In his short book, Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris begins by talking about the torrent of hate mail he received in response to his previous book, The End of Faith. He has this to say about the worst of it:
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.
Such a statement would be alarming to Christians were there not a fundamental logical error involved. One way to grasp that error is to imagine me starting a book with the following:
The most hostile of my communications have come from homosexuals. This is ironic, as homosexuals generally imagine that no lifestyle imparts the virtues of love and tolerance more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be liberated by alternative lifestyles are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism.
Of course, all groups fail to live up to their ideals from time to time – whether it is Christians failing to show forgiveness or homosexuals failing to show tolerance. Some would rebut my example by claiming I should expect more hate mail from homosexuals because I criticize that group disproportionately. Harris, on the other hand, wrote a book criticizing people of all faiths with most of the hostile responses coming from Christians.
That logic is flawed and deeply so.
It should go without saying that - even if all of the world’s religions were, in fact, equally loving and forgiving - one should still expect more hostile responses from Christians. 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.
That rather obvious truth raises another question: How many members of the world’s second largest religion (Islam) might be hostile towards the writings of Sam Harris but for various reasons are unable to access his writings?
I would suspect that the relative dearth of public libraries and private bookstores in Islamic nations would have something to do with the relatively low response rate from Muslims. I would also venture a guess that limited email access in Islamic nations prevents Islamic extremists from sending hate mail to Sam Harris. He may well get more hate mail from Muslims in the future but not until some of the communities in which those extremists reside actually manage to get indoor plumbing.
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