Sam Harris

28 November 2006

Who is Sam Harris?

Sam Harris is a philosophy graduate who is currently pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience. In addition to writing regular columns for Free Inquiry magazine and the Los Angeles Times, Harris has recently gained a good deal of fame (or notoriety) for authoring two books that are critical of religion. His first book, The End of Faith, published in 2005, harshly criticizes religion and faith. The book was very popular, becoming a national best seller and winning the 2005 PEN award for nonfiction.

Due to this success, Harris followed up with a very brief book entitled Letter to a Christian Nation. While his first book was critical of religion in general, this book (written in 2006) was directly critical of Christianity in particular. This second book has also enjoyed great success and Harris now makes frequent media appearances discussing the dangers of religious faith.

What Does He Have to Say?

Harris primarily argues against religion on the basis of evil deeds done by religious adherents. For example, he argues that Islam is inherently a religion of violence which encourages martyrdom and terrorism, which has led to many problems in the world at large and the Middle East particularly. He argues that Christianity has endorsed superstition and dangerous irrationality in the past during the Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials, and that this irrationality continues today in the form of opposition to gay marriage, abortion rights, and embryonic stem cell research.

Despite his strong claim that religion is positively irrational, neither The End of Faith nor Letter to a Christian Nation make any attempt to address arguments for religion such as those provided here at The Skeptical Christian. Harris seems to be content calling Christian beliefs absurd and assuming that rational persons will agree.

Moreover, his claims about the horrors of religious faith, even if entirely accurate, simply fail to address any relevant point. It is illogical to dismiss the truth value of the Christian religion because, in the present and the past, some people who call themselves Christians have committed horrible misdeeds.

Book Reviews

1. The End of Faith

2. Letter to a Christian Nation

Other Responses to Sam Harris

1. Letter to a Maladjusted Misotheist by J.P. Holding. This is an ongoing response to Letter to a Christian Nation

2. Among the Nonbelievers: The Tedium of Dogmatic Atheism by Chris Lehmann. This is a critical review of The End of Faith.



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