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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short. Sharp. Brilliant. Devastating.
It is sometimes said that the pen is the sharpest of weapons when used correctly. In no book I have read has this been more true. This book is a mere 90 very small pages, even slow readers will make it through in a couple of hours, and the arguments are completely devastating all the way through, I was an out-an-out atheist before reading it, and I've always been so, but...
Published on 2 Jun 2008 by Anders Øverby

versus
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent polemic against the "Talibanization" of America
This short polemic delivers some powerful arguments against the harm that religion brings to society. It is well worth a read for those who are questioning their faith or those who want an introduction to the various arguments against religion and the harm that obscurantist ideologies bring to society.

Those who want a more in-depth argument should definitely...
Published on 27 July 2010 by G. Slade


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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letter to a Christian Nation., 26 Aug 2009
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If half of the US population believes the nonsense Sam tells us they do, how on earth have they become the most advanced technological nation in the world?
A splendid little book but, tragically, it will not be read by those who should.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic critique of a big problem for mankind....RELIGION, 29 Sep 2008
A book that did not leave me unchanged....my only concern is that Mr Harris may be the antichrist
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars too much intelligence but vain effort, 12 April 2010
By 
Carlos Vazquez Quintana "cvq" (Linares- Spain) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book is good, well intentioned, but once more has a central failure: it's only for no believers in religion.
And this is the case that, with pure reason, as Sam Harris wants, nobody in history has convinced anybody about country, religion, love or stock exchange. I think for achieve these task, mankind should need another more Darwinian evolution.
But meanwhile, this class of books only have still put more fire to terrible wars as the American and Spanish Civil Wars.
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8 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor fare for the thinking person, 1 April 2010
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This book was something of a disappointment. Having worked my way through Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Stenger et al, and noted how much they tend to self-reference, I guess I was expecting more, especially when I became aware of Sam Harris's academic credentials.

To deal fairly with the weaknesses in the book would require a critique (which I have written), but in summary form my reservations are as follows:

