You may be wondering why I am reading a work by Sam Harris, a well known atheist. Well, I am always willing to read and interact with those who are opposed to the Christian faith. To make accusations against anyone who opposes the Christian faith with knowing and reading their point of view is a somewhat useless exercise. Many read these works, a national best seller, and they foster misconceptions of the Christian faith. Sam Harris, and others I might add, have impacted our culture with Letter to a Christian Nation and I cannot begin to respond to everything, but here are a few.
Harris’s intentions are clearly stated as “to arm secularists in our society, who believe that religion should be kept out of public policy, against their opponents on the Christian right. (viii)” Simply put, Christianity consists of immoral and irrational group of people and if you care anything about our world and our society you would give up this foolishness and reject such things in public life.
One regularly occurring theme is that problems in this world are attributed to God, as the origin and cause and thus liable. In speaking about abortion, Harris turns to biology and points out that nature alone causes multiple abortions through miscarriage. This occurrence in nature makes God the “most prolific abortionist of all time. (38)” This is one of the methodical flaws for Harris.
However, in the context of a world of suffering and sin that we willfully created in the Garden of Eden, our perspective should change. If this was God’s intention and plan for the way life should be then I would agree with Harris. However, God cares deeply about suffering and death so much that he will one day end the tragedy through His son Jesus Christ. The fact that our bodies do not function properly should not instill a bold finger of accusation to God but a humble heart that cries for a savior to fix this mess.
Considering the New Orleans Hurricane Katrina, Harris claims that religion is speechless (53). On the flip side, science predicted the landfall in time for people to escape the coming destruction. By Harris’s estimate, God consistently fails to protect humanity. Is Christianity and science separated or at odds? If you’re a Christian, you can never accept anything science says (this seems to be his point). Science triumphs religion because God never informed anyone of the coming destruction but science diligently discovered the true nature of the events. I concur with Harris that science is a great thing and it has helped society tremendously, but who gave researchers and scientist minds, critical thinking, and simply the ability of observation? Religion has no response for natural disasters? Our response should be repentance! (Luke 13:1-5)
Observing our frail bodies, Harris says that “design is much to be desired. (77)” In a sense, this is true. There is much to be desired in this world and our Christian response is to point to Christ who will one day fix the mess.
I will end on a positive note that I believe many of us need to recognize. Harris speaks about religious conflict around the world from many religions. A typical response is simply that we need to teach people how to be civil. Education is the key! But the hijackers of 9-11 were college education middle class citizens. Maybe education isn’t the answer. Harris gives his answer and I believe it to be very profound. Harris says, “The cause of their confusion is simple: They don’t know what it is like to really believe in God. (83)” If we really believed in God, we might care for all of God’s creation. From the baby in the womb who is about to be aborted to the inmate on death row, may we stand for life. From the outcast in the middle school lunch room to the junkie who makes a living in strip bars, may we stand for loving them. May we stand for the truth in all areas and consider the possible contradictions against the Good News of Jesus Christ that we have created.