Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

I read Letter to a Christian Nation last night. It isn't a very thick book, so I was able to finish it rather quickly. As the title suggests, this book is directed at the Christians in America, as a response to all the hostile letters he received from people who call themselves 'Christians', following his first book, "The End of Faith". Even so, I think his arguments are applicable to all religions in all nations. As you can imagine, the author doesn't try to be nice anymore in this book. He doesn't beat around the bush but gets straight to the point.

He begins by quoting Scripture and questioning the extremisms of the Old Testament as well as the capricious nature of the New Testament. Again, I feel this is futile, because Christians are not going to accept Bible interpretations from a non-Christian. I'm pretty sure some preacher out there would've already come up with a good spin for those pernicious quotes. But I do like Harris' definition of atheism:

"Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs."

For the remainder of the book, Harris brought up some good points regarding the clash of science and religion. He argued on various issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, condom use in underdeveloped countries and sex education. He pointed out that the Christian stand on these issues, although biblical, will very likely bring about more harm than good in the long run.

Lastly, Harris mentioned that Scandinavian countries are among the least religious societies in the world but also the healthiest in terms of life expectancy, literacy, income per capita, educational attainment, gender equality, homocide rate and infant mortality. They are also the most charitable in terms of percentage of wealth devoted to social welfare programs and foreign aid. We in Malaysia, though, are still struggling to get there. It is going to be difficult because religion is so deeply ingrained in our national ideology - the Rukunegara. But, I believe, as societies become more and more advanced, and people get more and more educated, they will see less and less need for religion. This natural progression from paganism to polytheism to monotheism to atheism appears to be a logical evolution of human society.

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1 Comments:

At 6:42 PM, November 08, 2006, Blogger silentsoliloquy said...

"This natural progression from paganism to polytheism to monotheism to atheism appears to be a logical evolution of human society."

I think this form of sociocultural evolution is - apart from being out of vogue - rather inaccurate. Society is far too complex to be reduced into a single chain of inevitable events.

 

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