On 4/23/18, someone suggested I read a book by Sam Harris entitled “Letter to a Christian Nation.” I closely read the parts I found worth addressing and skimmed over the meritless fillery–which, in my “unhumble” opinion, accounted for almost 80% of Harris’ book. As a C-WIP (Christian Work in Progress), I don’t profess to be an exemplary representation of any aspect of my Christian faith, and I’m willing to admit that.
I believe you’ll find that my self-candor and religious background uniquely qualify me as host to “Jay’s Dinnertable Truth” (JDT). Raised Pentecostal, I not only believe in the manifestation of various spiritual gifts (“miracles”) but have also experienced them, experiences I’ll divulge in future JDT blogs.
JDT is a bimonthly blog I’m starting to address and debunk fallacies aimed at undermining the Christian faith. In debunking fallacies, I strive to present the most concise and simplest dinnertable truth, logic, and examples. Because prison is a melting pot of many ethnicities and religious faiths, I’ve had countless opportunities to encounter all sorts of anti-Christian fallacies. I have yet to be stumped by any of them.
In early parts of Harris’ book, I noticed numerous red flags that I calculated to a “2.2” average on my Fallacy Barometer (1 = Obviously Fallacious 2 = Noticeably Fallacious 3 = Debatably Fallacious). For instance, on PAGE 4 (1 = OF) Harris states “There are Christians who consider other faiths to be equally valid paths to salvation…have no fear of hell and…do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus.” Here, he lumps the Christian wolves in with the Christian sheep even though they adhere to non-Christian beliefs. His sweeping generalization of who Christians are is no more credible than a wolf claiming to be a sheep by virtue of wearing sheep’s clothing. But the Bible distinguishes between wolves and sheep by judging them by their deeds, i.e., their fruit (see Matthew 7:15-23).
Next, on PAGE 5 (2 = NF) Harris states that “Either the Bible is just an ordinary book, written by mortals, or it isn’t.” Harris oversimplifies the issue and overlooks the fact that Christians themselves believe the Bible is written by mortals. Yet they also believe it’s the “inspired” word of God. For example, if I were to have you to write me a letter using my words, the letter is inspired by me but handwritten by you. So in this context, it is ludicrous to characterize the Bible as ordinary and thus farcical merely because God used man to inscribe His words.
Moving to PAGE 11 (3 = DF) , Harris states that “[T]he teachings of the Bible are so muddled and self-contradictory that it was possible for Christians to happily burn heretics alive for five long centuries.” Harris was referring to misguided indignants, including those whose interpretations led to the Inquisition. However, even Saul of Tarsus misconstrued Scripture before the Lord literally enlightened him, renamed him Paul, and repurposed him from persecuting Christians to loving them. Moreover, it is common knowledge that egocentric megalomaniacs–wolves operating under the guise of enlightened and pious sheep–who assume spiritual leadership roles are exceedingly prone to disastrous misinterpretations, e.g., Jim Jones, Charles Manson, etc. Hence, Harris exhumes and passes off dead issues as new.
On PAGE 13 (2 = NF), Harris, in referring to 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, states that “If you think that Jesus taught only the Golden Rule and love of one’s neighbor, you should reread the New Testament. Pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display when Jesus returns to earth trailing clouds of glory.” This statement is misleading because it suggests that Jesus teaches Christians to love while, in the same breath, advocating violence. There is no inconsistency here. For God Himself says vengeance is mine. And Jesus, our unblemished Lord, is also qualified to exact vengeance, whereas His blemished followers are not. As our heavenly Father, God (His Son, Jesus, and angels) alone is authorized to both admonish Christians not to fight one another and to judge and punish those who stand against Him.
But in Harris’ defense, he made a strong argument on PAGES 14-19 (3 = DF), that is, slavery, which we universally view today as wrong, was condoned in the New Testament. He points out that while Jesus never condoned slavery, his apostles did in various New Testament Scriptures. Harris’ argument deserves serious consideration because he provided hard evidence in support of his argument. Even so, I discovered numerous contextual factors that could explain away the apostles’ condoning of slavery. On this point, there were a number of traditional practices which God did not agree with but allowed because His people had hardened hearts.
For example, God made an exception for divorce, not because He condoned divorce but because He knew the rebellious nature of His people. Likewise, although apostles claimed it better to not marry so one’s desire to please God would not be divided between Him and one’ mate, they also encouraged young men and women unable to overcome sexual temptations to marry rather than burn with lust. It’s no different from parents who admonish their children to remain abstinent yet give them condoms to avoid an STD should they succumb to lust.
In addition, in the fullness of time, attitudes toward traditions inevitably change and evolve, as they have toward slavery among civilized nations. More importantly, it would be absurd to literally apply many past biblical traditions to today’s societies. For example, would it make more sense to advise metropolitan Christians against coveting their neighbor’s livestock or simply against their neighbor’s possessions? Clearly, the latter is more applicable.
Harris squanders the rest of his letter on nitpicking subjective aspects of Christianity that are at best marginally relevant