1. The book consists of what appears largely to be an unrelieved diatribe, addressed primarily at Christians in the US. I did find it difficult to translate many of his criticisms into a UK context, which is where I live - however, I accept that Harris is writing in relation to his own background.
2. Richard Dawkins in his foreword tells us that Harris is "paying you (the Christian reader) the compliment of taking your beliefs seriously". That false promise gives rise to expectations that the book does not deliver, unfortunately.
3. Given that the book is entitled "Letter to a Christian nation", it was unhelpful to encounter so many instances where the bad examples of religion are evidenced in relation to Islam. At times, it would have been fairer to have retitled the book, "Letter to an Islamic nation", but I suspect that to do so would not have been a safe prospect. There are repeated attempts to establish a kind of moral equivalence between Islam and Christianity, which demonstrates that Harris has missed the point by a wide mark.
4. Like many of his modern cohorts, Harris is not averse to citing (in rapid succession) a number of the 'bad boy' biblical texts (p8) which atheists invariably cite. He makes no attempt to understand them or explain their context - a practice that I doubt he would adopt in relation to any other form of literature. This is simply opportunism, and indeed his attempts to twist his own meaning out of, say, Matthew 5:18-20, demonstrates the kind of supersedence of assumptions over context that evacuates his argument of integrity.
5. Harris's supposed treatment of what he says the Bible has to teach about slavery ignores something like 90% of the biblical data on the subject - so what he presents is not typical.
6. When Harris moves on (p23) to discuss 'Real Morality' what he ends up with is a lowest common denominator approach which does nothing to help us engage with the real dysfunctionalities of human nature.
7. In 'Doing good for God' (p33) the author resorts to caricature frequently, and demonstrates that he has failed to understand the Christian motivation for doing good. He therefore contrasts unfavourably with more nuanced atheists such as Matthew Parris.
8. In 'Are atheists evil?' (p38), Harris again begins to resort to islamic examples to support his argument, and then seeks to persuade us that evil atheists are in fact so batty that they can't possibly be real atheists. The argument appears to be that atheism is SO rational, that when you encounter examples of barking or plain bad atheist behaviour, then one must be looking at something else entirely. This seems to be an entirely simplistic, unworldly view of human behaviour.
9. In 'Who puts the Good in the 'Good Book'? (p46) Harris criticises Christians for arriving at any firm, settled expression of belief. But his criteria, supporting this line of reasoning, could apply equally well to any belief system, whether that be political, philosophical or even scientific. If you press this line of thought to its logical conclusion, then none of us may ever make any conclusions about anything, and the final arbiter of truth then becomes Sam Harris.
10. When we arrive at 'The Goodness of God' (p50), the author begins to demonstrate the vacuity of his interaction with the topic of evil and human suffering. He believes (p52) that the murder of a single little girl "casts doubts upon the idea of a benevolent God" but the fact is that Harris's own beliefs have nothing to say about the matter. If our lives apparently consist of the fulfilment of neo-darwinian urges, then it is impossible to place any moral construct on that hypothetical little girl.
11. In 'The Power of Prophecy' (p57) I really was expecting better than this, but what Harris actually gives us is so puerile that I am amazed that anyone would be taken in by it. He even resorts to serving up the cold leftovers from the kinds of argument that Hitchens gives us (the now thoroughly discredited 'alma' / virgin line of reasoning against the idea of the virgin birth). Refusing to accept an aspect of biblical teaching is fine. Playing with a text that you are not even prepared to attempt to understand in order to bolster your argument is not.
12. In 'The Clash of Science and Religion' (p62), Harris is insistent upon a black and white divide between religion and science that many of would fail to recognise, and it does look to me as if the purpose of this dogmatism is primarily in order to remove from Christians any objective basis for their faith. This in practice negates the vast canon of modern biblical, historical and archaeological scholarship.
13. In 'The Fact of Life', we are informed that Christians will only use science in a cynical way, and then (p70) Harris begins some somewhat sweepingly inaccurate descriptions of what Christians believe. It is not a sign of honest argumentation when so much of it involves misrepresentation. A little later he resorts to somewhat puerile arguments concerning his perceptions of apparent imperfections in the created order - apparently, these are arguments against an intelligent designer.
14. In 'Religion, Violence and the Future of Civilisation' (p79) we have yet more of that moral equivalence argument that Harris used earlier, where the tenets of Islam are applied to Christianity - this is simply lazy reasoning.

My conclusion is that, far from being a 'Letter to a Christian Nation', this is instead a somewhat contrived diatribe against religion in general. Where Harris does touch upon orthodox Christian beliefs, he almost invariably fails to represent them accurately. It would not be difficult to perpetrate a similar intellectual crime in the reverse direction: 'All evolutionists believe in eugenics' or 'all atheists supported Stalin's Gulags' etc. This book does nothing to address the genuine failings of established Christianity (of which there are plenty) and misses the mark by a mile as a result.
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13 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worthless, 13 Aug 2011
By 
F. Roberts (London England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
No new arguments for anyone in any way conversant with the discussion, climaxing with a racist rant against the entire Muslim population of Europe. As an essay in GCSE Philosophy this would be lucky to reach a pass. Telling us again and again and again that many idiots and bigots believe in God is in no way a telling case against theism. It is simply the tedium of ad hominem abuse. Any fool can see that the Bible is full of contradictory elements. Despite what Matt Ridley writes on its cover I cannot imagine why it should persuade or impress any theist with the slightest education or intelligence.

The book is aimless and without structure. It jumps across from one topic to another in a seemingly random way. At its conclusion is a list of ten books which Harris recommends - it reads like he has simply done a cut and paste job from them. What it lacks is a core argument. Is religion untrue because religious people do bad things? If religious people did good things would that make religion "become true"?

I read this book in the second week of August 2011, as mobs of rioting barbarians wrecked the cities of England. Not one of them I imagine was inspired by religious zeal or piety, Christian or Muslim. The only person I saw successfully defending the "traditionally English" values of tolerance and forgiveness was Tariq Jahan, the man who saved Birmingham from destruction by the words he said after his son was murdered by rioters. Every time Harris used the word "Muslim" in the text I mentally replaced it with "Tariq Jahan". Try doing that and see what happens to the power of Harris`s abusive intolerance.

