Christian Nation (published in 2006 by Borzoi Books, an imprint of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Atheism has been around a long time. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). It used to be that nearly every community had its “village atheist” who, whenever a new preacher came to town, would pop over and ask his two or three “unanswerable” questions but when shown to be foolish would usually just shut up and be content to keep his opinions to himself. However, the modern “village [is that Hillary’s ‘village’?] atheist” is much more zealous, militant, vocal, and even evangelistic for his cause. We homeschooled our boys so that we could tailor their studies to meet their needs and interests. When our older son Mark was a junior in high school, 2007 to 2008, he wanted to read the arguments of atheists from their own sources. Since he had taken a worldview course in ninth grade using David Noebel’s The Battle For Truth: Defending the Christian Worldview in the Marketplace of Ideas and had read Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture as part of his world history in tenth grade, I felt that I could agree, providing he read both sides of the issue.
At that time there were several such books by authors like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, but I chose the then best selling Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris because first it was written in a more popular style, and second because there were books written by Bible believers R. C. Metcalf and Douglas Wilson in response. When I first began reading his book, I thought, who is this Sam Harris and what has he done to merit anyone’s consideration. The answer is apparently not much other than getting academic degrees and writing books in opposition to religious faith. As I continued reading it, I found that Harris just trots out the same old, tired, trite, worn-out arguments that skeptics have been making for hundreds of years and that Christians have adequately answered thousands of times. Harris begins his argumentation in an introductory “Note to the Reader,” saying, “The truth is that many who claim to have been transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible.” Only in a pig’s eye! Yeah, yeah, we all know that people calling themselves Christians have done some pretty bad things—e.g., the Crusades, the Inquisition, the slave trade, etc. Yet it is quite clear that in doing so they were NOT following Him who said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), and “Put your sword in its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). It is also clear that many atheists, such as Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Mao-tse Tung, and Pol Pot, following such well-known atheistic principles as “survival of the fittest,” have also done some really bad things.
And on and on it goes. Harris spends a lot of time making fun of those who disagree with him, totally misapplying statements from the Bible, rejecting any Biblical evidences out of hand, and extolling what “We know” from science (much of which has never actually been proven true) over religion. All this would be almost laughable if Harris weren’t so serious. He concludes, “This letter is the product of failure—the failure of the many brilliant attacks upon religion that preceded it, the failure of our schools to announce the death of God in a way that each generation can understand, the failure of the media to criticize the abject religious certainties of our public figures.” Harris is saying that he and his cohorts are not content to hold their unbelief privately. They want to hijack and control science, education, and the media to ram it down everyone else’s throat. Leonard Susskind, professor of theoretical physics at Stanford University, wrote, “It’s a shame that not everyone in this country will read Sam Harris’s marvelous little book. They won’t, but they should?” I must ask why, and then state that personally I am glad that they won’t.