Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lousy Book

Book Title: Letter to a Christian Nation
Author: Sam Harris
Publisher: Vintage, 2008, (144pp)

At the library yesterday, I read Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” yesterday at one sitting. At first glance, I thought that it is another of those books that attack the religious Right, or the conservative evangelical arm of Christianity in the US. As I turn the pages, I sense that the writer has a larger agenda and I was right. He basically uses the ‘Religious Right’ as an entry point to debunk the need for any religion at all, save for his: Atheism. Hence, you can easily see his own circle of atheists (like Richard Dawkins) trying to support his book with rave reviews.

He admits that Mother Teresa has done lots of good for the world, yet he unfairly neutralizes all of her work saying that ‘her moral intentions deranged by religious faith’ (35). He freely agrees with another atheist, Christopher Hutchens that Mother Teresa is ‘not a friend of the poor’ but a friend of 'poverty.’ Making such a distinction between ‘poor’ and ‘poverty’ may appear like a scholastic attribute but it sure reflects a poor reading of the life and work of the Catholic saint. How can anyone while arguing for his own set of anti-religious beliefs be so quick to write off a lady who has brought so much love and compassion to the people in India and many parts of the world? It beats me.

He does not offer a very convincing alternative either. In fact, he applies a double standard between science and religion. He readily believes science and its wonders, even putting science and religion on the same plane where they are clearly in different dimensions.
He says that ‘the success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogmas always comes at the expense of science.” (63)
Harris stresses the word ‘always.’ Sweeping statement indeed. This not only shows a lack of understanding of religion in general but a foolish attempt to try to put science and religion under the same factual paradigm. Have Harris ever thought of ‘art’ and ‘music?’ Do those give facts?

Overall, I find that a book like this appeals mainly to atheists and people who already have an axe to grind with religion in general. His letter to the Christian nation appears to be more a marketing gimmick for atheism, rather than a factual appeal against religion. His arguments sound so ridiculous that they do seem like rubber bullets made from poor quality research. You can do the same to this book, what Sam Harris has done to Mother Teresa's image. Take the book and shove it aside. Don't waste your money even on buying a used copy.


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