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Letter from a Christian Citizen: A Response to "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris

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In 2006, Sam Harris wrote "Letter to a Christian Nation", which argues that religion is often self-contradictory, irrational, regressive, and at times barbaric. In response, Douglas Wilson has written his own little book: "Letter From a Christian Citizen". As Gary DeMar writes in the foreword, "Douglas Wilson has taken the operating assumptions of Sam Harris seriously and In 2006, Sam Harris wrote "Letter to a Christian Nation", which argues that religion is often self-contradictory, irrational, regressive, and at times barbaric. In response, Douglas Wilson has written his own little book: "Letter From a Christian Citizen". As Gary DeMar writes in the foreword, "Douglas Wilson has taken the operating assumptions of Sam Harris seriously and has shown what life would be like if the world were consistent with atheistic assumptions." Wilson attempts to dismantle Harris' arguments and demonstrate the positive impact Christianity has had on society.


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In 2006, Sam Harris wrote "Letter to a Christian Nation", which argues that religion is often self-contradictory, irrational, regressive, and at times barbaric. In response, Douglas Wilson has written his own little book: "Letter From a Christian Citizen". As Gary DeMar writes in the foreword, "Douglas Wilson has taken the operating assumptions of Sam Harris seriously and In 2006, Sam Harris wrote "Letter to a Christian Nation", which argues that religion is often self-contradictory, irrational, regressive, and at times barbaric. In response, Douglas Wilson has written his own little book: "Letter From a Christian Citizen". As Gary DeMar writes in the foreword, "Douglas Wilson has taken the operating assumptions of Sam Harris seriously and has shown what life would be like if the world were consistent with atheistic assumptions." Wilson attempts to dismantle Harris' arguments and demonstrate the positive impact Christianity has had on society.

30 review for Letter from a Christian Citizen: A Response to "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris

  1. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Christopher Hitchens was absolutely correct when he accused Wilson of having contempt for thought. Never before have I read a letter by a person so happy, so proud of his own bondage. Beginning with an egregious straw man of atheism that persist through the entire letter, Wilson misunderstands and falsely represents Harris's arguments and ineffectively attempts to dismantled them. There are a number of false analogies that continue to betray Wilson's ignorance of atheism, false dichotomies--his Christopher Hitchens was absolutely correct when he accused Wilson of having contempt for thought. Never before have I read a letter by a person so happy, so proud of his own bondage. Beginning with an egregious straw man of atheism that persist through the entire letter, Wilson misunderstands and falsely represents Harris's arguments and ineffectively attempts to dismantled them. There are a number of false analogies that continue to betray Wilson's ignorance of atheism, false dichotomies--his evolution rebuttal is a pure appeal to ignorance. I am left with the impression that this book was written to do damage control for the unfortunate Christian (fundamentalist) reader who happened to get lured in by the title of Harris's book, Letter to a Christian Nation. Wilson's rebuttal begs to reinforce the faith of the privileged believer. However, Wilson shows a startling lack of empathy for suffering, and takes a "that's what you get for not believing EXACTLY what I believe" attitude, suggesting that he lives in a part of the world where he mostly reads about atrocity rather than has to deal with it, and so it is as real as any other story he has been told--although admittedly, I cannot know this, only speculate. And like other evangelical writers I've reviewed, Wilson apparently thinks he holds the copyright and trademark over the official interpretation of the Bible, and knows with certainty that "God disposes His of His creation as He pleases" (107). By what right does Douglas Wilson claim to know the mind of God? And who does he think he is making those kinds of threats to people without any evidence to support his claims? While I disliked Letter from a Christian Citizen immensely, I will probably return to it in conjunction with Harris's letter.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I read this book today and was torn about what to rate it. Either two stars, or four. So I opted for the Aristotelian mean. Why two stars? Because a lot of Wilson's claims are just plain ignorant about what philosophical positions atheists can hold, and justify. I get tired of the Bahnesbot approach to dealing with atheists, viz., "you're just a bag of matter," or "materialism admits of no immaterial entities in your ontology," or "atheists must be moral relativists," etc. In one place Wilson sa I read this book today and was torn about what to rate it. Either two stars, or four. So I opted for the Aristotelian mean. Why two stars? Because a lot of Wilson's claims are just plain ignorant about what philosophical positions atheists can hold, and justify. I get tired of the Bahnesbot approach to dealing with atheists, viz., "you're just a bag of matter," or "materialism admits of no immaterial entities in your ontology," or "atheists must be moral relativists," etc. In one place Wilson says that belief in a closed physical universe admits of no immaterial entities. Really? I just read an argument to the contrary by Russ Shafer-Landau in his book, Moral Realism: A Defense. Given his arguments, I don't see why not. But then again, I've moved on from archaic presuppositionalism. It doesn't bother me to allow the atheist to have his immaterial entities. Another point is when Wilson constantly claims that the atheist must think that man is simply a bag of chemicals. His thoughts are nothing but neurons firing. Maybe some atheists do believe this. But many atheists who are also physicalists can allow for mental properties to supervene on the physical. Now, this can be critiqued too, but not with the tired attacks Wilson launches. Why the four? Because, much to my surprise, I really enjoyed this read. I read it between commercials during the playoffs today, and I must say, it was entertaining. Wilson does an excellent job at matching the New Atheists in wit and pithy, but pointed, rhetoric. Wilson is debating at their level, and he out wordsmiths them in style. He also does a good job at showing how the New Atheists have simply taken their side of the argument for granted. That they are too intellectually quaggy to check their presuppositions. Their biases. The facts, in many cases. Now, put Wilson against a professional philosopher, say, a Graham Oppy, his style of argument would get him into trouble in a hurry. Wilson is great for the newspaper apologist. The guy who wants the quick and snappy headlines. Short stories that only take a high school education to understand. This isn't intended to be a slam, apologists are needed in all areas of life. My main hope is that young apologists don't stop with books like this. Much as many presuppositionalists ( me included, for a time) did with the Bahsen-Stein debate. If you are stagnant, and you persist in getting into apologetic scuffles, you'll eventually find out that this kind of argumentation has short work made of it. Besides how the above sounds, I did really enjoy the book. No matter what I have said about Wilson, I have harder words for Harris, his interlocutor.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Luke Sorge

    Wilson seems to think that compassion cannot exist without some supreme being floating above us in vengeful judgment. Not only is this ignorant, but it's pretty goddamn sad...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Nenadov

    This is a solid and witty response to the recent book by Sam Harris. We find here a strong example of Douglas Wilson's apologetical style. The book is direct, and yet still manages to carry a sincere air of respect and civility. Wilson makes strong and penetrating arguments while still keeping his cool and retaining his trademark sense of humor. Unfortunately, due to the way things work, the primary audience of this book will likely be Christians, so it will be essentially preaching to the choir. This is a solid and witty response to the recent book by Sam Harris. We find here a strong example of Douglas Wilson's apologetical style. The book is direct, and yet still manages to carry a sincere air of respect and civility. Wilson makes strong and penetrating arguments while still keeping his cool and retaining his trademark sense of humor. Unfortunately, due to the way things work, the primary audience of this book will likely be Christians, so it will be essentially preaching to the choir. That's OK, we Christians need to see a response like this, but it would be great if this book would more frequently find its way into the hands of atheists. I think it would challenge them and encourage them to consider what they've read in Sam Harris' book. If you are patient enough to read through and seek to understand it, you will find that this is certainly not the stereotypical "fundamentalist" response. I highly recommend you read it and also potentially check out some of Douglas Wilson's other works on apologetics, Reformed theology, etc.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    A point by point counter-argument to Sam Harris' provocative "Letter to a Christian Nation" published a few years ago. Pastor Wilson does a good job exposing some holes in Mr. Harris' logic, but ultimately failed to persuade this non-believer that God and Jesus must be the truth. I appreciate Pastor Wilson's intellectual rigor, and even though the central argument about God's existence is nothing new, it remains a very interesting debate.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Kyriosity

    The good ol' "By what standard?" argument. They never can answer it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mike Jorgensen

    The book is pretty well written. The response is a brief but substantive to reply Sam Harris's book. He does not address Harris point for point but rather attack's Harris's underlying philosophical assumptions. He does so cogently but some may be looking for a point for point response to Harris. I thought this book achieved it's goal and was very approachable (as was Harris's book). I'd highly recommend them as a pair.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    It was more fun to read it without having read the original atheist book. Having read the atheist book that prompted it does not detract, and I highly recommend to anyone looking for a spirited response to Harris' ranting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    G.M. Burrow

