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Author Topic:   Letters to a Christian Nation - Free Download
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9536
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.7


(3)
Message 1 of 51 (913558)
11-13-2023 1:30 PM


I read this booklet - which is a response to the phlegm he got from Christians after the release of his book "The End of Faith"- years ago but just tipped over it again. It's a free download here:
Letter to a Christian Nation - PDF Free Download
"You believe that the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that only those who place their faith in Jesus will find salvation after death. As a Christian, you believe these propositions not because they make you feel good, but because you think they are true.
Before I point out some of the problems with these beliefs, I would like to acknowledge that there are many points on which you and I agree. We agree, for instance, that if one of us is right, the other is wrong. The Bible is either the word of God, or it isn't. Either Jesus offers
humanity the one, true path to salvation (John 14:6), or he does not. We agree that to be a true Christian is to believe that all other faiths are mistaken, and profoundly so. If Christianity is correct, and I persist in my unbelief, I should expect to suffer the torments of hell. Worse still, I have persuaded others, and many close to me, to reject the very idea of God.
They too will languish in "eternal fire" (Matthew 25:41). If the basic doctrine of Christianity is correct, I have misused my life in the worst conceivable way. I admit this without a single caveat. The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me in
the least should suggest to you just how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are.
Of course, there are Christians who do not agree with either of us. There are Christians who consider other faiths to be equally valid paths to salvation. There are Christians who have no fear of hell and who do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. These Christians
often describe themselves as "religious liberals" or "religious moderates." From their point of view, you and I have both misunderstood what it means to be a person of faith. There is, we are assured, a vast and beautiful terrain between atheism and religious fundamentalism that generations of thoughtful Christians have quietly explored. According to liberals and moderates, faith is about mystery, and meaning, and community, and love. People make religion out of the full fabric of their lives, not out of mere beliefs."

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien. I am Mancunian. I am Brum. I am London. Olen Suomi Soy Barcelona. I am Ukraine.

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by Percy, posted 11-13-2023 4:19 PM Tangle has not replied
 Message 3 by Phat, posted 11-14-2023 8:17 PM Tangle has replied
 Message 4 by Phat, posted 11-14-2023 8:22 PM Tangle has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22676
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 2 of 51 (913560)
11-13-2023 4:19 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Tangle
11-13-2023 1:30 PM


In case some don't know, the author is Sam Harris.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Tangle, posted 11-13-2023 1:30 PM Tangle has not replied

  
Phat
Member
Posts: 18420
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003


(1)
Message 3 of 51 (913571)
11-14-2023 8:17 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Tangle
11-13-2023 1:30 PM


Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
I am reading the book. Oddly, it fits you to a tee, Tangle. In Harris's words, I see many of the same arguments that you have used in your rejection of faith. Harris is an apologist for the atheists.
Sam Harris writes:
The primary purpose of the book is to arm secularists in our
society, who believe that religion should be kept out of public policy, against their opponents on the Christian Right. Consequently, the "Christian" I address throughout is a Christian in a narrow sense of the term.
Such a person believes, at a minimum, that the Bible is the inspired
word of God and that only those who accept the divinity of Jesus Christ will experience salvation after death.
I believe that the Bible contains an inspired character in Jesus Christ. I do not believe that the Bible is word for word inspirational. It tells a story of ancient humans and of how one group of them came to believe in monotheism. Through the lens of the many authors, the belief in One God and the struggle to understand what He meant to them encapsulates the literature. God (if God exists) speaks to people where they are at culturally and at that present moment in recorded history. At best, one would imagine the text as indicative of the authors understanding of God at that moment. God certainly needs no book to talk to us. As for divinity, accepting Christ is (for us anyway) accepting the fulfilled character of God. As a Christian, I do not consider myself Christian Right.
Sam Harris writes:
I have little doubt that liberals and moderates find the eerie certainties Right to be as troubling as I do. It is my hope, however, that they will also begin to see that the respect they demand for their own religious beliefs gives shelter to extremists of all faiths.
Harris does have a thoughtful argument. In a society with freedom of speech, extremists of all stripes are allowed to express themselves. The problem is when their mode of expression causes harm to others in the name of their god. As I read on, I see a lot of points that have been raised by the peanut gallery before...not just Tangle, but AZPaul3, Theodoric, jar, and our dearly departed ringo.
Oh! I see candle2 also. To wit:
Harris writes:
If our worldview were put to a vote, notions of "intelligent design" would defeat the science of biology by nearly three to one. This is troubling, as nature offers no compelling evidence for an intelligent designer and countless examples of unintelligent design...
I never understood Biblical Creationists, but I consider myself a Cosmological Creationist in that I believe that God initiated Creation.
Harris has some choice words about creationists.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Tangle, posted 11-13-2023 1:30 PM Tangle has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by Tangle, posted 11-15-2023 4:08 AM Phat has replied
 Message 8 by Tangle, posted 11-16-2023 3:13 AM Phat has not replied

