Atheist Belief - Letter to a Christian Nation
Although Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris is a statement of atheist belief, a credible Christian response should start with the admission that many intelligent theists and atheists share several incontrovertible views. First, we agree that we cannot both be right about the tenets of Christianity. We also agree that “to be a true Christian is to believe that all other faiths are mistaken, and profoundly so.”18 Further, we agree that either God exists, or He doesn’t. In short, the fundamental laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction,19 apply to all of us, regardless of our belief system or worldview. Areas of agreement certainly exist between us. However, we also have many areas of disagreement. One of the most glaring of these lies with the presumption that “every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that [I] have for being a Christian.”20 Your assumption leads you to believe that it is valid to compare Islam with Christianity. You state that “Muslims are not making claims about reality that can be corroborated,”21 and imply the same about Christianity, yet your latter assumption is mistaken.
Throughout your Letter to a Christian Nation you express your fears of religion as the “Root of All Evil”22 in the world. In your opinion freedom from religion, or should I say The End of Faith,23 would almost certainly entail freedom from terrorism and most wars. In both your books, you list numerous worldwide conflicts between faith-based warring factions. Yet you address your letter to American Christians. Do you see American Christians at war with other faiths? Are protestant Christians killing Roman Catholics in the United States due to doctrinal differences? Do you see American Christians diverting air traffic toward buildings in the Middle East? Perhaps you should have addressed your Letter to radical Muslims, although we both know it wouldn’t sell in the Middle East and a market that comprises less than 1% of Americans would hardly warrant such an edition here in the States.
Atheist Belief – The Question of Morality
You state that “questions of morality are questions about happiness and suffering. This is why you and I do not have moral obligations toward rocks.”24 I would suggest that questions of morality spread way beyond the confines you have placed upon them. In a sense, we even have moral obligations toward rocks. Don’t we have moral obligations toward sustaining the resources of our earth? Most atheists would say we do. In fact, and this may surprise you, so would most Christians. Theologians include the responsibility of caring for the earth and the environment in what we call the creation mandate.25
The orthodox Christian perspective deems it morally proper to express concern over civil rights abuses in other countries and try to aid those countries in bringing such inhumane activity to an end. A president, who grounds his morality in the teachings of Jesus Christ, could not ignore the cruelty reflected in the crimes against humanity that Saddam Hussein inflicted upon his own people. I reside in a city with a high percentage of military personnel. Support for President George W. Bush and the Iraq War started out strong. It has since waned only due to the inability of Americans to clearly see a resolution to the situation in Iraq. Nevertheless, the Christians I’ve spoken to in our Armed Forces have made a firm commitment to attain stability in Iraq prior to the significant troop withdrawal needed to end the war. A liberal Epicurean or Utilitarian perspective (as I will address later in this book) warrants no real concern over abuses occurring in foreign lands. Both perspectives revert back to the logic that what is best for the individual or local group should prevail and ultimately ignores the needs of outsiders.
Read Page 1 of Letter To A Christian Nation: A Response.
18 Sam Harris, Ibid., p. 3.
19 The law of non-contradiction simply states that something cannot both “be” and “not be” at the same time and in the same relationship. For example, I cannot “be” typing this sentence and “not be” typing this sentence at the same time and in the same relationship.
20 Sam Harris, Ibid., p. 6.
21 Ibid., p. 6,7.
22 This is the title of a documentary hosted by Richard Dawkins that was originally aired on Ch. 4 in the UK. Dr. Dawkins was not entirely pleased with this title since he holds that religion is not the root of all evil, just most of it.
23 This is the title of Sam Harris’ first book.
24 Sam Harris, Ibid., p. 8.
25 See Genesis 1:26-30.
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