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55 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short version of "The End of Faith",, 1 May 2007
This review is from: Letter To A Christian Nation (Hardcover)
Sam Harris is an atheist, a "bright", and does not make an effort to conceal the fact - quite the opposite. He is an outspoken critic of religions, of unjustified beliefs, and of the actions religious people undertake due to or justified by their beliefs.

Just as many critics of religion before him, Harris sees religion in general and the Christian faith in particular not only as a philosophically questionable position, but as a political issue. With creationism becoming a majority position in the US and religious influence not only on US' domestic policies, it is hard not to agree with him. Same point could be made for other countries and other faiths, but Harris has a specific audience in mind - the American public.

For the most part, the book is a shortened, very straight-forward, well-written and more accessible version of "The End of Faith" by the same author. Harris leaves no doubt that he thinks the Christian faith to be fundamentally wrong, and its fundamentalist followers to be both politically influential and harmful. He is also very clear about why he thinks so. Seen as that, it is a brilliant and short essay very worth reading.

My problems with the book are twofold: First, the arguments are not very original: The basic flaws of Christian faith(s) in particular have been pointed out since at least the 2nd century CE (e. g., the theodizee problem or the circularity of faith's justification - and we still lack satisfying arguments from Christian apologists for both issues). Second, Harris does not really try to explain why this is so: Why the tenets of all religions seem so obviously absurd to everyone except their respective followers. But without really asking in depth why people belief, it seems unlikely that he will change their beliefs, nor the political opinions they base on them.

In short: Sam Harris addresses the US public, and his "letter" is gritty, clear, to the point and well-worth reading - a very good introduction to his thoughts.

But I doubt he will reach many people apart from those who already agree to him anyway (and who will find Harris' more detailed "The End of Faith" more interesting). To understand why this is so, how religions work, I would rather recommend P. Boyer's "Religion Explained", D. C. Dennett's "Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" or R. Dawkin's "The God Delusion".
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Initial post: 30 Dec 2010 17:10:38 GMT
Good review. But we live in Europe, thank "god" in a more secular society than the US.
I strongly recommend C Hitchens book (s); "The portable Atheist" and "God id not great".
Full of facts that come handy when debating with a religious peron.
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