We found 33 Reddit comments about Letter to a Christian Nation. Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.
Sam Harris is good at being the "gentle" voice of New Atheism. Someone mentioned the End of Faith, check out Letter to a Christian Nation as well.
You might find it worthwhile to read the book your parents gave you, then sit down with them for maybe half an hour a week or so, and critique a chapter, pointing out flaws or logical errors.
After that, you can go through the book you gave them together.
Random selection of some of my favorites to help you expand your horizons:
The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan is a great introduction to scientific skepticism.
Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris is a succinct refutation of Christianity as it's generally practiced in the US employing crystal-clear logic.
Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor by Anthony Everitt is the best biography of one of the most interesting men in history, in my personal opinion.
Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski is a jaw-dropping book on history, journalism, travel, contemporary events, philosophy.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a great tome about... everything. Physics, history, biology, art... Plus he's funny as hell. (Check out his In a Sunburned Country for a side-splitting account of his trip to Australia).
The Annotated Mona Lisa by Carol Strickland is a thorough primer on art history. Get it before going to any major museum (Met, Louvre, Tate Modern, Prado, etc).
Not the Impossible Faith by Richard Carrier is a detailed refutation of the whole 'Christianity could not have survived the early years if it weren't for god's providence' argument.
Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman are six of the easier chapters from his '63 Lectures on Physics delivered at CalTech. If you like it and really want to be mind-fucked with science, his QED is a great book on quantum electrodynamics direct from the master.
Lucy's Legacy by Donald Johanson will give you a really great understanding of our family history (homo, australopithecus, ardipithecus, etc). Equally good are Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors by Nicholas Wade and Mapping Human History by Steve Olson, though I personally enjoyed Before the Dawn slightly more.
Memory and the Mediterranean by Fernand Braudel gives you context for all the Bible stories by detailing contemporaneous events from the Levant, Italy, Greece, Egypt, etc.
After the Prophet by Lesley Hazleton is an awesome read if you don't know much about Islam and its early history.
edit: Also, check out the Reasonable Doubts podcast.
I've read the Letter to a Christian Nation and the Moral Landscape. Like the derpy gentleman below said, LTCN is very short and easy to read. I'd recommend starting with that over the Moral Landscape, which is a denser book.
Both of Sam Harris's Books, "The End of Faith:Religion, Terror and the future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" are life changing masterworks.
Congrats! You're officially on my "you're fucking ignorant" list.
Go read his books. Letter to a Christian Nation is a great place to start. And yes he does support his stance in many different positions. You can check it out of your local library.
Edit - added link to Amazon.
Letter to a Christian Nation is short, accessible, and always relevant. It's written as a response to the critics of Harris' first book, The End of Faith, but you certainly don't need to have read The End of Faith to appreciate what he says in Letter.
Sam is perhaps a generation younger than Hitchens, Dawkins, and even Dennett, but as others in this thread have pointed out, he tends to be more reserved, collected and cool in his talks, debates, and interviews. He does use some dry humor, often to pretty good effect.
I think Sam's address at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival is probably one of the most well-written and compelling anti-religion speeches I've ever seen. And although the moderator is pretty awful, he has some similar powerful talking points in the Truthdig debate against Chris Hedges of the same year.
My standard recommendation here is Letter to a Christian Nation. It's a smallish book with a message directed straight at "moderate" Christians.
Why People Believe Weird Things - Michael Shermer
Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris
Sam Harris - Letter to a Christian Nation
You may not get far trying the argument route with your parents, but the fact that they’re willing to listen is a very good sign.
I strongly recommend Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation. It’s a great introduction to the idea that atheists aren’t evil. It’s a non-confrontational hugs-all-around sort of book, perfect for this sort of situation (assuming your parents are American).
Let me first say this: you are an amazing and incredibly courageous woman! There are two things I have found to be the most important in life. A life without them is one stripped of its humanity and flavor. Indeed, people have died for them, fought for them and spent countless lifetimes seeking them;and rightly so for they are freedom and truth. I left my religion because I would not be a slave to any man, clergy or capricious deity. I left because I would not rest my entire existence on an iron age book that was obviously a lie. I valued my freedom and my quest for truth more than the love that my family had for me, more than my friends and my security. For finding the strength, the courage and above all the love of humanity to do the same...I want you to know that you deserve respect.
