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Letter to a Christian Nation [Paperback]

Sam Harris
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 8 2008 Vintage
From the new afterword by the author:Humanity has had a long fascination with blood sacrifice. In fact, it has been by no means uncommon for a child to be born into this world only to be patiently and lovingly reared by religious maniacs, who believe that the best way to keep the sun on its course or to ensure a rich harvest is to lead him by tender hand into a field or to a mountaintop and bury, butcher, or burn him alive as offering to an invisible God. The notion that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that his death constitutes a successful propitiation of a “loving” God is a direct and undisguised inheritance of the superstitious bloodletting that has plagued bewildered people throughout history. . .

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Letter to a Christian Nation + End Of Faith + The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values
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Review

"A breath of fresh fire." —Wall Street Journal“I dare you to read this book...it will not leave you unchanged. Read it if it is the last thing you do.” —Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion“It’s a shame that not everyone in this country will read Sam Harris’ marvelous little book Letter to a Christian Nation. They won’t but they should.” —Leonard Susskind, Felix Bloch Professor in theoretical physics, Stanford University

About the Author

Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times best seller, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, which won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. He is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of contemplative disciplines, for twenty years. Mr. Harris is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience, studying the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). His work has been discussed in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Economist, and New Scientist, among many other journals, and he has made television appearances on The O'Reilly Factor, Scarborough Country, Faith Under Fire, and Book TV.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Problem for Christian Literalists Oct. 2 2006
Format:Hardcover
This little book is a gem of its kind. It is an argument with a literal minded Christian (fundamentalist, evangelical, etc) in the form of a letter. Harris's arguments are mostly not original - some previous versions of them date back more than a century in the skeptical literature - but his concise and hard-hitting presentation of them is. He is almost unique for his honest and, one must say, sometimes blunt treatment of religion. Some readers will find this offensive and won't pay his arguments the attention they deserve. I can only ask them to persevere and see if they can find a problem with Harris's reasons. The challenge for the committed Christian is to meet him on the plane of reason; and if you think that you don't have to, because faith prevails even where reason fails, I must ask, why your faith rather than any other? As Harris points out, many Muslims have exactly as much devout belief as you do and yet you are not troubled by this; can't you see that to an outsider, this is a reason to doubt all faiths? But I am paraphrasing Harris here, and poorly. I refer you to his forceful eloquence instead.

One more thought. Where does this book leave the moderate or liberal Christian? What does it say to them? While ostensibly not aimed at them, some challenges are obvious. If you are not a literal-minded Christian, then what exactly do you believe? Why are the literal-minded Christians not just simply more consistent (less politely: less hypocritical) than you are? Are there resources within Christianity that can justify your liberal stance, or are you really compromising with outside standards and motivated by outside factors?
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Direct and to the Point Oct. 7 2006
By Oliver TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Sam Harris says what a lot of us have been thinking, but have been afraid to say in public. In this concise book, Harris directly attacks the very foundation of religious faith.

One might expect such a book to be either mean-spirited or intentionally provacative. Christian Nation is neither, although some will experience it that way. Harris sticks to the facts. He does not believe that religious faith, including but certainly not limited to Christianity, is good for people.

Harris is concerned with reducing human suffering and increasing human happiness. He agrees that many of the things that Jesus about love and kindness are indeed valuable and wise. He points out, however, that the bible contains much, much more than love and kindness. It contains cruelty, such as slavery, and pointless rules, such as the ban on graven images.

In the end, Harris argues, religious faith, or any belief that is not based on evidence and reason, does not make sense and will ultimately lead to unnecessary suffering.

No doubt, many good and loving people would be offended or hurt if they read this book. But that simply proves Harris' point. These people have been so blinded by faith that they cannot even consider the possibility they have been led astray. Hopefully, a good number of religious people will muster the courage to read the book anyway.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A helpful and commendably compact book Nov. 3 2006
Format:Hardcover
Sam Harris is best know for his book entitled "The End of Faith" and although this small follow-up book is a welcome addition to the discussion of the role of religion in the modern world it seems unlikely to have a similar impact – although it is quite a pithy synopsis of the earlier book. I remember – over half a century ago – reading Bertrand Russel's book entitled "Why I am not a Christian". And there is clearly an overlap between the two books with Bertrand Russell probably being a little more ruthless in his criticism of Christianity. Russell says that “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in Hell.” And I wrote in the margin of my copy of the book: “Interestingly many practising Christians do not”.

Although Harris did not use the exact same words I am sure he agrees that there are indeed some of Jesus' views (as recorded in the New Testament) which do not seem to be morally defensible. Unfortunately, Harris does not distinguish very well between fundamentalist Christians who reject the occurrence of evolution and believe all sorts of unscientific mumbo jumbo about the age of the earth and more enlightened Christians who are comfortable with scientific discoveries about the nature of the physical and biological world.

Bertrand Russell wrote an earlier essay entitled “Mysticism and Logic” and in this essay he says “I believe that . . there is an element of wisdom to be learnt from the mystical way of feeling which does not seem to be attainable in any other manner. If this is the truth, mysticism is to be commended as an attitude towards life and not as a creed about the world.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it Nov. 24 2006
Format:Hardcover
The basic premise of the book is that there are many contradictions with Christianity especially with how it is practiced in the United States. The assertion is that nothing has to be "believed" on insufficient evidence. This book is a great source for a logical retort to many religious claims. Read this book and pass it along to your friends. It is worth it.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Prompt delivery. A letter that reiterates some of the ...
Prompt delivery.
A letter that reiterates some of the points made in The End of Faith. Look forward to Harris' newest book in September.
Published 29 days ago by Ian
5.0 out of 5 stars Bang-On!
Sam Harris is one of the most approachable of the 'new atheists' and delivers a hard hitting, no frills, rational refutation of ancient beliefs. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Poetkitty
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Interesting arguments.
Published 3 months ago by Alexandre Naud-Doré
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
It is a book that you enjoy every page, in which you can see how we are as a society
Published 4 months ago by Heidy
5.0 out of 5 stars encore bravo, Sam
un très bon livre pour qui veut comprendre la situation actuelle de ce qui mène le monde. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Pierre-Henry Fontaine
5.0 out of 5 stars Letter to a Christian Nation
I love the reading of the book, I also ordered the CD-audio of it.
Great many points and powerful reasoning that demands thinking. Read more
Published on May 4 2011 by Shahin
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener
Sam Harris writes a great easy read book. As a 70 year old brought up Catholic, I have always questioned the faith and many other different aspects of all religions especially... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2010 by Outdoor man
1.0 out of 5 stars Sadly lacking
I found Harris' book juvenile and pedantic, the many instances of name calling "lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant. Read more
Published on July 13 2010 by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars Letter to a Christian Nation
Another excellent book by Sam Harris. All believers should read it with an open mind and when finished, ask themselves a question: Can these facts be disputed?
Published on Sept. 22 2009 by Paul Plihal
5.0 out of 5 stars Small but powerful
This short book by Harris packs a punch. It ought to be read by anyone who holds religious/supernatural beliefs, but might be particularly good for the American audience for which... Read more
Published on Nov. 21 2008 by Star Stuff
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