Let me preface this by saying I realize it’s written for Baptist Press (“News with a Christian Perspective”).
John Avant writes:
I just read one of the great evangelistic books of our day — “Letters to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris.
Actually, there’s just one “Letter.” It takes up the whole book. Seriously, how do you “read the book” but get the title wrong?
Anyway, Avant mentions that Harris is an “evangelical atheist”: passionate, wanting to defend his faith, sharing his beliefs with others, etc. He then adds that Harris is not actually “evangelical” (by Avant’s definition) because for that adjective to be true, you must be “sharing good news with friends” and atheism is not good news.
According to [Harris] there is no God, no ultimate meaning or purpose in life, no design for the universe, no ultimate justice from the hand of God and no loving plan from the heart of a Redeemer-God. After just a few short years on a small insignificant place in an accidental universe, it will all be over for you. You then will rot in the ground, just like any dead animal you see by the side of the road. Not exactly good news.
So instead of opting to find value in the life we do have and understanding the beauty of the world we actually live in, Avant opts for the fairy tale of religion. What bothers me is that Avant and others like him would rather live in a world of false hope and beliefs instead of actively searching for the truth and come to a better understanding of our place in the universe. One of the false dichotomies religious people often create is that a religious life is one of hope and optimism while atheism can only bring you sadness and depression.
It’s not surprising Avant would say this, though. He goes on to say:
But if I really believed what [Harris] believed, I would be in despair. I would be living every moment in emptiness and maybe even terror –- the dread that all that matters is ticking away with every passing second. No hope. No future.
That really would be a wasted, worthless life. Thankfully, atheists don’t feel that way at all. We know this is the only life we have– there’s no evidence of reincarnation or hopes of an immortal life in Heaven– and because of that, we cherish life even more fully.
I’m fortunate to never have gone to an atheist funeral, but from what I hear, that is one of the greatest celebrations of a life-well-lived you will ever see. Sure, it’s sad to know the person is gone, but everyone shares memories they had with the deceased and talk about how they were impacted by the person.
Avant seems to think death would be a happy reprieve from an atheist life.
At least Avant mentions that he is appalled by any so-called Christians who write mean, threatening emails to Harris– that’s not what Jesus would do.
A better journalist might have at least contacted an atheist to see if these views were accurate. Avant’s lack of understanding of what atheists do believe in just perpetuates the stereotypes that atheists are these nihilistic people who have no beliefs.
We have plenty of beliefs. Positive beliefs. Knowing that we’re not the center of God’s universe doesn’t make our life any less precious.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Baptist Press, Christian, John Avant, Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris, evangelical, God, reincarnation, Heaven, Jesus[/tags]