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Posted June 27, 2009
A Devestating and Humiliating Blow to the New Luddite Atheists.
Hart's book is brilliant - finally, an even-handed and historical rebuttal to the trendy atheists. Dawkin, Dennett, Hitchens, et al are thoroughly discredited. Their pompous, self congratulatory refusal to take the time to actually study the history of Christianity is convincingly documented by Hart. Hart points out that the new atheists might be somewhat interesting if they actually took their subject seriously enough to understand it, as did the philospher Hume. But their self assured conceit blinds their understanding. Hart is a first rate scholar, and his prose is beautiful. Too bad that the books by the new atheists, to include the "the borderline illiterate Dan Brown", will sell far more copies.
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Posted June 24, 2009
History, philosophy and theology
There are many beliefs that people have about the history of the church. Many of these beliefs put Christianity in a negative light with regard to what today might be considered civic virtues, such as tolerance, respect for science, and a preference for non-violent solutions. Hart's book looks at the historical events that are typically cited as indicating that Christianity and the church are at odds with these virtues. This exposition is well supported by citations from modern historians, and original sources. Hart makes a strong case that most of the "common knowledge" people have about Christianity and the church is wrong. His analysis shows that these errors seem to have developed from a combination of ignorance, intellectual laziness, and malice. This is a good book, and the arguments should be considered carefully by any one who is interested in an honest search for the record of the church and Christianity
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Posted October 20, 2011
excellent book, misleading title
Hart gives short shrift to the popular atheists of our day, but the book is really about something else. Drawing especially on a deep understanding of the early centuries of the Church and its cultural context, Hart offers an erudite essay that takes on the view--pervasive since the Enlightenment--that Christianity was a violent and irrational interlude between the cultured classical world and a modernity of reason and science.
Hart accepts that Christianity was an interruption, or irruption, but sees it as one that revolutionized our understanding of what it means to be human. It was the most profound revolution in human history. Hart points out that, unlike today's evangelical atheists, Nietzsche hated Christianity for what it actually was, a religion the God of which is Love and which regards charity as the highest virtue. It was, he understood, unique and subversive in its insistence on God's universal love--beyond ties to place, tribe, nation, or ruler--and the duty of Christians to help the sick, poor, weak and oppressed, to visit prisoners, and to respect the intrinsic dignity and worth of all human life.
Its adherents often disappoint, as Hart insists, like all other human individuals and institutions in our fallen world. But in developing a (highly sophisticated) understanding of the God-man in whom God became human so that humans may become divine, Christians of the early centuries overthrew older views of the infinite distance between God and humanity and rejected the arbitrariness and immorality of the pagan gods. Christians established a world-view that saw the world as law-governed and humans as subject to a natural law "written on their hearts" and--in great contrast to pagan religions--a social ethic. This made scientific discovery--initially largely the work of churchmen and devout Christians--a reading of the book of nature that God had written. No longer could we say, except in the depths of despair like the brutally blinded Gloucester in King Lear, "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport." Christianity, says hart, is a religion of joy and hope, as opposed to the prevailing pagan sadness and resignation.
So Hart's argument takes us from the pagan world, with its lack of a sense of the arrow of time and hence of the future, purpose and direction of life, its moral callousness toward the weak and oppressed, through the Christian revolution in which king and slave, aristocrat and worker, were of equal worth as sharing in the divinity of the God-man. The Church--again unique in its separation of religion from the state--suffers (what Hart sees as) the catastrophe of being adopted as the religion of the Roman Empire. But unlike the pagan cults, the Church retains its subversive aspect. It insists on the submission even of emperors and kings to God. The long struggle (as well as collusion) between church and state ends in defeat for the Church as Protestant rulers place themselves at the head of their national churches and Catholic states like France and Spain completely subordinate the church to the monarchy--even in Spain's case insisting on the Inquisition as an instrument of "nation-building." The long march of the hypertrophied state culminates in the secularist horrors of the 20th century.
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Posted August 18, 2014
Hart's writing is intelligent and easy to read, particularly giv
Hart's writing is intelligent and easy to read, particularly given the subject matter. He clearly and accurately presents his point of view, and refers to sources so that the reader can make their own decision as to whether he has made an accurate representation. I think that it is telling that none of the negative one star reviews could provide any details for their negative review.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 22, 2009
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