Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris

After reading The End of Faith and The Moral Landscape, and listening to many of his podcasts and debates, I anticipated that Sam Harris‘s Letter to a Christian Nation would not add much more to my atheist arguments. And I was right. That said, it is a short book—I read it in a couple of days—and it is directed to Christians in particular in the US. The main argument of the book is how strange is to hold beliefs such as creationism in this era and how dangerous it is to protect these beliefs in the name of “religious tolerance.” These beliefs have consequences, such as asking schools to teach creationism. Any secular person—as well as Christian liberals who accept evolution—should criticise this and similar beliefs.

Perhaps I will mention a point Sam Harris makes in the book which I find very persuasive, and it concerns morality. Where does morality come from? It is said by many believers that, if you do not believe in God, how do you judge what is right or wrong? They seem to take Nietzsche’s view: if there is no God, there is no morality. Yet most Christians decide to ignore the passages about slavery, adultery, or even homosexuality that one can find in the Bible. They, instead, select the passages that they find more moral, such as the golden rule (Matthew 7:12):

Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets

It is certainly moral to live one’s life following this rule in general. But this is just one of the many claims about morality in the Bible. Choosing some claims over the others is something we bring to the Bible, not something that the Bible offers. Choosing the golden rule is, therefore, we humans defining morality, not God’s work. Therefore, the mere existence of religious moderates—those that do not read the holy scripture literally—proves that we, as human beings, define morality.

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