Letter to a Christian Nation

Letter to a Christian Nation

by Sam Harris


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Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

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. . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307278777
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/08/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 89,117
Product dimensions: 5.21(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.41(d)

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.

What People are Saying About This

"Sam Harris’s elegant little book is most refreshing and a wonderful source of ammunition for those who, like me, hold to no religious doctrine. Yet I have some sympathy also with those who might be worried by his uncompromising stance. Read it and from your own view, but do not ignore its message."
Sir Roger Penrose, emeritus professor of mathematics, Oxford University, author of The Road to Reality

"Reading Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation was like sitting ring side, cheering the champion, yelling ‘Yes!’ at every jab. For those of us who feel depressed by this country’s ever increasing unification of church and state, and the ever decreasing support for the sciences that deliver knowledge and reduce ignorance, this little book is a welcome hit of adrenalin."
Marc Hauser, Harvard College Professor, author of Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Sense of Right and Wrong

"I can’t sign my name to this blurb. As a New York Times best selling author of books about business, my career will evaporate if I endorse a book that challenges the deeply held superstitions and bigotry of the masses. That’s exactly why you should (no, you must) read this angry and honest book right away. As long as science and rational thought are under attack by the misguided yet pious majority, our nation is in jeopardy. I’m scared. You should be too. Please buy two, one for you and one for a friend you care about."
Unsigned, New York Times best selling author

"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, author of The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design

"We all know about good things that have been derived from bad ideas. Modern religions serve many social goods such as health care for the poor. The problem is that is also services many reprehensible ideas. Harris blows the whistle, pointing out the religions of the world are based on human generated vengeful stories. Read this book and you decide your stance for the future."
Michael S. Gazzaniga, Director of the Sage Center for the Study of Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Ethical Brain "Sam Harris fearlessly describes a moral and intellectual emergency precipitated by religious fantasies--misguided beliefs that create suffering, that rationalize violence, that have endangered our nation and our future. His argument for the morality, the honesty, and the humility of atheism is galvanizing. It is a relief that someone has spoken so frankly, with such passion yet such rationality. Now when the subject arises, as it inevitably does, I can simply say: Read Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation."
Janna Levin, Columbia University, author of How the Universe Got Its Spots and A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