I can definitely sympathize with the non-christian culture problem. Think about it this way: you are on a great adventure. For the first time in your life, you have been given the chance to discover what it truly means to be YOU (free of cavemen superstitions and guilt of being human). As hardcore Christians we were taught that everything about us is just that-christian. That is not true! We still have our own personal preferences, personalities and tastes. The mistake that people make is to assume that, because they are no longer Christians, they are sorority material and going clubbing every weekend is their cup of tea. So be yourself, surround yourself with people who will love you for it and most importantly: don't be afraid to tell your story. Stories are the foundation of identity and having one is essential to being human. The next time you are completely lost in a conversation, don't be scared to say why. Doing so will not only help the other person connect with you on a deeper level, it will also help you gain more self acceptance. Sure, maybe the sexy quarterback won't want you anymore. But do you really want people in your life who would turn their backs on you, if only they knew ye? Don't worry about it too much though. In time, you will be surprised by how much of a non-christian you have become.
Your mother may no longer be with you but she lives on through your memories and her legacy to the family she cherished and to the world she lived in. I think it is more respectful and humane to celebrate who she was and what she accomplished than to constantly spend that time feeding the false hope of seeing her again. I am sorry if I sound too rude but I could not find a better way to say it. When all the chips are down, your family may no longer want you. I can feel the pain that brings as I write this. However, its would be their loss and not yours. You can surround your life with people who love you and support you despite not being blood relatives-isn't that what family is all about? And should you feel so inclined, you can make your own family and have children that you will "love no matter what (parenting 101)".
Lastly, you do not need to worry about burning in hell, trust me. Better still, don't trust me and pick up three books I strongly recommend: [Godless] (http://www.amazon.com/Godless-Evangelical-Preacher-Americas-Atheists/dp/1569756775) ,[Letter to a christian nation] (http://www.amazon.com/Letter-Christian-Nation-Sam-Harris/dp/0307278778/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1427723744&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=letter+to+a+christian+nation) and [God is not great] (http://www.amazon.com/God-Not-Great-Religion-Everything/dp/0446697966/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1427723824&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=god+is+not+great) . Before you do that ask yourself: if you went to heaven, would you trust yourself to have a good time knowing that good people are being tortured FOREVER? Why? Because they didn't believe in a god that did everything he could to hide from us. Or maybe they mistakenly believed in the wrong one?
As for my story. Well, I was raised in a christian fundamentalist cult. Being LGBT certainly didn't help and all in all, it would probably make you cry. You don't need to cry right now, you need to be happy because from now on you will forever be free of the superstitions of ancient cavemen (85% of the world still isn't). You are free to own your own mind, your body and your soul -just kidding, nobody has one-you are truly free (pause a moment and realize what that means) and the prototype for the next step in the evolution of the homo sapiens mindset. I am sure there are far more cheerful stories here on Reddit.
It's been mentioned at least once here in this thread, but I'll second Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. It's an excellent manual for developing critical-thinking skills that is great for anyone, not just people interested in god claims. The book touches on religion a bit but mostly deals with pseudoscience and magical thinking in general - it covers a lot of ground.
A few books I've read that I'll recommend specifically:
Letter to a Christian Nation is a fun, light read. It's also fun to lend it to your religious/christian friends.
Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation is probably the simplest, most concise atheist treatise directed towards christians. It's short, to the point, and very convincing in its arguments (and definitely not inflammatory).
I was a Jehovah's Witness for the first 24 years of my life. Very devout.
It's hard for me to know what these particular folks' motivation for being in the JWs is.
Here is what helped me:
Problems With a Global Flood, 2nd Edition: Witnesses are very literal about their interpretation of the bible. If they actually read this page it will go a long way toward dislodging the cornerstones of their faith.
Finding Darwin's God by Ken Miller: A book about evolution that is not directly threatening to religion. It's written by the head of biology at Brown University. The science is solid. The theology is unsurprisingly weak. This book changed my life.
If they make it that far, give them this one: Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. Not all of it applies to witnesses directly (they're not young-earth creationists, for example), but a lot of it still applies. This will supply many final nails for the coffin.
One thing to keep in mind is that they're very unlikely to seek any of this out on their own. They'll view it as a sin. Your best bet is to print these texts out or buy them. Both books can be purchased on Amazon in used condition for almost nothing. Tell them you'll read their books if they read yours and hold them to it. That culture has a very strong intellectual conscience. Most witnesses are really decent people. They're just stuck in a totally stupid mind-trap.
Good luck! You're doing a great thing by trying to help these people.
The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan
Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins doesn't really go into anything new or original, but the strength of the book is that is a great, concise summary of all the beginning arguments for atheism.