  
Phat
Member
Posts: 18420
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003


Message 4 of 51 (913572)
11-14-2023 8:22 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Tangle
11-13-2023 1:30 PM


Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
SH writes:
more than half of our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago.
I disagree. I am a creationist only in that I believe that God initiated the process. In my mind, *how* He did it is largely irrelevant. The Bible never specifically mentions 6000 years. The only analogy in scripture that I have noted is the idea that a thousand years is as a day to the Lord. Thus, (and it could be argued) the process of creation took 7000 years. Much of that would be quite easy and quick for an omnipotent Being...much like the Big Bang event transforming a singularity into a vast Universe is also a quick process. Other aspects of creation do take longer. It takes awhile for a planet to develop a liveable environment...(varying among species) It also (and more importantly) takes awhile for homo sapians to develop language, empathy, awareness, and cognitive skills.
One can argue that this is all simply a process within the definition of evolution and that no Creator need be involved. I do not see it that way. I *will* admit that humans tend to anthropomorphize gods, Gods and GOD. We also have a propensity to essentially deify our own individual and collective wisdom. While it is "easy" to dismiss God as a concept and belief, it is harder to create a better future for ourselves.
SH writes:
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, even to one's friends. The truth, however, is that many of us may not care about the fate of civilization. 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.
According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will return only after things have gone horribly awry here on earth.
I believe that humans need to try and do our best. We cannot nor should not await a rescue, though it is no sin to pray for one, especially if you are a Christian living in Gaza or Ukraine. Realists see no God and in many cases do not want One anyway. My only comment in this case is that if one prays for a rescue, don't count on either the United Nations or the United States to be your rescuer anytime soon. Progressives are free to continue voting in the best possible candidates, but I fear that none will be good enough.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Tangle, posted 11-13-2023 1:30 PM Tangle has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9536
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 7 of 51 (913575)
11-15-2023 4:08 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Phat
11-14-2023 8:17 PM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Well, you get points for starting the book. I hope you can finish it.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien. I am Mancunian. I am Brum. I am London. Olen Suomi Soy Barcelona. I am Ukraine.

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Phat, posted 11-14-2023 8:17 PM Phat has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Phat, posted 11-21-2023 6:00 PM Tangle has replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9536
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 8 of 51 (913580)
11-16-2023 3:13 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Phat
11-14-2023 8:17 PM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Double post - Bad Gateway problem.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien. I am Mancunian. I am Brum. I am London. Olen Suomi Soy Barcelona. I am Ukraine.

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Phat, posted 11-14-2023 8:17 PM Phat has not replied

  
Phat
Member
Posts: 18420
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003