This book is I`m afraid worthless! If you want to read a grown up book on the atheism / theism debate, do yourself a favour and try The Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville The Book of Atheist Spirituality or Saving God by Mark Johnston Saving God: Religion after Idolatry
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7 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugly little rant, 28 July 2012
This review is from: Letter to a Christian Nation (Audio CD)
This is a truly shockingly bad book - the first by an atheist `philosopher' to get me genuinely angry. I despise its hectoring tone, its hypocrisy and its one-sidedness, not to mention Harris's willingness to airbrush away any broader social factors. I won't go into detail listing all the cases of over simplification or false logic. Were I to do so this review would be very (and I mean very) long.
However I would like to focus on a few choice remarks that frankly left me gagging in disbelief:

"There is no question that there are times when making enormous sacrifices for the good of others is essential for one's deeper wellbeing"
Were the Marquis de Sade to read this he would tilt his head back and roar with laughter? Yes indeed, Harris endorses the very point that the Divin Marquis made, that the altruistic urge is much if not most of the time simply disguised self-interest. So the logical question to then ponder is whether there are not indeed times when cruelty rather than kindness might not be a more effective tool for self-advancement. Nietzsche, an atheistic thinker who has earned his place in history recognised this, as did Stirner but Harris seems to have no interest whatsoever in philosophy. It might be understandable if deplorable that Harris seeks to airbrush away figures such as Sae, Nietzsche and Stirner from the history of atheistic thought, but what is his excuse for blacklisting Camus, Sartre, not to mention Comte-Sponville and Onfray. Just for the record, have Harris's followers even heard of those guys?

"One can reasonably wonder whether most aborted foetuses suffer their destruction on any level. One can not reasonably wonder this about the millions of men, women and children who must endure the torments of war, political torture or mental illness"
This is a brief descent into linguistic gobbledigook. What on earth can this sentence mean? What on earth does mental illness have to do with this? All these are political issues but in very different ways where mental illness is concerned - is Harris not aware of the social model of disability and of the Mad Pride movement?

"Insofar as there is a crime problem in Western Europe it is largely the problem of immigration"
That might come as a revelation to anyone affected by last year's riots. Noticeing that Harris focuses exclusively on working class crime, can I assume that he is not a member of the Socialist Workers Party?

"The United States is unique among wealthy democracies in its level of religious adherence. It is also uniquely beleaguered by high rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and infant mortality."
It takes quite some cheek to place homicide in the same sentence as the above social ills, especially as Harris has been bemoaning the equation of abortion with murder. However for the record I think the question of whether people go to church because life is hard, or whether they carry out muggings at the incitement of the pastor is a bit of a no-brainer. It's a subject of contention in the same way that whether the world is round or flat is a subject of contention. John Humphrys by the way has a bit of a chuckle over this one in his book In God We Doubt.

"The human response to the ensuing disaster {of hurricane Katrina} was tragically inept but it was inept only by the light of science."
This remark caused my jaw to drop. Rather than go into a redetailed response I'll just direct readers to Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke. There is something seriously wrong with Harris's moral conscience if he is more critical of the victims for retaining their faith than he is of the Republican government for their response to the disaster.

"This is the age old problem of theodicy of course and we should consider it solved. If God exists either he can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities or he does not care to. God therefore is either impotent or evil."
Firstly, the `wrath of God' response is not theological, for reasons clear to anyone who has read the New Testament. Secondly, I would just like to assure readers that over the course of two millennia there have been more than two (that's one, two) possible explanations put forward for the problem of suffering. For those who wish to explore this subject, I would recommend the agnostic Bart Ehrman's God's Problem as a start. Also Keith Ward makes the case for how an omnipotent, omnipresent deity may nevertheless be incapable of creating a logical impossibility - a world without natural suffering.

