You’ve read the screeds that have been written to warn middle America about the dangers of fundamentalist Christians and their involvement in politics and their continued fight against the “science” of evolution. A small but vocal group of atheists say that all this must stop. Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith which has sold 270,000 since its publication after the events of 9/11, equates religion with terrorism. He’s naïve enough to believe that if religion was replaced by reason, all would be right with the world.

Atheists often portray religionists as intolerant of other belief systems. At the philosophical level, this is certainly true. But to claim that this leads inevitably to terrorism is like saying that steel leads inevitably to murder since guns are made from steel. In “The New Naysayers,” an article published in the September 11, 2006 issue of Newsweek, we’re told that the new atheists “are not writing polite demurrals to the time-honored beliefs of billions; they are not issuing pleas for tolerance or moderation, but bone-rattling attacks on what they regard as pernicious and outdated superstition.” Could not these rhetorical attacks lead to violence?

When it’s pointed out that agnosticism and atheism have a poor record considering that the actions of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot, to name just three, are synonymous with genocide, gulags, and gas ovens, Harris shows that he is unable to think clearly about his own worldview:

While it is true that such men are sometimes enemies of organized religion, they are never especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements are often delusional. . . . Tyrants who orchestrate genocides, or who happily preside over the starvation of their own people, also tend to be profoundly idiosyncratic men, not champions of reason.[1]

When atheists act out the implications of their scientifically determined naturalistic, impersonal, and chance-universe worldview, Harris claims that they are not behaving in a rational manner, that they are “not champions of reason.” A little history might help at this point to show that Harris is whistling past the grave yard hoping the ghosts of the atheist past don’t rise from their graves and attack him.

German scholar and biologist Ernst Haeckel pushed the implications of Darwin’s theories to comprehensive limits in a very rational way given evolutionary assumptions. He believed that moral law was subject to biology, just like Richard Dawkins postulates in his book The Selfish Gene (1976). “Thousands, indeed millions of cells are sacrificed in order for a species to survive,” [2] Haeckel argued. If this is true of biology, then it is equally true for society. “Haeckel’s use of Darwin’s theories was decisive in the intellectual history of his time. It united trends already developing in Germany of racism, imperialism, romanticism, nationalism, and anti-semitism.”[3] Darwinism gave them scientific justification. In 1906, at the age of seventy-two, he founded the Monist League. To the Monist, man was one with nature and the animals. He was no special creation as the “image of God.” He had no soul, only a superior degree of development. The Monist League “united eugenicists, biologists, theologians, literary figures, politicians and sociologists.”[4]

The Darwinian worldview as expressed by Haeckel’s Monist League was comprehensive in interpreting all of life in terms of the social implications of evolution. The effects on Germany, as all of history attests, were disastrous. “Otto Ammon, a leading racial anthropologist, wrote that the laws of nature were the laws of society. ‘Bravery, cunning and competition are virtues. . . . Darwin must become the new religion of Germany . . . the racial struggle is necessary for mankind.’”[5] Karl Marx also found in Darwin “the natural history foundation” for his views. Hegel’s philosophy of “dialectical materialism,” where conflicting views were synthesized into a third, more advanced stage of development, was now supported by Darwin’s biology and inherent historical implications that “society, like nature, improved over time.”[6]

Harris contends that reason is man’s savior. Tell that to the victims of the Guillotine who died under the watchful eye of the “Goddess Reason.”


[1] Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 40, 41. [2] Quoted in James Burke, The Day the Universe Changed (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1985), 265. [3] Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 265. [4] Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 266. [5] Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 265. [6] Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 273.