Letter from an Atheist

There is delicious irony to what I have been reading over this holiday season: Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Both authors are what Douglas Adams called himself . . . a radical atheist (the "radical" being necessary to ensure that no one could accuse him, or them, of being agnostic). At less than 100 pages, you can read Harris' book in a couple of hours; Dawkins' is more daunting but filled with proofs against what he refers to as the "God hypothesis".

Let me quote the last two paragraphs of the Harris book so that you get some sense of the power in the arguments of the two . . . one a dazzling essayist and the other a passionate scientist:

"This letter is the product of failure -- the failure of the many brilliant attacks upon religion that preceded it, the failure of our schools to announce the death of God in a way that each generation can understand, the failure of the media to criticize the abject religious certainties of our public figures -- failures great and small that have kept almost every society on this earth muddling over God and despising those who muddle differently.

"Nonbelievers like myself stand beside you, dumbstruck by the Muslim hordes who chant death to whole nations of the living. But we stand dumbstruck by you as well -- by your denial of tangible reality, by the suffering you create in service to your religious myths, and by your attachment to an imaginary God. This letter has been an expression of that amazement -- and, perhaps, of a little hope."

Regardless of whether one is ready to give up on belief in a personal God, both books are worth reading if for no other reason than for the light they shed on the roots of religious hatred, which drives many Christians and Muslims alike.

Second Life in 2007

Fragmentation of Narrative