Sam Harris – Secularist Agenda
In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris is clear about his secularist agenda. As such, Sam Harris claims to address Christians in a very narrow sense, as persons who believe, “at a minimum, that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that only those who accept the divinity of Jesus Christ will experience salvation after death.”10 Yet as one reads his book, it becomes patently obvious that these are not the only two doctrines of Christianity under attack. In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris sets out “to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms.”11 In response, I will be directing my comments to Mr. Harris and to any readers who may find his arguments persuasive. A “pretension” is an unsupportable claim. Yet, is Christianity truly unsupportable? Or does good, cogent, intellectual, historical, philosophical, and even scientific evidence exist to support Christianity?
Sam Harris points out that a recent Gallup poll “revealed that 53 percent of Americans are actually creationists.”12 He then goes on to say that “this means that despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of life and the greater antiquity of the earth, more than half our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago.”13 He fails to mention that among those Christians who believe that God created the earth, there exist at least two camps, young earth creationists and old earth creationists. While hotly disputed among Christians, one’s opinion regarding the age of the earth is classified as a non-essential concept that falls outside the realm of foundational Christian doctrine. While both camps believe that God “created” the cosmos, and hence would consider themselves creationists, they do not both adhere to a six thousand year age for the cosmos. By reading the poll in such a way as to equate creationists with specifically young earth creationists, Harris commits the logical fallacy of equivocation. Many of the Americans who took the survey probably did not perceive the term creationist to mean young earth creationist.
Remember also that Americans of other faiths may well believe in some form of creation. Granted, most other faiths comprise a smaller portion of the American population than Christians, but their participation would skew the statistics slightly. For example, most Sunni Muslims would generally classify themselves as creationists, but adhere to an Islamic form of evolutionary creationism. Therefore, most Sunni Muslims would not believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. Sunni Muslims represent the majority of Muslims in America, just as in the rest of the world.14
Sam Harris – Statistical Invalidity
Statistics have long been intentionally misused to interpret data in ways that make the results appear favorable to the presenter. Harris either intentionally allies himself with this dubious tradition of statistical invalidity or simply fails to see the impact of the unstated factors that skew the results in his favor. Claiming to understand clearly what “we believe”15 Harris proceeds to pronounce judgment upon us for those beliefs. Unfortunately, his understanding of our beliefs seems just as skewed as his statistics.
Sam Harris claims that “the primary purpose of [his] book is to arm secularists in our society, who believe that religion should be kept out of public policy, against their opponents on the Christian Right.”16 Conversely, I propose to offer Christians a response to secularists who have been so armed. However, regardless of its effect on public policy, it remains my sincere desire that this book will provide the reader, along with Mr. Harris, a clearer picture of the reasonableness of the classical, orthodox, protestant, evangelical Christian faith. It is just such a “reasonable faith”17 that has the power to change lives and in turn, impact our society for the better.