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Letter to a Christian Nation 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 164 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and agree with it 100%. Everything I cant stand about the religious right laied out crisp and clear. How can they call themselves the people of life when they oppose vaccines for preventable illnesses and vital medical research that could save millions? Do they really deserve the name of the culture of life? I think the words of Pat Robertson settle that one pretty well: 'I dont see why we don't just kill him (Hugo Chavez} its cheaper than starting a war'. Yes, the people of life like to murder people because it is, and I quote, 'cheaper than starting a war.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Somehow I doubt that's the case in the previous 'review' (or, more appropriately, rant?). The rant, yes, let's call it that since it more accurately reflects its substance, fails to critique Mr. Harris's book on the basis of its content or the logic (or even lack thereof) of his arguments. The ranter is not upset at the conclusions, necessarily, as much as he is appalled that Mr. Harris has such poor taste as to ask questions and put forth a position. To quote from Douglas Adams in his impromptu speech at Cambridge: 'Religion... has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, 'Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about you're just not. Why not? Because you're not!' If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like, everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says, 'I mustn't move a light switch on Saturday', you say, 'I respect that.' Why should it be that it's perfectly legitimate to support the Labour party or the Conservative party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows -- but to have an opinion about how the Universe began... no, that's holy?... Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you're not allowed to say these things. When you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn't be.' Read the book and debate its merits, but have the debate. Questions are 'bad' only in the eyes of those who are unwilling to search for answers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I first started to read this book it was outstanding. It is by far onw of the best non-fiction texts ever. It is fairly easy to read and formated in a sort of cause and effect way. Many important discussion in this book on topics such as stem-cell research. I recommend this book to everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am only half way thru, but this book is already interesting. I believe in God, but the all or nothing attitude that comes from Christians that I know is so annoying. They make it seem like it's so wrong to question any other possibility. If these people are so sure of God they shouldn't be so intimidated of other religions. I think that's some of what Harris is pointing out, other than the faults of believing in a god that may or may not exist. He does seem angry to me though, which I find unusual. But in general I think a lot of his arguments are valid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"A Letter to a Christian Nation" functions well primarily as a summation of the views and feelings a person has living as a "non-believer" in a Christian state. I have found that sometimes a person can have an idea of what they feel and believe without being able to clearly articulate that idea. "A Letter to a Christian Nation" serves that purpose. Highly recommended.
ASTJ More than 1 year ago
This is a short read but provides insight into the religious establishment and its effect on the human race. Should be placed along side the bible in all hotels! Anyone that chooses to maintain a closed mind will not benefit from this narrative.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sam Harris has finally been able to convey his argument in a perfect way. In this book, in basic letter form to respond to the deluge of mail he received for his preceding book, he is able to form his thoughts in a simple, coherent, and utterly brilliant way. By taking to task those in government who use religious people, 'imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency', to church sanctioned torture and killing, 'the problem is that the teachings of the Bible are so muddled and self-contradictory that it was possible for Christians to happily burn heretics alive for five long centuries. It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed outright (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently--though isn't it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith have failed?' and even the religious justification of slavery, 'the moment a person recognizes that slaves are human beings like himself, enjoying the same capacity for suffering and happiness, he will understand that it is patently evil to own them and treat them like farm equipment. It is remarkably easy for a person to arrive at this epiphany--and yet, it had to be spread at the point of a bayonet throughout the Confederate South, among the most pious Christians this country has ever known.' Harris does an incredible job at laying out the awesome hypocrisy of the Christian Church through its history and how it continues today. Finally, the author faces the reality behind the belief. It is that we all are small, inconsequential beings starving for approval and our own place/understanding. His quote of 'There is, in fact, no worldview more reprehensible in its arrogance than that of a religious believer: the creator of the universe takes an interest in me, approves of me, loves me, and will reward me after death my current beliefs, drawn from scripture, will remain the best statement of the truth until the end of the world everyone who disagrees with me will spend an eternity in hell...' spells out how badly far certain individuals in our society will go to feel special. I found this book both straightforward in its style, deeply cathartic, and a highly intelligent book that should be read by everyone who feels the need to either stretch their mind or enter the discussion on religious discourse.
alpinist-musician More than 1 year ago
Anyone serious about the question whether Christianity's central precepts are true or not should read this! Believer or not. Sam Harris has a wonderful ability to appeal to our common sense and to make you re-think things that have been accepted as if they were self-evident, when they are most likely totally false. It's a short and very intelligent and engaging read. I highly recommend it to absolutely everyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is truly incredible. I'm an avid reader and I rarely come across a book that is as well written as Letter to a Christian Nation. His arguments are carefully supported and his points hit close to home. It is truly a wake-up call to our society and our world. If you are looking for a read that will expand your mind then this is the book for you. If you are a closed-minded religious person, it is sure to keep you up all night praying.