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Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies

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Overview

In this provocative book one of the most brilliant scholars of religion today dismantles distorted religious “histories” offered up by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and other contemporary critics of religion and advocates of atheism. David Bentley Hart provides a bold correction of the New Atheists’s misrepresentations of the Christian past, countering their polemics with a brilliant account of Christianity and its message of human charity as the most revolutionary movement in all of Western history.

Hart outlines how Christianity transformed the ancient world in ways we may have forgotten: bringing liberation from fatalism, conferring great dignity on human beings, subverting the cruelest aspects of pagan society, and elevating charity above all virtues. He then argues that what we term the “Age of Reason” was in fact the beginning of the eclipse of reason’s authority as a cultural value. Hart closes the book in the present, delineating the ominous consequences of the decline of Christendom in a culture that is built upon its moral and spiritual values.

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Editorial Reviews

George Weigel

“A devastating dissection of the ‘new atheism,’ a timely reminder of the fact that ‘no Christianity’ would have meant ‘no West,’ and a rousing good read. David Hart is one of America's sharpest minds, and this is Hart in full, all guns firing and the band playing on the deck.”—George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington

New Criterion
Few things are so delightful as watching someone who has taken the time to acquire a lot of learning casually, even effortlessly, dismantle the claims of lazy grandstanders. . . . Hart isn’t making a bid for wealth, fame, or cocktail-party acceptance: He knows whereof he speaks.—Stefan Beck, New Criterion

— Stefan Beck

Greenwich Time

"Absolutely brilliant . . . a cultural tour-de-force"—John Linsenmeyer, Greenwich Time

Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology
Indeed, in a culture battle, pitting religion against secularism, Hart may be the best 'corner man' in the business, providing would'be Christian pugilists with a better understanding of both their own strengths and their opponent's weaknesses.—Graham Reside, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

— Graham Reside

Modern Age
Hart aims to provide his readers with a persuasive evocation of historical facts, moral judgments, philosophical principles, and theological musings, which may persuade them of the beauty of Christian truth. . . . Atheist Delusions is an honest book, which doesn't hide the sometimes repulsive truths related to the political or social aspects of historical Christianity.—Mihail Neamtu, Modern Age

— Mihail Neamtu

Richard John Neuhaus

“With impressive erudition and polemical panache, David Hart smites hip and thigh the peddlers of a ‘new atheism’ that recycles hoary arguments from the past. His grim assessment of our cultural moment challenges the hope that ‘the Christian revolution’ could happen again.”—Richard John Neuhaus, former editor in chief of First Things

Robert Louis Wilken

"In this learned, provocative, and sophisticated book, Hart presents a frontal challenge to today's myopic caricature of the culture and religion that existed in previous centuries."—Robert Louis Wilken, University of Virginia
John Milbank

“Surely Dawkins, Hitchens et al would never have dared put pen to paper had they known of the existence of David Bentley Hart. After this demolition-job all that is left for them to do is repent and rejoice at the discreditation of their erstwhile selves.”—John Milbank, author of Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology
New Criterion - Stefan Beck

"Few things are so delightful as watching someone who has taken the time to acquire a lot of learning casually, even effortlessly, dismantle the claims of lazy grandstanders. . . . Hart isn’t making a bid for wealth, fame, or cocktail-party acceptance: He knows whereof he speaks."—Stefan Beck, New Criterion

New Republic - Damon Linker

"Anyone interested in taking the debate about God to the next level should read and reflect on Hart’s spirited brief on behalf of Christian truth."—Damon Linker, New Republic

First Things - Paul J. Griffiths

“[A] major work by one of the most learned, forceful, and witty Christian theologians currently writing.”—Paul J. Griffiths, First Things

The City - Christopher Benson

Atheist Delusions is a history that serves life . . . Hart argues for a brave thesis . . . . With astonishing success, [he] achieves his objective.”--Christopher Benson, The City
Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology - Graham Reside

"Indeed, in a culture battle, pitting religion against secularism, Hart may be the best 'corner man' in the business, providing would'be Christian pugilists with a better understanding of both their own strengths and their opponent's weaknesses."—Graham Reside, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology
Modern Age - Mihail Neamtu

"Hart aims to provide his readers with a persuasive evocation of historical facts, moral judgments, philosophical principles, and theological musings, which may persuade them of the beauty of Christian truth. . . . Atheist Delusions is an honest book, which doesn't hide the sometimes repulsive truths related to the political or social aspects of historical Christianity."—Mihail Neamtu, Modern Age
Geoffrey Wainwright

“Provoked by and responding to the standard-bearers of ‘the New Atheism’, this original and intellectually impressive work deftly demolishes their mythical account of ‘the rise of modernity.’ Hart argues instead that the genuinely humane values of modernity have their historic roots in Christianity.”—Geoffrey Wainwright, Duke Divinity School

New Republic
Anyone interested in taking the debate about God to the next level should read and reflect on Hart’s spirited brief on behalf of Christian truth.—Damon Linker, New Republic