Last of all, I have to ask what on Earth Harris hopes to achieve with this rant? If he sees the UK as the ideal secular state then his out and out attempts to create a world of universal atheism is unnecessary and a distraction since all he really needs is a separation of church and state. In that case a more conciliatory tone addressed at moderate Christians should be the obvious first move. He might also want to note recent polls which show that while church attendance might not be all it could be, the spiritual and religious heart of the UK population is very much alive. I do understand Harris's argument that moderation gives cover to extremism but can't help noticeing that this concept could just as easily be applied to socialism or to capitalism. So should we abolish politics? This is a more serious point than it might sound. I actually have heard people maintaining to me with a straight face that by holding moderate left of centre ppolitical views I am giving cover to communism!

If on the other hand, Harris truly wants to change human nature in a way reminiscent of Sade or Nietzsche then he should recognise that the `slavery' analogy is to put it mildly wanting. It has been argued that ancient world slavery appears more akin to serfdom, and the discovery that `slavery' was abolished might come as a revelation to workers in sweatshops! Sade mused on how to purge religion from the world, and believe me, the ways of doing so weren't pretty and had more to do with decapitated limbs than changed minds!

Make no mistake, I recognise the problems of fundamentalism, and some of the implications of its rise in the US are truly scary. I also see how conflating cultural Christianity with metaphysical belief can be problematic - and I was aware of that long before 2001. I agree that automatically associating faith with morality can be problematic - creating emotional cripples who feel guilty at not being able to believe. Yet noting that according to Harris atheism is the only 'reasonable' response to the problem of suffering, one so obvious that the word shouldn't even exist, I can only assume that not just theists but also agnostics and sceptical agnostics are seen by Harris as morally sub-normal. I just hope that his daughter won't be emotionally crippled in years to come at not being able to share her father's hardcoare atheism. Given Harris's apparent misanthropic contempt for the vast majority of the human race, might I suggest that he form a punk band? If nothing else it might be a release valve and result in better books!

I have read all four horsemen, as well as the above atheist philosophers with the exceptions of Nietzsche and Stirner and it was only time constraints that stopped me reading the former. I was sincerely moved by Camus and Comte-Sponville and have qualified admiration for both Sade and Onfray. For what it's worth, I have found far more challenging critiques of Christianity from Richard Holloway, Alan Watts and Karen Armstrong, and their strength lies precisely in the fact that they are not hostile to religion per se and that it is possible to imagine a respectful conversation with them. In fact I can testify first hand that when I played devils advocate as an audience member at a Q&A with Karen Armstrong last year, she answered my comments thoughtfully, courteously and at length. On the basis of this book, a conversation with Harris would be as productive as one with a brick wall. Harris takes an indirect dig at Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion but funnily enough she is a bit of an idol for a Humanist friend of mine and in seeking jaw-jaw rather than war-war, she is definitely part of the solution whereas Harris is most certainly part of the problem.
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7 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hypocritical, ill informed and just slightly sinister, 21 Mar 2012
A few years back I wrote for this site a review of Ann Coulter's Godless: The Church of Liberalism which I compared to Christopher Hitchens God is not Great. With hindsight this may have been a tad unfair. True I wasn't especially impressed by either book but `Hitch' was from all accounts a lot more likeable and fair minded than was apparent from the latter's book. Indeed my Dad, a retired vicar, was quite moved on hearing a final interview which he gave for the BBC. However not only can I not imagine my Dad being moved by Sam Harris' shockingly inept rant but nor I imagine would be a good friend of mine who describes himself as a Humanist, and quite possibly nor would a couple of very dear friends of mine, both atheists. The sort of `new atheist' whom I suspect that this book is aimed at has no interest whatsoever in factual accuracy, balance or fair mindedness. They won't for example think `pots and kettles' about Sam getting upset at abusive emails after calling for less automatic respect to faith. Nor will they care that the confrontational approach is deeply offensive to more reasonable and thoughtfully religious people. They will have little to no knowledge of either theology or philosophy and even less curiosity to do any research.