I'd follow it with Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell", also a good recommendation. Same goes for Carl Sagan's "A Demon Haunted World"
Christopher Hitchens is a bit vitriolic for some, but "God is not Great" has some nuggets in it.
I personally didn't like Sam Harris' "End of Faith" but I did like his "Letter to a Christian Nation".
For the topic of evolution, Talk Origins is great (and free) http://toarchive.org/
Dawkin's "The Selfish Gene" is also a good read (and short). Not so short but also good are Dawkins' "Blind Watchmaker", "Climbing Mount Improbable" and "Unweaving the Rainbow"
> 1) He initially states that his issue is specific with the Islamic ideology itself, not Muslim people. Okay, following so far...
> 2) But then he supports his argument by referencing polls. Polls have to do with people; You can't poll an ideology. He references a few poll results that show a significant number of Muslims believe in oppression or violent acts.
> So, already he's stuck. You can't make the argument that an ideology is dangerous and that we need to do something about it without bringing Muslims into it.
He isn't saying Muslims don't need to change. However, there's a difference between being against people for who they are and being against the things they believe and do. He wants those Muslims who hold extreme views to change those views. This comes from a stance of well wishing, not ill wishing, so to speak.
According to Affleck it seems that any criticism of the beliefs of Muslims automatically falls under Islamophobia and thus racism. Yes, you can make a case that by its effects, such criticism predominantly happens to target non-white people. That however, would only be hypocritical if Harris refused to criticize white people for holding equivalent beliefs, which is definitely not the case. He is known to criticize all unreasonable religious beliefs, e.g. Christian beliefs and others. His frequent comparison to Jainism (which arguably lacks fundamentals that could lead to violence) shows that he really cares about the things people actually believe, and the consequences he presumes those beliefs to have on the world.
I'm not sure if Jerry's gotten to this one yet, but I'll post also just in case.
Letter to a Christian Nation (Amazon, more quotes)
For starters, what's your time limit? This is a topic that would take a while to unpack and make a convincing case for. If you decide to go through with it, read Hitchen's book, Harris' two books, and watch some debates to determine how you want to deliver your speech. Make a list of different arguments that the religious use for when your audience asks the standard questions and have a response for them. Have a list of examples of problems that different religions have caused and the source for that information.
I'm sorry that I don't have it in myself at the moment to carry this conversation where it should head but if I tried the attempt would half hearted and you deserve a more rigorous explanation than I'd provide. As a consolation I'll suggest you read Letter To a Christian nation if you really want to hear an outsiders view on Christianity and some well reasoned arguments of how Christians might advocate violence. It's a cheap book ad pretty quick to read and he's got better prose than I ever would. If you're not interested that's fine too. Best of luck.
I would suggest books written by ex-christians. Here are some that I have enjoyed:
[And this] (http://www.amazon.com/End-Faith-Religion-Terror-Future/dp/0393327655/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1427226664&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=the+end+of+faith)
[And this] (http://www.amazon.com/Letter-Christian-Nation-Sam-Harris/dp/0307278778/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&amp;refRID=149ZKC19M7DB7MC831Q9)
[And this] (http://www.amazon.com/God-Virus-The-Religion-Infects/dp/0970950519/ref=pd_rhf_se_s_cp_7_F6GR?ie=UTF8&amp;refRID=0ZE3TFDAPY4Z6BD4RN71)
For an intro into the atheism, anti-religion genre, I would recommend A Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. Short, to the point, and gets your hungering for more information. Have fun!
I listed a few common logical flaws that are proposed by the existence of a deity in this thread that was posted right before yours. To add on to it, the existence of a God is a positive assertion, and the implications that follow from the existence of an omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient being raise a whole lot more questions than most theists want it to answer.
All in all, it's hard to present the entire case for atheism; if you have specific problems that are holding you back from leaving your faith, we might be able to provide more assistance if we knew specifically what you need addressed.
That said, you mentioned fear of hell; the existence of hell raises even more absurd questions than the existence of God:
First, it requires the existence of an eternal and immaterial soul, which doesn't bode well with our current understanding of the way the brain works. Our understanding of the human brain is still lacking, but we understand enough of it to know that pretty much every perception, personality function, thought, and impulse that we experience can be traced back to their respective parts of the brain. If our personalities and consciousness are defined by our brain, on what basis can an immaterial soul possibly function? Not to mention, we feel pain through our nervous system, so the idea of an individual's immaterial essence suffering in hell without a nervous system or brain to perceive those signals is non-sensical.