— Damon Linker

Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Hart writes with elegance. Even his invective has style."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

First Things
[A] major work by one of the most learned, forceful, and witty Christian theologians currently writing.—First Things
The City
Atheist Delusions is a history that serves life . . . Hart argues for a brave thesis . . . . With astonishing success, [he] achieves his objective.—Christopher Benson, The City

— Christopher Benson

Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

"Indeed, in a culture battle, pitting religion against secularism, Hart may be the best ''corner man'' in the business, providing would''be Christian pugilists with a better understanding of both their own strengths and their opponent''s weaknesses."--Graham Reside, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

— Graham Reside

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300111903
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David Bentley Hart is the author of several books, including In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments and The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. He lives in Providence, RI.

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Read an Excerpt

Atheist Delusions

THE CHRISTIAN REVOLUTION AND ITS FASHIONABLE ENEMIES
By DAVID BENTLEY HART

YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2009 David Bentley Hart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-11190-3


Chapter One

The Gospel of Unbelief

ONE WOULD THINK these would be giddy days for religion's most passionate antagonists; rarely can they have known a moment so intoxicatingly full of promise. A mere glance in the direction of current trends in mass-market publishing should be enough to make the ardent secularist's heart thrill with the daring and delicious hope that we just might be entering a golden age for bold assaults on humanity's ancient slavery to "irrational dogma" and "creedal tribalism." Conditions in the world of print have never before been so propitious for sanctimonious tirades against religion, or (more narrowly) monotheism, or (more specifically) Christianity, or (more precisely) Roman Catholicism. Never before have the presses or the press been so hospitable to journalists, biologists, minor philosophers, amateur moralists proudly brandishing their baccalaureates, novelists, and (most indispensable of all) film actors eager to denounce the savagery of faith, to sound frantic alarms against the imminence of a new "theocracy," and to commend the virtues of spiritual disenchantment to all who have the wisdom to take heed. As I write, Daniel Dennett's latest attempt to wean a creduloushumanity from its reliance on the preposterous fantasies of religion, Breaking the Spell, has arrived amid a clamor of indignant groans from the faithful and exultant bellowing from the godless. The God Delusion, an energetic attack on all religious belief, has just been released by Richard Dawkins, the zoologist and tireless tractarian, who-despite his embarrassing incapacity for philosophical reasoning-never fails to entrance his eager readers with his rhetorical recklessness. The journalist Christopher Hitchens, whose talent for intellectual caricature somewhat exceeds his mastery of consecutive logic, has just issued God Is Not Great, a book that raises the wild non sequitur almost to the level of a dialectical method. Over the past few years, Sam Harris's extravagantly callow attack on all religious belief, The End of Faith, has enjoyed robust sales and the earnest praise of sympathetic reviewers. Over a slightly greater span, Philip Pullman's evangelically atheist (and rather overrated) fantasy trilogy for children, His Dark Materials, has sold millions of copies, has been lavishly praised by numerous critics, has been adapted for the stage, and has received partial cinematic translation; its third volume, easily the weakest of the series, has even won the (formerly) respectable Whitbread Prize. And one hardly need mention the extraordinary sales achieved by Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, already a major film and surely the most lucrative novel ever written by a borderline illiterate. I could go on.

A note of asperity, though, has probably already become audible in my tone, and I probably should strive to suppress it. It is not inspired, however, by any prejudice against unbelief as such; I can honestly say that there are many forms of atheism that I find far more admirable than many forms of Christianity or of religion in general. But atheism that consists entirely in vacuous arguments afloat on oceans of historical ignorance, made turbulent by storms of strident self-righteousness, is as contemptible as any other form of dreary fundamentalism. And it is sometimes difficult, frankly, to be perfectly generous in one's response to the sort of invective currently fashionable among the devoutly undevout, or to the sort of historical misrepresentations it typically involves. Take for instance Peter Watson, author of a diverting little bagatelle of a book on the history of invention, who, when asked not long ago by the New York Times to name humanity's worst invention, blandly replied, "Without question, ethical monotheism.... This has been responsible for most of the wars and bigotry in history." Now, as a specimen of the sort of antireligious chatter that is currently chic, this is actually rather mild; but it is also utter nonsense. Not that there is much point in defending "monotheism" in the abstract (it is a terribly imprecise term); and devotees of the "one true God" have certainly had their share of blood on their hands. But the vast majority of history's wars have been conducted in the service of many gods; or have been fought under the aegis, or with the blessing, or at the command of one god among many; or have been driven by the pursuit of profits or conquest or power; or have been waged for territory, national or racial destiny, tribal supremacy, the empire, or the "greater good"; or, indeed, have been prosecuted in obedience to ideologies that have no use for any gods whatsoever (these, as it happens, have been the most murderous wars of all). The pagan rhetorician Libanius justly bragged that the gods of the Roman Empire had directed the waging of innumerable wars. By contrast, the number of wars that one could plausibly say have actually been fought on behalf of anything one might call "ethical monotheism" is so vanishingly small that such wars certainly qualify as exceptions to the historical rule. Bigotry and religious persecution, moreover, are anything but peculiar to monotheistic cultures, as anyone with a respectable grasp of human culture and history should know. And yet, absurd as it is, Watson's is the sort of remark that sets many heads sagely nodding in recognition of what seems an undeniable truth. Such sentiments have become so much a part of the conventional grammar of "enlightened" skepticism that they are scarcely ever subjected to serious scrutiny.