Message 9 of 51 (913607)
11-21-2023 6:00 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Tangle
11-15-2023 4:08 AM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
SH writes:
Either the Bible is just an ordinary book, written by mortals, or it isn't. Either Christ was divine, or he was not. If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the basic doctrine of Christianity is false.
Agreed.
SH writes:
If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the history of Christian theology is the story of bookish men parsing a collective delusion.
If Christianity specifically were true, humanity itself would be parsing a collective delusion.
SH writes:
If the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are some very grim surprises in store for nonbelievers like myself. You understand this.
Personally, I only see grim surprises for those who continually and purposefully resist the idea. By that I do not mean the idea of the supernatural literal ism. I specifically mean the acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ Himself. As a believer who changed his world view one day, I do not see Jesus merely at the level of Allah, or Buddha, or even a flip-pin spaghetti monster. Perhaps many of you do.
SH writes:
At least half of the American population understands this. So let us be honest with ourselves: in the fullness of time, one side is really going towin this argument, and the other side is really going to lose.
Or maybe we all will fail. We will fail to do what has to be done to make our society worthy of a future. We will fail at global generosity. We will fail to make a lasting peace among ourselves. We will fail to stop the pressure from the fact that is climate change and global warming. We will fail to be a species deserving of a future, if not an eternal one.
Jesus did not come to mess up peoples right to be human. He offers a choice rather than an ultimatum. Answer me this, though. If there were an ultimatum, would you complain about the unfairness of it or would you accept the authority of reality?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Tangle, posted 11-15-2023 4:08 AM Tangle has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Tangle, posted 11-22-2023 2:44 AM Phat has not replied
 Message 11 by Percy, posted 11-22-2023 10:31 AM Phat has not replied
 Message 12 by Percy, posted 11-22-2023 10:54 AM Phat has replied
 Message 13 by Percy, posted 11-22-2023 11:09 AM Phat has replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9536
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 10 of 51 (913608)
11-22-2023 2:44 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Phat
11-21-2023 6:00 PM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Phat:
Answer me this, though. If there were an ultimatum, would you complain about the unfairness of it or would you accept the authority of reality?
I have no idea what you're talking about!
Have you not got passed the first page yet?

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien. I am Mancunian. I am Brum. I am London. Olen Suomi Soy Barcelona. I am Ukraine.

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Phat, posted 11-21-2023 6:00 PM Phat has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22676
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.6


(1)
Message 11 of 51 (913609)
11-22-2023 10:31 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Phat
11-21-2023 6:00 PM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Phat writes:
SH writes:
If the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are some very grim surprises in store for nonbelievers like myself. You understand this.
You could replace "Christianity" with any religion. "If the basic tenets of Islam are true...", "If the basic tenets of Buddhism are true...", "If the basic tenets of Hinduism are true...", "If the basic tenets of Judaism are true...", etc., and that's just the major religions of today. There are many more minor religions, and a couple thousand years ago it was a different panoply of religions, and a couple thousand years before that yet a different one.
I'd be surprised if Harris doesn't say something like this at some point. Christians are never able to step outside themselves and ask, "We Christians feel exactly the same about Islam as Islamists feel about Christianity. We can't both be right, yet they are as convinced of their rightness as we are of ours. How can that be?" Fill in any other religion for Islam.
Meanwhile those of us watching this ridiculous contest for souls from the sidelines know that they couldn't all be right and that the changing nature of all religions over time where the current generation of believers always think they just happen to be alive when the one, right and true variant has been found means that no other conclusion makes sense but that they are all wrong.
That's why my religion is the only one, right and true religion. It's not actually a religion, of course, but religionists think that no religion is still a religion, so I'm just putting this in terms they can understand. My religion has but one tenet: All religions throughout all time have been wrong, including the current crop, but excluding my religion. Naturally, when I say they're wrong I'm only talking about their supernatural claims. Like A Tale of Two Cities, which takes place in the very real cities of London and Paris, almost all its events are fictional.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Phat, posted 11-21-2023 6:00 PM Phat has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22676
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 12 of 51 (913610)
11-22-2023 10:54 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Phat
11-21-2023 6:00 PM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Percy in Message 11 writes:
I'd be surprised if Harris doesn't say something like this at some point.
I just read the first few pages of Letter to a Christian Nation, and Harris makes precisely this point, much better than I ever could. Your post went through those first few pages and ignored the most important point, that Christians are on the same unsolid ground as all other religions when it comes to proving the basic tenets of their faith.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Phat, posted 11-21-2023 6:00 PM Phat has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by Phat, posted 11-22-2023 3:48 PM Percy has replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22676
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 13 of 51 (913611)
11-22-2023 11:09 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Phat
11-21-2023 6:00 PM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
I'm going to move on with my day now, but in the past fifteen minutes I just read up through page 9. It feels to me like, even with most of the book remaining, there's already a lot there for you to think about.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Phat, posted 11-21-2023 6:00 PM Phat has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by Phat, posted 11-22-2023 4:14 PM Percy has replied
 Message 17 by nwr, posted 11-22-2023 6:55 PM Percy has replied

