4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Absorbing book, but lacks objectivity and realism,
This review is from: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (Paperback)
I found both of Harris's books on atheism, 'The End of Faith' and 'Letter To A Christian Nation' fascinating reading - I was enthralled - particularly the latter book. And it's that one that I have most in mind in my review below (for some reason I am unable to place it in the review section of 'Letter To A Christian Nation' - the system keeps telling me I've already got a review there - but I absolutely don't. So, so as not to waste a lengthy review, I give it here. Thanks.
Harris does make some good points in his 'Letter'. Christians aren't nearly critical enough about their beliefs, and they need to be challenged every now and then about their rigid beliefs, how their views affect others, etc. So, to the extent that this is a challengling little read, then I welcome it. Further, Harris's section on stem-cell research I found wonderfully illuminating, and I believe it has even helped to change my thoughts on the subject. There are other sections which I personally found helpful.
But often, like Dawkins, Harris doesn't seem to attempt to hide his detestation of monotheistic religions, and Christianity in particular. He is too angry for his own good, thus clouding his judgement and weakening his arguments.
Clearly Harris is an atheist fundamentalist of incomparable proportions. He quite openly, and repeatedly (especially in 'The End of Faith', but also in this book) calls out for eradication of religion! In this he sounds frighteningly like the autocratic and intolerant ranting of someone like Stalin, Pol Pot or Hitler.
The book is written in the first person, directly to the Christian believer. Thus Harris tells the reader (who he assumes to be a Christain) what he or she believes. This can be rather presumptous and sometimes simply wrong. At a number of places, I found myself saying - 'No, I don't believe that'. He can tell me what he believes, but Not what every Christain believes.
For example, he spends consideralbe time talking about 'criminal' attitudes of 'Christians', such as their shunning of birth control, etc. Here, he completely fails to mention that the majority of the world's Christian believers (hundreds of millions of evangelicals and and many, many Catholics, too) have no aversion to the use of condoms etc. It is simply not an issue to them.
One very notable aspect of the book is that, numerous times when Harris seeks to provide evidence of religion being intolerant, or violent, etc - he gives NO examples from Christianity, but instead makes reference to Islamic thought and Islamic terrorist activities! These are referred to again and again. Yet this is a book supposedly aimed at 'a Christian Nation'. In these instances, Harris is completely unable to find Any parallels in Christianity. To say that this weakens his overall argument is an understatement! It becomes rather farcical. His book might better be called 'Letter to an Islamic Nation'.
In any case, even when Harris does succeed in pinpointing a less than honourable incident from 'Christian' history - e.g. the Crusades of a Millennium ago - this simply goes to show how Un-Christian such an act was - contrary to the teaching and spirit of Christ. To show that Christians - assuming they were Christians, because calling yourself a Christian doesn't, in itself, make you one - have done wrong - in no way proves that Christianity itself is wrong. It only shows that mankind is prone to wrongdoing, which is precisely a root teaching of Christianity (which also teaches that it is solely through dying to self in Christ that we can conquer that fleshly nature). In no way, unfortunately, does being a Christian, of itself make believers immune to wrongdoing.
There are many good points in this book, and I'm glad I read it. But Harris's overt bias and lack of sound reasoning make this little book impossible to take on board. Far worse, the author seems completely unaware that a world with no-one but atheists would by no means be a peaceful one (how naive to even think it!). Man is greedy and power-lusting and, despite his intelligence, often foolish. Atheism is unable to quench these base natures. The teachings and Spirit of Christ, on the other hand, speak directly and constantly to these human failings. A world with a universal atheistic worldview - full of fundamentalist ahteists like Dawkins or Harris - would surely be hell on earth. Besides, it is absurd to think that it will ever happen. Man is a spiritual being with a natural propensity to believe in 'something out there'. Always has been, and, I believe, always will be.