Saturday, April 19, 2008

Letter to a Secular Nation

There's a sad state of affairs going on in conservative Christian circles. For all their rhetoric on absolute truth being found in the pages of the Bible, all of their faith supposedly put in the Word of God, you would think they actually understood the fundamentals of text. But the evidence continues to mount. Many vocal Christian conservatives cannot follow a written argument and they cannot lift from the words the most simple of ideas. A case in point is Mike S. Adams at Townhall. His recent Letter to a Secular Nation is the first in a series of responses to Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.

Apparently Harris received hate mail after he wrote The End of Faith. Harris observed:

The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ's love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism.

This is pretty clear, isn't it? Not to Adams. He completely misses the meaning when he answers:

This can be attributed to the rather simple fact that Christianity is the world's largest religion. And, of course, in the places where Sam Harris' books are distributed and read that gap increases greatly.

When Harris refers to "most hostile of these communications" it is a qualitative judgement: In sample X, the extremely hostile letters happened to be from Christians. Adams twists this meaning into a count and chooses to respond to that as if it helps his cause. It doesn't.

In the first place, Harris does not say he received more hate mail from Christians. He certainly doesn't complain about that. No doubt he expected many more complaints from Christians than Hindus since most people are Christians in this country. For Adams to pretend that this needed explaining is a bit delusional. But what's really bizarre is that he apparently doesn't realize he helps make Harris' point.

Of course Harris should expect Christians to complain in large numbers, but should he expect the worst offenders to also be Christians? From my experience I would expect so. Christians cannot control their anger any better than anyone else. In effect, Adams concedes the point. He implicitly expects angry Christians to be unleashed when their religion is questioned. There is no expectation that a Christian would simply dash off a note: "Dear Mr Harris, Jesus loves you and I do too. You should join us." No, a real Christian would be mean and spiteful. That's because Christianity has no effect on behavior. It reforms nobody, it moderates nothing. Harris is making this point whether Adams knows it or not. Why does Adams ignore it?

I submit he avoids it because he wouldn't think of disagreeing with it. This attack mentality is, in fact, the whole point of conservative Christianity. It isn't supposed to moderate. It's supposed to rally the troops. It's supposed to unleash a fury of intolerance. The Culture War is upon us. Preparations must be made.

Love in this flavor of Christianity is for family and political allies. Everyone else will be slain at Armageddon.

Don Jindra

No comments: