Book Review: Letter to a Christian Nation

  Cozied up on the couch in my PJ's and snuggly blanket, I settled in to read Letter to a Christian Nation, a 91-paged essay by Sam Harris. A cup of steaming chamomile tea and bedtime snack of cottage cheese made the experience complete.

 

Unfamiliar with Harris? You might refer to him as part of the "unholy Trinity" along with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Harris has made the case for morality without God at numerous lectures, through his other books, and via mainstream media. Of all religions, his primary interest is that of Islam, though he is also well-versed in the doctrines of Christianity.

 

Letter to a Christian Nation is his formal response to a perceived crisis caused by religion across the United States. As stated in his Note to the Reader, "Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency. It is my sincere hope that you will find it (Letter to a Christian Nation) useful."

 

After reading that preface, I willingly subjected myself to the contents of a book that refuted all I was led to believe as a child. Before my deconversion from Christianity, this action would have sent a sinful elation through my brain. Instead of spiritual titillation, I now expected no less than a delineation of my recent concerns regarding propagation of Christianity. I confess that I was not disappointed.

 

Questions that I was not permitted to pose as a Bible-believing Christian were addressed alongside their logical responses. How can a moral, loving God order and condone blatant genocide? How could one believe that the same God of the Old Testament transformed into the “loving God” that evangelical Christians claim? Are Christians solely doing good for God’s sake, or do they possess an evolved sense of morality present to some degree in all humanity? Are atheists evil because the only basis for morality is God? How can Christians feel free to interpret current events based upon vague inferential Scripture passages? Since it is fact that the universe is older than the Bible claims, how can Creationists persist ignorant preaching of the young earth theory? How can a religious person prove that “their religion” is correct while all others are deluded?

 

If you are a Christian, I do recommend that you read this concise book with a mind open to the possibility of life without religion. Could it be that you have swallowed the whole belief system of Christianity without examining the consequences and opposing evidence? I humbled myself enough to search for the truth, no matter what uncomfortable situations and relationships ensued. Truth and critical thinking were (and are) more valuable to me than maintaining a false sense of hope or unsubstantiated faith. How could I have preached “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” from the stance of a lifetime Christian without probing my unanswerable questions? Did that journey lead me to my expected conclusion, no. On the contrary, I find myself here - smacking my lips with that last morsel of cottage cheese - while the lingering words of Harris sift through my mind to feed that freethinker within.