A Google news alert came in today about a new book called A Letter to an Atheist Nation. I did a search for it, but instead found this post here criticizing the Sam Harris book A Letter to a Christian Nation. I couldn't resist responding to it so here is what I wrote:
Hello, Google led me to your blog and it seems like I am the only atheist to have read this post so I will chime in here.
I found a few points to disagree with you in your review of Sam's book. Here we go:
1. You say books like Deuteronomy and Leviticus are irrelevant to the modern Christian life. I think the question Sam is raising is how could a loving god ever promote such barbaric rules in the first place? If Yahweh is perfect, how could he change his mind? It also seems like you are choosing to interpret the word "fulfill" in a non-standard way. To me the plain reading is Jesus came to support those laws. Finally a large portion of Christians still view laws from the Old Testament as very important and use it in support of their anti-homosexual agenda, and idolatry of the ten commandments.
2. Please give a link to your Dawkins quote. I can't find it. From the following article:
He did say, "Yet I believe I am correct that not a single one of the 535 members of Congress will admit to the fact. A good many have got to be lying, and who can blame them?"
I would hate to accuse you of fabricating a direct quote, so a link would be appreciated.
3. I'm not sure what to make of your criticism of science changing. That is the whole point of science's built-in self correcting system. And I think Christianity has changed a lot during the past 2000 years. For example modern Christians no longer have slaves, persecute Jews, or burn witches. But as Sam Harris has stated, is this thanks to the religion itself, or outside secular influences?
4. Your quote from 1 Timothy 1:9-11 seems to come from the NIV version of the Bible. The KJV says "menstealers", which are probably those slave traders that kidnap people to sell. Again this is Sam's point, you are cherry picking one dubious quote. You have to admit that the New Testament as a whole is not making any effort to stop slavery.
5. What do you think about your friend's quote about Gandhi?
6. I find it odd that you claim scientific theories like the Big Bang or evolution take faith. I don't have any faith in the Big Bang. There is evidence for it so it seems reasonable, but I am open to future correction. As a skeptic I have to judge each claim based on the evidence for it, and I choose not to believe anything based on faith.
7. Why do you want to believe in two impossible things? I'm not really sure what the point is of your last sentence.
Now to comment on the comments above:
To Joe: I am not going to disagree that some atheists are arrogant jerks. You can find bad apples in any bunch. As you are well aware there are plenty of bad apples among Christians as well. (See those Phelps people protesting at military funerals with posters saying "God Hates Fags". However, don't take criticism for "bashing". I think we should have the right to question all claims and religious ideas should not be exempt from questioning.
I'm not sure what you mean by God not being fair. Isn't fairness a part of justice? Shouldn't a perfect god be perfectly just? If you believe our legal systems have grown out of the moral law written in our hearts by Yahweh, then you should agree that the punishment should fit the crime. Purse snatchers don't get hanged and serial killers don't get fined $100.
To Max: As others have said, if atheism is a faith, then not collecting stamps is a hobby. Atheism is nothing more than the disbelief in god(s). No faith is involved. Does it take faith not to believe in unicorns or fairies? Atheism is the default position. The theist makes a positive claim and must provide evidence to support it. Either you agree and become a theist or you disagree and remain an atheist. Keep in mind I am talking about general atheism as a synonym for non-theism. There are strong atheist who do make positive claims saying no gods exist for which your argument might hold. However I am not one of those atheists and I have not met many so I think they are a minority in the atheist community. Even Dawkins rates himself a "6" on his scale of belief where "1" is a complete 100% sure theist, and a "7" is a complete 100% sure atheist. For most scientists belief is spread on a spectrum from highly likely to highly unlikely.
To Mark: I agree, many atheists are obsessed with god(s). I am one of them. I enjoy discussing theology and different possibilities of existence. These are big questions and it is natural to be curious about them. I certainly don't hate the idea of a god. I think it would be great if a god existed, but I just don't see the evidence for the kind of god described in the Christian religion. I am not sure why you need a god to be humble though. There are plenty of people out there smarter and more able than I so I can certainly be humble about that.
You also said atheists don't like being told what to believe, but isn't that true for anyone? Do you want to be told to believe in Allah or Buddha? Everyone wants to find truth their own way.
Most atheists just want to live in a free society where everyone can believe whatever they like as long as those beliefs don't hurt other people. We are not trying to take away your bibles or churches. However in a public forum such as the Internet expect your views to be challenged. These discussion are not persecution or hate filled attacks. At least, they are not supposed to be, but remember the Internet is full of fanatics of all flavors!
I edited one grammatical typo since copying my comment to my blog here, but there are probably more!