I won't go into detail listing all the cases in this book where Sam uses over simplification, false logic or plain old fashioned factual inaccuracy. Were I to do so this review would be very (and I mean very) long. Suffice to say that a sometimes insightful rebuttal lasting nearly 50 pages can be found at:

However I would like to focus on a few choice remarks that frankly left me gagging in disbelief:

"There is no question that there are times when making enormous sacrifices for the good of others is essential for one's deeper wellbeing"
Were the Marquis de Sade to read this he would tilt his head back and roar with laughter? Yes indeed, Sam endorses the very point that the Divin Marquis made, that the altruistic urge is much if not most of the time simply disguised self-interest. Yes, and if Sam were a logical thinker he would then ponder whether there are not indeed times when cruelty rather than kindness might not be a more effective tool for self-advancement. Nietzsche, an atheistic thinker who has earned his place in history recognised this, as did Stirner but Harris seems to have no interest whatsoever in philosophy. It might be understandable if deplorable that Harris seeks to airbrush away figures such as Sae, Nietzsche and Stirner from the history of atheistic thought, but what is his excuse for blacklisting Camus, Sartre, not to mention contemporary atheist thinkers such as Andre Comte-Sponville and Michel Onfray. Just for the record, have Sam's followers even heard of those guys? Oh, and just to make it clear, I am in a monogamous relationship with my wife and am not remotely violent as a person.

"One can reasonably wonder whether most aborted foetuses suffer their destruction on any level. One can not reasonably wonder this about the millions of men, women and children who must endure the torments of war, political torture or mental illness"
What on earth does mental illness have to do with this? Is he endorsing abortions where mental illness is detected? Is he not aware of the social model of disability? Yes he is because he has practiced discrimination. In conversation with Richard Dawkins concerning The Moral Landscape he made this remark
"No-one ever attacks the philosophical underpinnings of medicine".
That might come as a revelation to Deaf people, autistics and members of the Mad Pride movement. He cites El Salvador where abortion is illegal under any circumstance and the cases cited are truly heartbreaking and I agree that equating abortion with murder creates moral chaos and absurdity as well as being deeply cruel. However noting that he is a utilitarian and observing that he appears to be in favour of aborting to avoid cases of mental illness, I have to ask whether he agrees with two utilitarian philosophers whom I recently read about who called for the legalisation of after birth abortions (it means what it sounds like) where Downs Syndrome is detected. If like me he finds this repellent with overtones of fascism then I take it that he will disown not just those scientists but utilitarianism wholesale. After all, he is giving cover to extremism. In the UK calls for legalisation of assisted dying were passionately opposed by the majority of disabled people but in spite of this the British Humanist Association saw fit to ignore their opinions and come out firmly in its favour. I agree absolutely with a Catholic commentator on the radio who warned about a genuinely frightening creeping utilitarianism in the UK.

"Insofar as there is a crime problem in Western Europe it is largely the problem of immigration"
That might come as a revelation to anyone affected by last year's riots. By the way, in a soundbite culture where words are taken out of context was it wise for Richard Dawkins to say that respect is over-rated?

"The United States is unique among wealthy democracies in its level of religious adherence. It is also uniquely beleaguered by high rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and infant mortality."
It takes quite some cheek to place homicide in the same sentence as the above social ills, especially as Sam has been bemoaning the equation of abortion with murder. However for the record I think the question of whether people go to church because life is hard, or whether they carry out muggings at the incitement of the pastor is a bit of a no-brainer. It's a subject of contention in the same way that whether the world is round or flat is a subject of contention. John Humphrys by the way has a bit of a chuckle over this one in his book In God We Doubt.

"The human response to the ensuing disaster {of hurricane Katrina} was tragically inept but it was inept only by the light of science."
Allow me, Sam, to introduce two new concepts to you: political expediency and racism. Black people generally don't vote Republican.

"This is the age old problem of theodicy of course and we should consider it solved. If God exists either he can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities or he does not care to. God therefore is either impotent or evil."
It takes a certain hubris to assert moral superiority over two millennia's worth of thinkers but we have already gathered that modesty is not Sam's forte. Nor apparently is philosophy as both Augustin and the atheist Stephen Law (he of the Evil God challenge) don't accept the above assertion.

