I’ve already briefly mentioned my fondness for this slim book. It’s a quick and easy read, but manages to cover a wide array of the most offensive parts of the Christian religion. It’s not exactly an atheist book, since it occasionally uses other religions as counterpoints to Christian theology, but that is a profound strength of the book for it’s avowed purpose: confronting Christianity. The Christians I know generally prefer people of other religions (except Islam) to atheism, so these arguments from comparison with other theologies is probably more effective than confronting religion head-on.
That said, it does follow Harris’ previous book, “The End of Faith” (review forthcoming), to a certain extent, and it makes plenty of points about morality and philosophy that are indictments of religion in general. For example, after making a point about the Ten Commandments not being very comprehensive or useful in crafting an objective morality, he provides :
One of the most pernicious effects of religion is that it tends to divorce morality from the reality of human and animal suffering. Religion allows people to imagine that their concerns are moral when they are not –that is, when they have nothing to do with suffering or its alleviation. Indeed, religion allows people to imagine that their concerns are moral when they are highly immoral–that is, when pressing these concerns inflicts unnecessary and appalling suffering on innocent human beings.
Harris’ personal morality appears to revolve around “reduction of suffering” or “maximization of happiness,” and he does an admirable job of showing which aspects of Christianity and religion in general interfere with that laudable goal.
Harris does not pander to any religious sect, or mince words in his indictment of religion. About abortion, he points out the obvious problem that if harvesting of blastocysts is abortion, and abortion is murder because it is the termination of a future soul-having being, then identical twins must have half a soul each, and because humans can be created from nearly every cell in the body, every time you exfoliate, you are perpetrating a horrible genocide of potential humans. After pointing out that many pregnancies terminate naturally, he concludes
if God exists, He is the most prolific abortionist of all.
His arguments are logical and well-illustrated, and thoroughly interesting to boot. To conclude, this is a book that is both easy to read and surprisingly deep in its analysis of Christianity and religion in general. Although it is written as an open letter to Christians, it is an excellent reference for atheists who want to be more knowledgeable and pointed in theological discussions with “believers.” It is only $10 on Amazon so I highly recommend you add it to your library or reading list.