    If you want to know how to respond to nonbelievers without getting squeaky, get a hold of this. Especially good when read with Letter to a Christian Nation in the other hand.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Comis

    Great response to Harris' book. Doug is definitely a gifted apologist for the faith.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Broussard

    Best if read alternating chapters with Harris' book, Harris first, then Wilson.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aurora Grace

    Even granting that these were originally blog posts turned into a book, it is very clear Wilson is outgunned by a man like Christopher Hitchens, amply demonstrated by their mutual documentary Collision (one not need be a fan of Hitchens to see this). Wilson's tactic is to attempt a Van Tillian defense of Christianity by claiming secular humanism has no absolute standards for ethics or morality. The book largely fails to do much but permit Wilson some opportunity for witty comments.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Heather Binagia

    I was looking forward to reading a scholarly rebuttal to Harris’ great book, but this fell far short. The main argument Wilson utilizes is multiple versions of “you’re just a bunch of chemical reactions” (paraphrasing) and utilizes this point to argue that atheists can not possibly have any ethical or moral thought, or practically any sentient thought whatsoever. Highly disappointed that this is what I spent hours reading.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Candice Dennis

    This was a very hard book to read. I was really looking forward to this response and was very disappointed. I just think he’s not the best writer and it could have been delivered with more clarity.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Noai Leidenfrost

    "There is no soundtrack to consistent atheism. No swelling violins in the background but rather stark, everlasting silence." p 59 "This certainty of yours arises from your convictions about the nature of the universe" "But they will throw something. if we are to solve the problems you point out in this section, something must be done with the people." 95 "you want to save the secular democracies of Europe. You want to do it without religion...And what does Darwin say about one population replacing "There is no soundtrack to consistent atheism. No swelling violins in the background but rather stark, everlasting silence." p 59 "This certainty of yours arises from your convictions about the nature of the universe" "But they will throw something. if we are to solve the problems you point out in this section, something must be done with the people." 95 "you want to save the secular democracies of Europe. You want to do it without religion...And what does Darwin say about one population replacing another?" 96 "you want life to have meaning, and you want it to have meaning without shrinking back from the intellectual demands of raw atheism. In short, you want to square the circle and you cannot do it." 98 "Well, here is the honest answer. you are a hodgepodge of neuron-firings looking into and abyss which you only think you understand." 99 "But what looked like death and sin overwhelming the Messiah was actually the Messiah overwhelming death and sin. That uncanny, numinous moment was actually the death of death in the death of Christ." 106. "One of the principle failings of atheism is that it leaves us with no one to thank for the countless blessings we encounter daily." 108

  16. 4 out of 5

    E

    Whether its debating Christopher Hitchens or replying in print to Sam Harris, Doug Wilson is good--very good--at rebutting atheistic critiques of Christianity. He does it superbly here in this short book. He pokes holes all over Harris' arguments. In fact, Harris has no leg to stand on, because he critiques Christianity using moral platforms imported from a Christian worldview--the very worldview he seeks to deconstruct. This is a common shortcoming of atheism that no appeal to evolution or natu Whether its debating Christopher Hitchens or replying in print to Sam Harris, Doug Wilson is good--very good--at rebutting atheistic critiques of Christianity. He does it superbly here in this short book. He pokes holes all over Harris' arguments. In fact, Harris has no leg to stand on, because he critiques Christianity using moral platforms imported from a Christian worldview--the very worldview he seeks to deconstruct. This is a common shortcoming of atheism that no appeal to evolution or naturalism can overcome. Among other counterattacks, Wilson also shows how Harris misunderstands the Bible and what the Bible seeks to do and be. It is not meant as a textbook, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. I could go on, but you get the point. If you need a quick reply to the logical and moral bankruptcy that is modern atheism, read this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Great little book that can be read in an hour or less. Doug uses his wit and charm to respond to the book put forward by Mr. Harris called Letters to a Christian Nation. Its the same ole song and dance really. Men like Mr. Harris spout of all manner of things but if they actually lived in a world that lived consistently with this worldview they'd crawl in a corner, suck their thumb and ask for their bankey. Pastor Wilson has taken on the task of answering the fool according to his folly, for the f Great little book that can be read in an hour or less. Doug uses his wit and charm to respond to the book put forward by Mr. Harris called Letters to a Christian Nation. Its the same ole song and dance really. Men like Mr. Harris spout of all manner of things but if they actually lived in a world that lived consistently with this worldview they'd crawl in a corner, suck their thumb and ask for their bankey. Pastor Wilson has taken on the task of answering the fool according to his folly, for the fool has said in his heart there is no God. In the presuppositional apologetic I think Pastor Wilson does an excellent job at slicing and dicing the content of Harris' book argument by argument. See the video Collision as well for his match with Christopher Hitchens.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ted Ryan