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's so sad to see so many terrible reviews from people just because this man disagrees with their religious views. How much more closed-minded can this country get? This is exactly why America needs this book, and as far I as I'm concerned, every man, woman, and child in the U.S. should read it. People have become so absolutely certain of their religious beliefs so certain that they are willing to ignore evidence against it, and even make up evidence for it, in order to avoid admitting that they may have made a mistake. Christianity is not all bad, but these people are kidding themselves if they don't believe that it is greatly harming America. For God's sake, it is the only reason that 1/2 of our country ACTUALLY believes that the earth was created 6000 years ago. We need to put a stop to the stubborn American tendency towards ignorance, and 'Letter' is merely the first step. Maybe the next generation won't be defiled by nonsense about 3000 year old dinosaur bones and world-wide floods, and maybe, just maybe, they won't have to be afraid of admitting to not believing in fairy tales.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding book. I enjoyed the clearheaded presentation and the calm examination of what could easily be a very emotional subject. For those wondering what all the fuss is about with the so called "New Atheist" movement, this is a concise examination of one aspect of it. It does not claim to have answers. But among other things it presents the questions clearly in a way that can be understood without bogging down in dogma, rhetoric or emotion. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books of its kind that I have ever read! It can be enlightening and strangely exciting for someone who is frustrated with the place of religion in everyday life but can't quite put her feelings into words. It is very easy to read and very hard to put down! (Fortunately, it's only ~100 pages, so you don't have to!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book. Science lends itself to intelligent discussion. It begs for it. Religion does not. It shuns it and attacks it with often horrible consequences. Some of the reviewers of this book give credence to the idea that religion wants to criticize while offering little more than ever changing interpretations of text written by ancient men who were afraid of the dark. Religion wants to obscure, obstruct and at the very least dilute scientific understanding of our world, while at the same time closing off and silencing any kind of scrutiny. Intolerance for non-religion is accepted and promoted. Saying that a non-believer will burn in hell for eternity is somehow okay. But suggest that religious beliefs are outdated or simply out of touch with reality and all of a sudden you are a bigot with no tolerance for others what-so-ever. I've tolerated the intolerance of the religious all my life. I've been told I'm going to hell. I've had a neighbor cease speaking to me because I do not believe. My best friend from high school became a Christian. He told me one day in so many words that unless I became a Christian and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior we could no longer be friends. Intolerance? Yes, I know what intolerance is. I have been hurt and frightened by this intolerance. I'm glad that Sam Harris and others are finally standing up and saying enough is enough. Note to those who found his arguments lacking any support. You need to read the first book, 'The End of Faith.' There's plenty of support found there.
doubledispatch More than 1 year ago
Please ignore any negative reviews you see here; they are simply made by hate-mongering malcontents who hide behind religionI. I.E. absolute moronic scum. This is a very well written book that intuitively points out all the problems in our society which have stemmed from organised religion. Anyone who says otherwise obviously hasn't read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent discussion about superstitious reliigiosity and the evil that it causes in our lives. It puzzles me why we should give any respect to ignorance that would drag us back into the stone age. It is sad that true believers are so gullible that they need the ramblings of bronze age savages to complete their lives.
AdamZ1 More than 1 year ago
Definitely Harris's best book. It's short, succinct, and gets to the core of reason (or lack thereof) regarding religion. Read it alongside Prometheus' THE ATHEIST'S CHURCH and Dawkins' THE GOD DELUSION and you will have a perfect introduction to modern atheistic thought.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harris draws attention to the many issues causing people to reject the christian faiths.
scubasteve111 More than 1 year ago
Great read with a lot of excellent points. It's short, but surprising well detailed. I think this book is better than Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion" and I'd recommend it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great foundation for any atheist trying to win an argument. I did, however, expect a bit more logical reasoning. Harris carries a hostile and frustrated tone throughout which is unattractive even to a non-believer. He insists at the beginning that the letter is to the most devout of christians but spends most of the time talking about moderate christians or religion in general. Other people who have posted saying it is well-written are sorely mistaken. But for a brief letter, it definitely serves a purpose.
Ramos Family More than 1 year ago
Michael Westwood More than 1 year ago
sam harris is my new fav author. all christians should read this insightful book. it is also rrquired reading for agnostics. if you believe in the power of prayer, read this book. if you believe in 'intelligent dedign', read this book. if you believe in the authenticity of the bible, read this book. if you are not sure whst you believe, this book will help you find your way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sam Harris does a magnifiscent job of treating christian claims with complete objectivity... and shows why every christian claim will always remain nothing more than wishful thinking.
pccoder More than 1 year ago
This is without a doubt the best book I've ever read on the subject of relegious mythology. Sam Harris does a superb job of debunking Christianity and pulls absolutely no punches whatsoever. Well researched, well written. I can't recommend this book enough.
WantedUtopia More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this little book. I think everyone should read this book. How I wished I had this book when I was young and had questions that no one could or would answer. Thank you, Thank you Mr. Harris This book speaks for millions of people who wish they could have said what Sam Harris has written. This book doesn't belittle Christian, it just makes them think and hopefully use some much needed reasoning skills. This is a well written and well needed book for this age in our history. Thank you
Guest More than 1 year ago
I remember my father telling me about a friend of his who kept a collection of Darwin's Origin of the Species so that he could pass it out to those who knocked on his door to prosthelitize their Belief. This is what I am now doing with Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation. Not only is it short and easy to read, but it also manages to hit the most critical points as to why so many of us do NOT believe in God/gods or the supernatural. Of all the better known modern-day non-theists (e.g. Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett), Sam Harris presents our argument in the gentlist and least antagonistic way.