I consider myself an open minded person. While I Sincerely believe on the basis of intellectual ratiocination that the case can be made for God's existence, I have not always had a happy relationship with religion, so this can not be put down to wishful thinking on my part. I have indeed read all the above atheist philosophers except Nietzsche and Stirner and it was only time constraints that stopped me reading the former. I was sincerely moved by Camus and Comte-Sponville and qualified admiration for both Sade and Onfray. Yet Harris's book is the first `philosophical' book, including by the New Atheists, to get me genuinely angry. I despise its hectoring tone, its hypocrisy and its one-sidedness, not to mention white, able-bodied, middle class Western intellectual Sam's willingness to airbrush away any broader social factors. Sam takes an indirect dig at Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion but funnily enough she is a bit of an idol for my Humanist friend and in seeking jaw-jaw rather than war-war, she is definitely part of the solution whereas Sam is most certainly part of the problem.
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12 of 59 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Keep reading, 7 Aug 2007
By 
Mr. T. Brun "flashy" (Paris) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The "unholy" trinity of Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins seems to have a hold on the public imagination at the moment. Short and easy to read, no doubt this book appeals to those who already agree with Harris' aversion to faith. On the hand, his emotion gives him away, and his determination to hold onto the view that atheism has a monopoly on science and reason is simply arrogant and unsustainable. But, while it'll make a lot of people sit more comfortably with the views they already hold, both believers and non-believers, I wonder whether those that enjoy it really want to hear the other side of this "debate". I would challenge those who enjoyed this to read a decent polemic in favour of Christianity and see where it leaves them. (The Everlasting Man by GK Chesterton for example, or Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.) I read a debate between Harris and Rick Warren (a Christian apologist) and towards the end Harris himself falls back on his own fairly woolly view of spirituality and what it means to him. He doesn't appear to notice the contradiction between these views and his assertions that belief in the existence of God is irrational.

My recommendation - read this book but then keep reading......
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1 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Extreme View, 19 Sep 2007
This book follows on the phenomenal success of the author's previous book 'The End of Faith'. Apparently, Mr. Harris got a lot of flak from the believers for his book, which helped him write this one.

This is a short book, as the title indicates. It is also bound very nicely, and you can easily carry it around, all great attributes from a practical point of view. The print is well-spread out, and easy to read, with sufficient space in the margins to argue it out with the author.

And if you are a believer, you will certainly end up with lot of arguing. Mr. Harris' thesis is essentially that only what we can see or feel with our senses should be part of our belief system. This is a skeptic's view, and valid in its own, limited way. However, it also restrains you from going beyond your senses, and thus becomes a constraint. This 'tyranny of knowable reality' may also hold us down to the earth, limited to what we can see, feel, smell. It will definitely prevent us from thinking of or acknowledging the divine.

And this is perfectly fine. People have a right to their views, and of course, one must admit that they may eventually turn out to be right. However, Mr. Harris denies this right to the believers. He gradually builds up to a position that religion is all wrong, and it must be eradicated not only from public life, but also from people's minds, for being a 'ludicrous obscenity' (p.88)! On p.51 he suggests that people should be 'obliged' to present evidence of God! He finds religion to be a pathological symptom (a sickness, p. 80), and the believers full of intellectual arrogance (p. 74). Unfortunately, Mr. Harris himself comes across as arrogant in his argumentativeness. I suspect that if he had the power he would pass a law banning all religions (my reading of his statements on p. 54).

On page 50, we are told that we must reject Deuteronomy (in Holy Bible) as containing uncivilized ideas. True, the practical suggestions, such as stoning, contained in Deuteronomy may not be relevant today. But this should not be taken to mean that people who believed in these were uncivilized (p. 50). We can't transpose today's ideas of civilization across the ages, and use them to evaluate ancient civilizations, which operated in a different context. In fact, turning the argument on its head, does Mr. Harris believe that bombing millions of Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to death (a purely non-religious action) was civilized?

