Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

I had 7 minutes to spare last weekend, so I stopped by a bookstore and read Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.

It’s a great introduction to the atheist world for anyone who knows nothing about it. For those who understand the basics (like what State-Church separation is or why atheists feel the way they do about religion), the book might be too basic. It didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t read before, and I’m sure the same goes for many people out there, atheists or otherwise. However, the statistics on how red states have more crimes and divorces than blue states may be of interest to many.

Here’s what really bothers me. On a page completely filled with writing (no gaps, only one new paragraph), I counted 197 words. There are a total of 96 pages in the book.

How short is that?

Well, Tuesdays With Morrie is a fairly quick read. It had 237 words on a particular page filled with dialogue (and the indentations/space associated with it). There are 208 pages in the book.

So Letter to a Christian Nation is not even half as long as Tuesdays with Morrie in terms of pages, with even fewer words.

It’s an essay sold for an exorbitant amount of money ($16.95, full price).

Still, it’s better than nothing, and as I’m writing this, Dawkins and Harris‘ books are ranked 4 and 5, respectively, on Amazon. That’s incredible, considering how books like these are rarely popular.

[tags]Letters to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom, Amazon[/tags]

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen aka Ir

    My husband just bought this yesterday, after seeing an ad for it a few days ago. He said that at least it was discounted where he bought it! He read me a bit from the intro to the effect of “it’s interesting that although Christians claim to believe in love and forgiveness, the most hostile responses have been from them – and they claim Biblical predecent for this behavior – I know this because one of my angriest correspondents always quotes me the chapter and verse!”

    FWIW, I just posted a Sam Harris Interview on the ebay atheist blog.

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    My question is this: did the book strike you as little more than a concise summary of End of Faith, or did it offer something new?

  • http://www.myfreethoughts.com SH

    Reading your comments about the number of words in his book made me smile. I wonder if Harris has anything of interest or importance to say to the world. I was unimpressed by his first book and disgusted by some of the views expressed in it and in his later essays and interviews. I have no reason to believe that his new book will be any better, so he will not be getting my $$.

  • Wilsoner

    What a smarmy posting. As an atheist, I celebrate Sam’s book, and like that it is a best-seller. You are such an unbelievably negative person and play into the sterotypes of all atheists being cynics. What a waste.

  • http://www.friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Wilsoner– Smarmy? I’m not sure this fits the definition… Actually, I’m thrilled his book is doing well. I think it’d be wonderful if more people read it. But compared to Harris’ brilliant other work End of Faith, Letters to a Christian Nation is just not up to par.
    And call me cynical, but the book really is freakishly overpriced.

    – Hemant

  • Rob

    Poetry often comes in small volumes. This book (while I’d agree with “freakishly overpriced”) is an anthem of the atheist position. It is concise, complete and focused.

    My one complaint/concern is that in the first two pages Sam insults his putative reader (Christians) so completely that their shields are up at full strength. It is not likely that any of the eloquent, sharp and beautiful arguments presented later will pierce the resistance inspired early on.

    Which gets me to, “Is there anything new?” Little, but better and more concisely stated.

    That said, I continue to seek the “magic bullet” that will sneak past a fundamentalist Christian’s memetic immune system and pick the lock that prevents them from using reason to assess Sam’s points, or the arguments of any atheist.

    What will actually allow/aid a Christian to escape his belief? I fear this book is not it.

  • ken

    I read the entire book in one sitting. In a bookstore. With time for pauses and contemplation every few pages, I finished it in less than two hours. I’ve always thought that most books have one or two key ideas that could be distilled into a magazine article, but are stretched across hundreds of pages. In fact, that’s how I feel about most non-fiction books.

    Not so with Letter to a Christian Nation.

    Then I bought the book because I was feeling guilty, and I wanted to reread it.

    As an atheist, I found it deeply moving and inspiring. I was raised to tolerate everyone’s faith equally. Like so many, I accepted without considering the value that religion plays in people’s lives and grew up understanding that it was wrong to question someone’s faith.

    Sam Harris stirs something in me. He says what I’ve always known was true, but have been too polite to say. I now consider myself a convert from vague agnosticism to strong atheism.

  • http://thinkagain.us RC Metcalf

    You may be interested in a new book that has just been published in response to Sam Harris. It is entitled “Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point” by RC Metcalf. It is available through Amazon and B&N or through the author’s website at http://thinkagain.us. Please let others know about this important work!

  • Richard Wade

    Oh wow. Dr. R.C. Metcalf has posted a link to his website about Dr. R.C. Metcalf, telling us about a book written by Dr. R.C. Metcalf, published by Dr. R. C. Metcalf, complete with glowing reviews by Dr. R.C. Metcalf, Dr. R.C. Metcalf conceived by Mr. and Mrs. Metcalf…

    His doctorate is described as being “in the medical profession.” That’s like saying your nationality is “Scandinavian.”

  • Chris Conner

    Apparently Mr. Metcalf leaves the same response on every site that has reviews/feedback on Harris’ book.

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