November 25, 2006

Letter to a Christian Nation
Sam Harris

Addressee Unknown – The only problem with a book like this is that the people who should read it won’t. Our country embraces superstitious faith but spurns spiritual inquiry. In part, Harris makes such a powerful argument for atheism simply because you never hear an argument for atheism – religious ideologues of all stripes control the levers of society and so reading such a clear statement sounds revolutionary: “Can you prove that Zeus does not exist? Of course not. And yet, just imagine if we lived in a society where people spent tens of billions of dollars of their personal income each year propitiating the gods of Mount Olympus, where the government spent billions more in tax dollars to support institutions devoted to these gods, where untold billions more in tax subsidies were given to pagan temples, where elected officials did their best to impede medical research out of deference to The Iliad and The Odyssey, and where every debate about public policy was subverted to the whims of ancient authors who wrote well, but who didn’t know enough about the nature of reality to keep their excrement out of their food. This would be a horrific misappropriation of our material, moral and intellectual resources. And yet that is exactly the society we are living in. This is the woefully irrational world that you and your fellow Christians are working so tirelessly to create.” Some people claim, especially in these overheated times, responsible debates about spirituality are not possible. But that’s baloney. Overheated times do not preclude such discussions – in fact, “the times” have always been “overheated.” Responsible debates merely require responsible individuals. Responsibility is what’s missing.


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