He is often factually incorrect. For instance, Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) is not the word of the Creator (p.59)), it is a compilation of matter composed by Sikh holy Gurus. He then tells us that Gandhi ji got his doctrine of non-violence from the Jains. This is a big misrepresentation: many people believe that Hinduism received the doctrine of non-violence from Jainism, but if that happened, it happened a very long time ago. Mahabharat, a book about the Great Indian war, composed at least 2800 years ago, is itself full of references to Ahimsa, non-violence, and offers extensive treatment of the topic. To imply that Gandhi ji did not know about non-violence and learned it from the Jains, is either ignorance or plain dishonesty, as non-violence (which really means refraining from casual or non-essential violence) has been an essential part of Hindu lore and thought for ages. If he did learn it from the Jains, he never practiced it in the way they are supposed to do: covering their mouth with a cloth while speaking, or ensuring that they never step on an insect.

Mr. Harris is also under the impression that if even a single little girl is murdered, then a benevolent God can not exist (p.52). This is really very simplistic - he is obviously (and fortunately!) not aware of God's Vishwa Roop as presented in Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta or in Hindu philosophy where God simultaneously creates as also destroys.

The book does offer a good chance to think on this issue, and therefore one wishes that Mr. Harris had followed a more balanced approach or had shown some more respect for his opponents. As it is, the book is unlikely to generate a discussion between the two sides - it will merely push them deeper into their corners.

Do buy the book - it is quite invigorating. However, don't buy its ideas till you have evaluated them carefully. Mr. Harris appears to be an intellectual extremist, and extremism, in any form, is avoidable for its own sake.
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38 of 247 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Judging God through human eyes, 7 Mar 2007
By 
D. S. Kenneally "DK" (Cardiff) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I picked this book from the shelf thinking it would be a challenge to my faith and could engage my brain to assess some deeper reasoning behind my faith in God. However, whatever efforts the author made in drawing arguments against God and religion were completely undermined by shoddy and loose references to alleged 'facts', cherry-picking quotes from the Bible to fit in with his arguments and failing to provide any evidence to support his conclusions. As a lawyer these arguments do not sway me to accept any truth in them.

When weighing any evidence, as in a court of law, you must first subject that evidence to thorough review from all sides of the argument and then draw a conclusion. This is not the case with this book. The arguments are far from compelling and I'm afraid I was distracted by both the style of writing and level of research which only confirmed to me that the author has no real depth of Biblical or spiritual knowledge. That for me is the central problem here because God is treated as a subject matter whose purpose and design are only ever viewed on a subjective level.

The world is full of many evils and ills and this approach seeks to blame God as the sole author. The problem for me in viewing the world like this is that people tend to forget/ignore that God gave us all freedom of choice and that many of the choices we make are not of God's will but our own. Hence, society becomes disfunctional and social problems such as crime, deviancy and addictions prevail. Often it is the misinterpretation of religion or lack of any social discipline that leads to such problems and not christianity itself.

I found the tone of the book to be both vitriolic and patronising which makes it very hard to engage with some of the issues raised. Christianity has long had to stand up to scrutiny through the centuries and doubtless there will have been many more forceful arguments raised than some of these from Mr Harris.

For any academically qualified person to conclude that all the world's problems are down to christianity and have nothing whatsoever to do with harmless atheists. What percentage of convicted serial killers, burglars, rapists and child molesters are christian as opposed to atheist? Sam Harris would have you believe that in a world without christians such things would not happen.

The essential problem is that, like in many other books of this nature, the athiest argument seeks to draw on extreme examples to justify why christianity is flawed. Yet I don't see an alternative system which presents the perfect set of moral values for atheists to live. In fact one of the central issues we face in the UK today is finding the balance between various human rights. These at face value are of course imperative in a 21st century 1st world country such as ours, yet so many of these rights conflict, right to privacy versus freedom of speech, right to life (abortion) versus right to free choice and lifestyle.

I would prefer to see a line of thinking from someone seeking to find the truth, rather than someone seeking to justify their own views, but it does at least create a dimension some people will feel inclined to debate about.

It is however, a very sad thing to see someone so far removed from God as this, seeking to judge God through his own human eyes.
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Letter to a Christian Nation
Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (Audio CD - 16 April 2007)
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