Second, the idea that many otherwise good individuals will be suffering the exact same eternal punishment as people like Hitler, Charlie Manson, and Ted Bundy simply because they chose not to believe in God, chose the wrong God, or were never even put in a position to learn about God (isolated island tribes) seems illogical and unethical. Could you really enjoy eternal paradise while completely aware of the fact that billions of souls are suffering eternal agony? The ethics of this just don't make sense.
If you want a good starting point outside this subreddit, I highly recommend Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. It's relatively short, but comprehensive.
Once again, if there's any specific issues that are preventing you from letting go of your faith, let us know.
Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation. It's short and can be read in a few hours, but it should open their eyes a bit.
I would highly recommend Sam Harris. He can be quite verbose at times, but his logic is impeccable. You might want to try Letter to a Christian Nation to start. It's directed to a Christian audience and was a real eye opener for me. Plus, it's pretty short (144 pages).
Edit: His YouTube videos are excellent as well.
I couldn't recommend Richard Dawkins The God Delusion enough.
it's a fantastic entry point for somebody that is skeptical about religion.
also Sam Harris Letter to a Christian Nation is a great short read about morality and religion in America.
> Daniel 9 is a big one... Christianity was written about within decades of the events.
Within decades? Most studies do not show this to be true. But even if your statement were true, aren't the gospels supposed to be written by those who lived with Jesus? This is clearly wrong even when reading the first few verses of Luke.
>Joseph Smith was tried and convicted of being a con man...
No doubt he was a con. But I'd venture to guess that even if you discovered Jesus was tried and convicted of being a con, or any of his apostles, your faith would still be in tact. The fact Joseph Smith was a con does not mean that God did not talk to him, right?
Whenever I read these justifications, it screams of an inadequate attempt to confirm your beliefs, not challenge them. Who taught you about Daniel 9? I can safely guess that you either found it on the internet or were taught by some other influence. You didn't read the book of Daniel and come up with this calculation yourself. You were looking for proof and someone gave it to you.
Why do you believe Jesus resurrected in April? Because it's Easter? Do you know the history of Easter? Did you know that pagans used to celebrate Spring with a god or goddess of fertility? And how is fertility represented--a bunny. Christians adopted these customs in order to convert pagans. Just like December 25. You do know that, don't you? If you do know that, then why would you even for a second pretend to know Jesus resurrected on "Easter Sunday."
I promise to read The Case for Christ, if you read Letter to a Christian Nation. It's only about 100 pages long.
Here's the point. You say "Daniel 9 is a big one." I can guarantee, if Daniel 9 proved to be false, your faith would still be in tact. You would rationalize some way to believe the entirety of Christianity. If I believe in UFOs, and I research all of the evidence with a hidden attempt to confirm my belief, I will ignore evidence to the contrary. But if I don't believe in UFOs, and keep an open mind to all possibilities, and rationally examine all the evidence presented before me, my conclusions can be more objective.
> For the past 2-3 years, I've grown uneasy with the things I've heard and have been taught over the years.
From our perspective this is a good sign! Throw another baby on the BBQ lads, one of us, one of us /s ;)
> I'm feeling pretty lost and a little scared since pretty much all of my family is religious (they would never abandon me or disown me if they knew but the thought of disappointing them hurts...a lot).
Be careful! When it comes to religion you don't know what people are capable of and this sub is littered with tragic stories of people who thought they knew their families, but didn't expect what happened when they let on they were doubting, came out, or were outed.
To sum up if you don't have some kind of independence (namely financial) be discreet in your movements to keep the peace. That doesn't necessarily mean lie (though you can if you want), it means don't reveal all at the drop of a hat, gotta look out for #1.
> Which leads me here. Both sides of this religious debate hold biases
Unfortunately that's not really true, we don't hold bias when attempting to ascertain the truth regarding gods existentialism.
In fact most atheists (being skeptics) hold religion to the same standards of evidence as everything else, and try to remove as much bias as possible i.e. you'll hear the scientific method (methodological naturalism) bandied about a fair bit in atheism, because that's the best method we have for reliably producing results.
Oh yeah that's one other thing you gotta reconcile. Absolute truth (or falsity), doesn't exist. You can only say what is true with X amount of certainty based on how good the evidence is (i.e. how much there is, quality/standards, etc).
