Letter to a Christian Nation

by Sam Harris

Vintage Books, 2006. paper


According to a Gallup poll [2006] only 12 percent of Americans believe that life on earth has evolved through a natural process, without the interference of a deity. Thirty-one percent believe that evolution has been "guided by God." If our woridview were put to a vote, notions of "intelligent design" would defeat the science of biology by nearly three to one.

... The same Gallup poll revealed that 53 percent of Americans are actually creationists. This means that despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of life and the greater antiquity of the earth, more than half of our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago.

Our country now appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant. Anyone who cares about the fate of civilization would do well to recognize that the combination of great power and great stupidity is simply terrifying.

Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years.

Deuteronomy 13:6, 8-15

If your brother, the son of your mother, or [your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, entices you secretly, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods,". . . you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him; but you shall kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage .... If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God gives you to dwell there, that certain base fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of the city, saying "Let us go and serve other gods," which you have not known, then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently; and behold, if it be true and certain that such an abominable thing has been done among you, you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, destroying it utterly, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword.

Martin Luther King, Jr.] acquired his commitment to nonviolence primarily from the writings of Mohandas K. Gandhi... Where did Gandhi, a Hindu, get his doctrine of nonviolence? He got it from the Jains.

Leviticus 25:44-46

As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are round about you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you, to inherit as a possession forever; you may make slaves of them, but over your brethren the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another, with harshness.

Ephesians 6:5

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your S earthly masters, with fear and trembling, ) in singleness of heart, as to Christ.

Timothy 6:1-4

Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed

The U.S. Constitution does not contain a single mention of God.

Ten Commandments

1. You shall have no other gods before me.

2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image.

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

s. Honor your father and your mother.

6. You shall not murder.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

8. You shall not steal.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.

Mahavira, the Jain patriarch

Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being."

One of the most pernicious effects of religion is that it tends to divorce morality from the reality of human and animal suffering... religion allows people to imagine that their concerns are moral when they are highly immoral ... This explains why Christians ... expend more "moral" energy opposing abortion than fighting genocide. It explains why you are more concerned about human embryos than about the lifesaving promise of stem-cell research. And it explains why you can preach against condom use in sub-Saharan Africa while millions die from AIDS there each year.

The rate of gonorrhea among American teens is seventy times higher than it is among their peers in the Netherlands and France.

In El Salvador, abortion is now illegal under all circumstances. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. The moment a j woman shows up at a hospital with a perforated uterus, indicating that she has had a back-alley abortion, she is shackled to her hospital bed and her body is treated as a crime scene. Forensic doctors soon arrive to examine her womb and cervix. There are women now serving prison sentences thirty years long for terminating their pregnancies. Imagine this, in a country that also stigmatizes the use of contraception as a sin against God.

Atheists are the most reviled minority in the United States. Polls indicate that being an atheist is a perfect impediment to running for high office in our country (while being black, Muslim, or homosexual is not).

Adolf Hitler in a speech on April 12, 1922 [Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939. Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20. Oxford University]

My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, I recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom are among the least religious societies on earth. According to the United Nations' Human Development Report (2005) they are also the healthiest, as indicated by life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality.

The United States is unique among wealthy democracies in its level of religious adherence; it is also uniquely beleaguered by high rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and infant mortality. The same comparison holds true within the United States itself: Southern and Midwestern states, characterized by the highest levels of religious literalism, are especially plagued by the above indicators of societal dysfunction, while the comparatively secular states of the Northeast conform to European norms.

Three of the five most dangerous cities in the United States are in the pious state of Texas. The twelve states with the highest rates of burglary are red.

The ratio of salaries paid to top-tier CEOs and those paid to the same firms' average employees: in Britain it is 24:1, in France, 15:1; in Sweden, 13:1; in the United States it is 475:1.

It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved. It is time acknowledged how disgraceful it is for the survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God, while this same God drowned infants in their cribs.

People of all faiths regularly assure one another that God is not responsible for human suffering. But how else can we understand the claim that God is both omniscient and omnipotent?... If God exists, either He can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities, or He does not care to. God, therefore, is either impotent or evil.

... There is another possibility, of course, and it is both the most reasonable and least odious: the biblical God is a fiction like Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom most sane human beings now ignore.

While believing strongly, without evidence, is considered a mark of madness or stupidity in any other area of our lives, faith in God still holds immense prestige in our society.

Religion is the one area of our discourse where it is considered noble to pretend to be certain about things no human being could possibly be certain about.

There is 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 eternity in hell.

Over 99 percent of the species that ever walked, flew, or slithered upon this earth are now extinct. This fact alone appears to rule out intelligent design.

The reasons to doubt the existence of God are in plain view for everyone to see: everyone can see that the Bible is not the perfect word of an omniscient deity; everyone can see that there is no evidence for a God who answers prayers, and that any God who would grant prayers for football championships, while doling out cancer and car accidents to little boys and girls, is unworthy of our devotion. Everyone who has eyes to see can see that if the God of Abraham exists, He is an utter psychopath and the God of Nature is too. If you can't see these things just by looking, you have simply closed your eyes to the realities of our world.

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