    I read this alongside the book in which this book was written in response, Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. Wilson does a very good job pressing Harris on the question Harris failed to answer, by what standard. By what standard does any atheist operate that compels anyone to find atheism convincing? The Christian worldview sees the Bible and God as the standard, an atheistic viewpoint uses what as a standard? They can't answer, they don't have one. Most fall back on sentimental notion I read this alongside the book in which this book was written in response, Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. Wilson does a very good job pressing Harris on the question Harris failed to answer, by what standard. By what standard does any atheist operate that compels anyone to find atheism convincing? The Christian worldview sees the Bible and God as the standard, an atheistic viewpoint uses what as a standard? They can't answer, they don't have one. Most fall back on sentimental notions leftover from our Christian heritage.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Handermann

    Reading this book is like watching someone get punched in the same place a hundred times. Although, Doug Wilson is by no means cruel or harsh in this book. I think it demonstrates that logic is really not the issue with the New Atheists (whatever they are). Bahnsen was right when he said that you can logically demolish your opponent using presuppositional apologetics. However, it seems to me that this only works on an atheist like Sam Harris who try way to hard to be moral and radically material Reading this book is like watching someone get punched in the same place a hundred times. Although, Doug Wilson is by no means cruel or harsh in this book. I think it demonstrates that logic is really not the issue with the New Atheists (whatever they are). Bahnsen was right when he said that you can logically demolish your opponent using presuppositional apologetics. However, it seems to me that this only works on an atheist like Sam Harris who try way to hard to be moral and radically materialistic. "Given atheism, morality reduces to personal preferences."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Allison

    An awesome response. Wilson does a great job of unraveling the piss-poor philosophy Harris espouses. I did feel at times he kind of harped on one point (morality). The obvious rebuttal is there there is, in fact, no morality. That shifts the argument away from what Wilson is arguing. All in all, a great read. Superbly written.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    An illustration of Presuppositional Apologetics in action, as it's applied to Sam Harris popular book. Doug's writing style is witty. Presuppositional Apologetics is a great apologetic to utilized but it can be difficult to write it at times. Though the book is short, it is a good read. I recommend it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David Carraway

    This book is a response to Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation". I liked this book but at times found myself confused about what Wilson was referring to. I found Mr. Douglas to be a little more sarcastic than I would have thought someone would be in dealing with the subject of atheism. I would recommend this book to anyone.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aaron C

    Pretty decent response...two philosophers going toe to toe. Wanted to read Wilson's response after reading Ravi Zacharias' response a couple of years ago. Somewhat repetitive, but in debates like these it's hard not to be because the entire discussion usually hinges on a few key issues that must be exhausted in depth.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bob Ladwig

    This book is an excellent reply to Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation". Sam Harris comes off pretty amatuerish and Wilson seems to have fun pointing out Harris' lapses in coherent thinking. I gave this book to one of my professors who gave us the Harris book to read, I never got a reply from her.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roddy

    One of the best Christian apologetics books I have read. Thoroughly embarrassing for it's target, Sam Harris. The contrast in critical thinking ability and intellect is stark - Wilson takes Harris apart effortlessly. Anyone who can't see this is deluding themselves or "had their fingers in their ears" going "la la lah".

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tim Woody

    Well written. It could easily stand alone or be read with "Letter to a Christian Nation." A really quick and fun to read book with really well thought out arguments beneath it all.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    I so much enjoy Pastor Wilson's taking apart atheists' arguments. He is clear, sharp, and witty.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dax

    seems only fair I read this :)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tyrus Kemp

    A logical and brilliant mutilation of Harris's atheistic ideology.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Victor Chininin

    A good, short, and clear presentation of the gospel news and the borrowed capital from Christianity of Mr. Harris's arguments.

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