> So I'm looking into maybe some books, documentaries, research papers...anything really addressing the validity of the bible, the historical evidence, the contradictions, etc.
Be my guest : http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/
That's notes regarding what's contradictory in the bible when read literally, can't remember if they included the "poetic" bits in it. The thing is though most of the bible is supposed to be read literally, there are a few poetic bits yes, but just like any book the author sets the context for reading.
So whenever you hear a Christian saying : no it's supposed to be "interpreted" like this... that's generally code for
"oh shit bible says something wrong, better try and make excuses by putting it in a different context (than the author intended) that makes sense for the modern day".
Which is completely wrong, you don't get to read Harry Potter and put him in the star wars universe (although that would be kinda fun), nope JK determines the context.
Sorry got a bit ranty there, but it's one of my pet peeves.
> I'm trying to find sources that are mostly impartial, so nothing that goes into the subject that actively tries to prove or disprove.
Self-contradictory? You just said you're looking for resources addressing the validity of the bible... that's literally asking to prove / disprove things in it.
No one's forcing you, and it can be scary / frustrating. But you should know that even if you don't accept the bible as true anymore it doesn't make you an immoral monster i.e. morals are independent of religion...
But you gotta make up your mind, you either care about "the truth" or not, you're either going down the rabbit hole or not. Pandora's box once opened is not so easily closed and once you see, it's difficult to unsee.
If you want some "softer" titles, i'd recommend:
Or any of Bart Ehrmans books:
To save you some time, most of the bible is either:
This was a pretty good read.
As was this.
Still reading this one.
A fun, quick read.
Haven't read it, but if his other book is anything by which to judge, worth a look.
I upvoted because you're asking a(n at least sort-of) respectful question. I'm sure others could answer you better or more completely, but I'll take a stab.
I firmly believe that no one here wants to "destroy any reference" to Yahweh. Many of us enjoy the Greek pantheon, and a few of us like the Norse better.
The problem with Christianity is that it encourages faith, which is not only pretty much useless as a decision making paradigm, but also cripples us in regards to making sane, rational decisions. I'm sure I don't need to harp on the extensive list of atrocities committed that would have been impossible without faith.
You might be interested in reading Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation.
My one-stop book recommendation would be Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation. It's a short read, but nearly every paragraph is its own distinct argument, and it covers a lot of territory.
If you're aiming to construct your paper around a set of the most popular arguments, here are some common refutations to arguments for the existence of God. Keep in mind that many of our arguments are in the form of refutation instead of assertion, since the burden of proof is on the claimant:
Ontological Argument (Argument from experience) - We assert that feelings do not equal facts; revelation is not a reliable basis for a factual claim. We also realize that to criticize someone for feelings that are personal can seem like a personal attack. Most of us wouldn't tell someone who claims he/she had a spiritual experience that it didn't happen, but we would try to find a scientific explanation rather than coming to the immediate conclusion that it was God's doing. As a brief example, a friend of mine said he "felt the touch of God" when his daughter was born, but we interpret his feeling as a normal, natural high that most people feel at such an emotional moment.
Teleological Argument (Argument from design) - We accept the evidence for evolution and realize that it is inconsistent with the biblical creation story. For further reading about what proof we have for evolution, I'd personally recommend The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, and he promotes Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True though I haven't read the latter yet.
Cosmological Argument (Causal Argument) - This is a case of people assigning the "God" label to something difficult to comprehend. The best we have to go on so far is the Big Bang Theory, and scientists will continue to test the theory. We don't have evidence that the beginning of the universe was brought about by an omnipotent/omniscient being outside of what is claimed by religious texts, and that goes back to the. We might also ask, "who/what made God?" inviting an infinite loop of "which came first" questions.
Moral Argument - We believe (normal) people are able to tell the difference between right and wrong without religious guidance. In turn, it seems that the Christian Bible teaches, excuses, or condones actions that our enlightened society would deem immoral, such as slavery, killing of children and non-heterosexuals, oppression, rape, and genocide. Interpretations of the Bible differ, of course, and most modern Christians don't believe they should actually kill their disobedient children (or that the laws of the Old Testament no longer apply since the coming of Christ, which is another conversation). Regardless of arguments from the Bible, we believe that science can tell us a lot more about morality than we give it credit for.
Lastly, here is a wikipedia list of lots more arguments in case you'd like to ask about specific ones: link
Good luck, and I hope you enjoy writing your paper. Not that you should necessarily crowd-source coursework, but you'd probably get quite a strong response if you posted up a final draft, too.