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God’s Dupes – Sam Harris

March 22, 2007
Sam Harris recently wrote a column for the LA Times entitled God’s Dupes congratulating Californian Congressman Pete Stark for apparently being the first congressman in history to acknowledge that he does not believe in God and also challenging other politicians to follow his lead.

Harris is a vocal atheist, author of The End of True Religion and Letter to a Christian Nation, who blames much of the world’s problems on religion, faith, and zealousness. He says this of Congressman Stark in his article:

Mythology is where all gods go to die, and it seems that Stark has secured a place in American history simply by admitting that a fresh grave should be dug for the God of Abraham — the jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran. Stark is the first of our leaders to display a level of intellectual honesty befitting a consul of ancient Rome. Bravo.

There is, of course, thankfulness of honesty in politics. I would rather have politicians say “I am an atheist” when he actually is, rather than seeking the moderate vote by claiming “faith as their source of strength.” Yet, the vehement call for the “fresh grave” that should be dug for the “God of Abraham”, calling him “the jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran” shows the spirit in which he writes, and that Congressman Stark is not his topic but only a springboard. The response given to Harris should not be an argument for the loving-kindness of God, his care and grace for all types of people of the world, and the need and duty for the praise of his glory. Reasonable arguments are not his tactics, nor will he accept them in return. In his book Letters to a Christian Nation he creates a straw-man argument for the Christian faith and then annihilates it. Douglas Wilson writes in response to Harris in Letter from a Christian Citizen: A Response to Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris , recognizing that it is simply nothing new and even questions the reason’s behind some of the arguments.

I believe the final two paragraphs are the most interesting parts of his article. I will take them one at a time.

There is no question that many people do good things in the name of their faith — but there are better reasons to help the poor, feed the hungry and defend the weak than the belief that an Imaginary Friend wants you to do it. Compassion is deeper than religion. As is ecstasy. It is time that we acknowledge that human beings can be profoundly ethical — and even spiritual — without pretending to know things they do not know.

At first glance, this statement seems to be true, even to Christians. I mean, wouldn’t it be more righteous to want to help someone, not just because God says to help them, but because we have enough compassion to work on their own accord? Christians, especially, need to know why this statement is false. It is important for Mr. Harris to know that Christians do not “do good things in the name of their faith, or just for the sake of Christianity”, but with faith. There is a huge difference, and I hope this is clear. As Christians, we believe the highest good is to please God before all others. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please [God].” Paul also made himself an example to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “So we speak not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” And then in 4:1 calls us to follow in his example, “That as you received from us how you ought to live and to please God, that you do so more and more.” Finally, Paul calls us soldiers of Jesus Christ, yet as soldiers, we should not get “entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4). Scripture puts forth one more qualifier in actions for Christians: we should act in faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Therefore, when Christians act, they do so in faith in order to please God. If we act just in the name of faith (or because it is our Christian ethic), then yes, there are higher and better reasons to act with compassion. But to act in faith in order to please God and be vessels of mercy “so they may see your good works (and not honor you) and glorify the Father, who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16) is the highest good and there is no higher reason to act in such a way. Every act we do, whether in compassion or love, should be to bend other’s affections and praise to God in heaven, ultimately to save their souls, or it is not completely compassionate nor loving.

Indeed, it is time we broke this spell en masse. Every one of the world’s “great” religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong.

This is an example where Harris’ logic seems to break quite a bit. What he insinuates here is that the belief that God created the universe “trivializes” the bigness and grandeur of our universe and everything in it. However, the meaning of the word “trivial” denotes purposeless and insignificance, which is the very demeanor his world-view promotes. Atheism promotes “absurdity” in life and the mere arbitrary aspects of it. There is no need to even go into atheistic philosophies to show this to be true. The only end to atheism is triviality itself. Yet, when we know that all of creation was made to promote the glory of God, then triviality disappears immediately. We understand, then, that our existence is for revealing, praising, speaking of, treasuring, and loving the glory of God. This is anything but trivial. We were created for the highest good (God’s glory) for the highest of being (God). May we never trivialize this great purpose.

Obviously, this post is not meant for the eyes of Sam Harris. These words will not be persuasive for him. I am not an apologists nor can I give Harris what he wants if he is to believe in God. There is nothing I can say, apart from the work of God through my words, that can persuade him that a perfectly loving God exists. He has probably read greater men with greater words on this matter. There is no logical argument that I can give him that this loving God gave his Son so that his blood can cover the sins of all who would believe in him. The covering of my sin through Christ is folly to the world and the fragrance of death. Oh, but to those who are being saved through that very blood, it is a sweet fragrance from life to life everlasting (1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 2:15, 16). May God be pleased to grant Mr. Harris that sweet fragrance of life. If Mr. Harris reads these words, may God bless them for the sake of mercy.


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