Reading Sam Harris: Free Will // Letter to a Christian Nation

We are big fans of Sam Harris in this blogspace. He is a very practical man, and I like practical people. I picked up several of his books and have been making my way through them. The books are quite short, which I appreciate, since typical pattern in an academic book is to make your point once, then make it over and over again so that it fills up enough pages that you and (especially) the publisher can make some money when the book gets published. This is boring and sucks and it's why you can skip the majority of the pages in books like Reclaiming Conversation (an otherwise good book!) without missing much in the way of pithy content.

I started with Free Will, a slim volume that explains why free will is an illusion. You can finish this book in a single read, although breaking it up into smaller chunks will make it easier to process. Harris writes: "Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have." (Page 5) He spends about 60 very tidy pages providing proofs for this position, and doing some work explaining the implications. Highly recommended. 

After taking a break to read some fiction I read Letter to a Christian Nation. This book is a direct response to all the hate mail that Harris got after he published The End of Faith. Like Free Will, this is a very compact, economical book. Harris takes only as many pages as he needs to rebut the absurdity and hypocrisy that surrounds modern evangelical Christianity in the United States. He is not a man to waste words on boring topics, and his cool rationality is a soothing balm if you want to purge the memory of some new and impressively stupid religious news. Highly recommended.