Tell It All is the heartbreaking autobiography of Fanny Stenhouse. Her story begins with her as a young woman returning home to England, after spending some time in France, to discover that her family had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While investigating her family’s new-found faith, she became the object of one of the Elders’ affections. They were soon married and subsequently ‘counseled’ to serve a mission for the Church while in impoverished conditions. It was only after years of whispered rumours (and public denials by apostles) of polygamy being practiced among their American counterparts, that Joseph Smith’s polygamic ‘revelation’ was finally disclosed in England. Her adventures only truly began when she and her husband were later ‘counseled’ to emigrate to the ‘promised land’ of Utah, where she learned, first-hand, the detrimental effects of Brigham Young’s institutionalized polygamy.
LYING is Harris’s latest short-book / long-essay, much in the style of his previous “Letter to a Christian Nation”. I found that he was able to cover nearly all the major aspects to the subject matter while maintaining a very short read, which can be done in a single sitting. I read it entirely in one day’s public transit commute, and it came across much as one of Harris’s longer blog posts.
Due to the short length of the ebook, it did leave me wanting more at the end of each chapter. Though, because of Harris’s concise writing style, I can’t imagine what else there is to say without becoming wordy or redundant. LYING is very well written, something I have come to expect from Harris, and I highly recommend it.
It is my hope that Harris will follow up LYING with another ebook that broadens the scope to include collective misrepresentations, opposed to the individual lies that were addressed in this one.
The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, is aptly named. It illustrates how the concept of a personal god (specifically the Abrahamic god of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is one of complete fiction, and yet has so many convinced of His existence, despite the mounting evidence that the world is not as described in ancient scripture.
Dawkins’s approach to his arguments against theistic belief in the supernatural is an obvious extension from his career in evolutionary biology. Dawkins is very careful to take the time to define each term that he uses, sorting out the different meanings, so that his specific use of the term is clearly understood. This goes a long way to avoid confusion, especially when talking about the polytheistic, monotheistic, pantheistic, and panentheistic uses of the word ‘god’. Dawkins is also very good at presenting a much more complete picture of commonly misrepresented & quote mined historical figures such as Einstein, the American founding fathers, Hitler, etc., and shows how their uses of the word ‘god’ rarely meets today’s Christian definition.
Dawkins’s ‘The God Delusion’ is a scientific approach, in methodology if not evidentiality, to the arguments against the beliefs in gods, and is much more reserved and soft-spoken than Christopher Hitchen’s rather abrasive book, ‘God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’. These two books have a stark contrast in their delivery, but share the same sound reasoning and logic. I highly recommend both of them.
A wonderfully concise and straightforward address to theists in general and traditional Christians in specific. The arguments brought forward in this short letter should be more than enough to convince anyone capable of rational thought of the dangerous and misguided superstitions that permeate our society. If humans expect to thrive and become more than the sum of our parts, we must shed these self-induced or inherited delusions. This work has been the first of Sam Harris’s that I have read, and it will definitely not be the last.