  
Phat
Member
Posts: 18420
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003


Message 14 of 51 (913612)
11-22-2023 3:48 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Percy
11-22-2023 10:54 AM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Percy writes:
Your post went through those first few pages and ignored the most important point, that Christians are on the same unsolid ground as all other religions when it comes to proving the basic tenets of their faith.
I keep forgetting that I am addressing non-believers and that Harris is himself one of you. In my belief, all religions are not the same in that they are not all different paths to different gods. There are likely some members of every faith who have the same God. The way I was taught, the only way is through Jesus Christ. He finds us...we don't find Him. For this reason, it's all about relationships and acceptance. There will be some Christians with a solid relationship with Jesus. There will be some Muslims with a solid relationship with Jesus. There will be some Jews (Messianic Jews) with a solid relationship and acceptance of Jesus. Eventually, there will be some atheists who accept Jesus, perhaps even unconsciously. Jar used to always say that Christianity is about what we do. My only comment is that it is very unnatural to do what is required for no other reason than the acts of service themselves. Im still trying to trust my inner conscience more than I do my fearful brain. I see boogie men behind every cloud.
I am also selfish by nature. It would be very hard for me to let go of everything.
My point is that Harris assumes no god from the outset and then points out the similarity of all religions. I of course reject this world view.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by Percy, posted 11-22-2023 10:54 AM Percy has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by Percy, posted 11-22-2023 5:58 PM Phat has seen this message but not replied

  
Phat
Member
Posts: 18420
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003


Message 15 of 51 (913613)
11-22-2023 4:14 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Percy
11-22-2023 11:09 AM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Tangle has used this argument against me (or to teach me) before.
Sam Harris writes:
Consider: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian. And yet you do not find their reasons compelling.
The Koran repeatedly declares that it is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. Muslims believe this as fully as you believe the Bible's account of itself. There is a vast literature describing the life of Muhammad that, from the point of view of Islam, proves that he was the most recent Prophet of God. (...)The truth is, you know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims. Isn't it obvious that Muslims are fooling themselves? Isn't it obvious that anyone who thinks that the Koran is the perfect word of the creator of the universe has not read the book critically?
Isn't it obvious that the doctrine of Islam represents a near-perfect barrier to honest inquiry? Yes, these things are obvious. Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way I view all religions.
I would wager that many of you agree with Sam Harris's view on "all religions". I keep my beliefs despite honest criticism from the likes of Harris and others. Perhaps one way that I differ from you is that my belief is very important to me.
Jesus is very important to me. To many of you, He is but a character in a storybook written by humans.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by Percy, posted 11-22-2023 11:09 AM Percy has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by Tangle, posted 11-23-2023 2:36 AM Phat has not replied
 Message 19 by Percy, posted 11-23-2023 8:39 AM Phat has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22676
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 16 of 51 (913614)
11-22-2023 5:58 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Phat
11-22-2023 3:48 PM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Much of what you say isn't related to anything Sam Harris says in his book, so to help keep the thread on topic I won't respond to those portions.
Phat writes:
Percy writes:
Your post went through those first few pages and ignored the most important point, that Christians are on the same unsolid ground as all other religions when it comes to proving the basic tenets of their faith.
...
My point is that Harris assumes no god from the outset and then points out the similarity of all religions. I of course reject this world view.
Expressing it another way, Christianity is similar to all other religions in that adherents believe they can prove the basic tenets of their faith. Another way of saying this is that they all believe their faith is the one with the correct set of beliefs. This seems self-evidently true. On what basis do you reject this?
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by Phat, posted 11-22-2023 3:48 PM Phat has seen this message but not replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 6435
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.7


Message 17 of 51 (913615)
11-22-2023 6:55 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Percy
11-22-2023 11:09 AM


Re: Sam Harris: Letters to a Christian Nation
Percy in Message 13 writes:
, there's already a lot there for you to think about.
When Phat thinks about it, he will be guided by his own biases.
Harris presents a pretty good argument, as those of us not committed to a religion can see. But that's not how Phat will see it.

Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by Percy, posted 11-22-2023 11:09 AM Percy has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 20 by Percy, posted 11-23-2023 8:54 AM nwr has replied

  
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