Dear the People,
How can one be moral in an immoral world? Better yet, is there even such a thing as morality?
Sam Harris certainly thinks he can seem to prove its existence sans God. In his 2006, 2008 book Letter to a Christian Nation, Harris attempts to prove that morality is easily derived from logic.
“[…]Everything about human experience suggests that love is more conducive to happiness than hate is. This is an objective claim about the human mind, about the dynamics of social relations, and about the moral order of our world. It is clearly possible to say that someone like Hitler was wrong in moral terms without reference to scripture[…]”Letter to A Christian Nation, Sam Harris 2006-2008
Funny, but nothing about this seems objective. First of all, Harris seems to make the ignorant claim that “love is more conducive to happiness”. Great, now we can all sing “Kumbaya” around together while ignoring the real issue. Simply claiming that morality is rooted in happiness is faulty at best. Without claiming direct insight into Harris’ mind, I would wager that he seems to believe in a “societal” good i. e. good is what makes the general populace happy.
However, we see this is not true simply by modern examples of societies where evil is permeated regardless of the people’s general agreement and joy, most notably the Nazis. If happy agreement is the root of human good, then why were the jolly and generally-in-agreement Germans fighting with the Allied Powers (a group generally agreed upon to be in the right)?
Perhaps then, the root of goodness lies in a recognition of human suffering as Harris puts forth shortly after?
“Religions 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[…]”Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris 2006-2008
Again, Harris makes a faulty and rather arrogant claim, putting forth that religious people have no moral concerns and that he knows what the true moral concerns are. In addition, he makes the claim that a Christian’s moral concern – concerns that he later goes on to specifically illustrate using the example of abortion – harms others. Does he explain how a Christian’s moral concerns harm the general populace? No. Instead, he merely goes on to accuse Christians of caring for the unprotected lives of abortion more than they care for the victims of genocide and stem-cell research.
While I’d love to nitpick and get into the finer details of the argument, the root of the discussion really lies in Harris’ claim about morality’s basis. So let’s stick with that and turn around to ask Harris why it’s so wrong that Christians (if they really did) care more about abortion than they do for genocide. What even makes genocide wrong? Again, there is no answer. Harris merely makes the claim with no backing.
“Do the members of the National Academy of Sciences, 93 percent of whom do not accept the idea of God, lie and cheat and steal with abandon? We can be reasonably confident that these groups are at least as well behaved as the general population?”Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris 2006-2008
If you believe in morality, this is a statement meant to give one reason to breath a sigh of relief. The only problem with this is that Harris has given us no reason to believe in morality. Harris, of course, is blithely unaware of this as he continues on.
“One of the enduring pathologies of human culture is the tendency to raise children to fear and demonize other human beings on the basis of religious faith. Consequently, faith inspires violence in at least two ways. First people often kill other human beings […]”Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris 2006-2008
Once again, Harris fails to give reason for why this is bad or good. He merely states that is is in fact wrong, without reason for why it is wrong and without proof even of its truth. In short, I think Harris wants to believe in morality without having to take credit for the harsher realities of the rest of the truth – taking account for one’s sins and accepting condemnation if one rejects the salvation of a creator. His observations are faulty and without basis.
“It is time that all rational people acknowledged that where claims about the nature of reality are concerned, there is only one magisterium.”Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris 2006-2008
I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Harris. I couldn’t agree more.
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 1:21
If you would like to see a more thorough breakdown of the atheistic vs theological beliefs, watch the debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris HERE.