My own impatience with such remarks, I should confess, would probably be far smaller if I did not suffer from a melancholy sense that, among Christianity's most fervent detractors, there has been a considerable decline in standards in recent years. In its early centuries, the church earned the enmity of genuinely imaginative and civilized critics, such as Celsus and Porphyry, who held the amiable belief that they should make some effort to acquaint themselves with the object of their critique. And, at the end of Europe's Christian centuries, the church could still boast antagonists of real stature. In the eighteenth century, David Hume was unrivaled in his power to sow doubt where certainty once had flourished. And while the diatribes of Voltaire, Denis Diderot, and the other Enlightenment philosophes were, on the whole, insubstantial, they were at least marked by a certain fierce elegance and occasional moral acuity. Edward Gibbon, for all the temporal parochialism and frequent inaccuracy of his account of Christianity's rise, was nevertheless a scholar and writer of positively titanic gifts, whose sonorously enunciated opinions were the fruit of immense labors of study and reflection. And the extraordinary scientific, philosophical, and political ferment of the nineteenth century provided Christianity with enemies of unparalleled passion and visionary intensity. The greatest of them all, Friedrich Nietzsche, may have had a somewhat limited understanding of the history of Christian thought, but he was nevertheless a man of immense culture who could appreciate the magnitude of the thing against which he had turned his spirit, and who had enough of a sense of the past to understand the cultural crisis that the fading of Christian faith would bring about. Moreover, he had the good manners to despise Christianity, in large part, for what it actually was-above all, for its devotion to an ethics of compassion-rather than allow himself the soothing, self-righteous fantasy that Christianity's history had been nothing but an interminable pageant of violence, tyranny, and sexual neurosis. He may have hated many Christians for their hypocrisy, but he hated Christianity itself principally on account of its enfeebling solicitude for the weak, the outcast, the infirm, and the diseased; and, because he was conscious of the historical contingency of all cultural values, he never deluded himself that humanity could do away with Christian faith while simply retaining Christian morality in some diluted form, such as liberal social conscience or innate human sympathy. He knew that the disappearance of the cultural values of Christianity would gradually but inevitably lead to a new set of values, the nature of which was yet to be decided. By comparison to these men, today's gadflies seem far lazier, less insightful, less subtle, less refined, more emotional, more ethically complacent, and far more interested in facile simplifications of history than in sober and demanding investigations of what Christianity has been or is.

Two of the books I have mentioned above-Breaking the Spell and The End of Faith-provide perhaps the best examples of what I mean, albeit in two radically different registers. In the former, Daniel Dennett-a professor of philosophy at Tufts University and codirector of that university's Center for Cognitive Studies-advances what he takes to be the provocative thesis that religion is an entirely natural phenomenon, and claims that this thesis can be investigated by methods proper to the empirical sciences. Indeed, about midway through the book, after having laid out his conjectures regarding the evolution of religion, Dennett confidently asserts that he has just successfully led his readers on a "nonmiraculous and matter-of-fact stroll" from the blind machinery of nature up to humanity's passionate fidelity to its most exalted ideas. As it happens, the case he has actually made at this point is a matter not of fact but of pure intuition, held together by tenuous strands of presupposition, utterly inadequate as an explanation of religious culture, and almost absurdly dependent upon Richard Dawkins's inane concept of "memes" (for a definition of which one may consult the most current editions of the Oxford English Dictionary). And, as a whole, Dennett's argument consists in little more than the persistent misapplication of quantitative and empirical terms to unquantifiable and intrinsically nonempirical realities, sustained by classifications that are entirely arbitrary and fortified by arguments that any attentive reader should notice are wholly circular. The "science of religion" Dennett describes would inevitably prove to be no more than a series of indistinct inferences drawn from behaviors that could be interpreted in an almost limitless variety of ways; and it could never produce anything more significant than a collection of biological metaphors for supporting (or, really, simply illustrating) an essentially unverifiable philosophical materialism.

All of this, however, is slightly beside the point. Judged solely as a scientific proposal, Dennett's book is utterly inconsequential-in fact, it is something of an embarrassment-but its methodological deficiencies are not my real concern here (although I have written about them elsewhere). 4 And, in fact, even if there were far more substance to Dennett's project than there is, and even if by sheer chance his story of religion's evolution were correct in every detail, it would still be a trivial project at the end of the day. For, whether one finds Dennett's story convincing or not-whether, that is, one thinks he has quite succeeded in perfectly bridging the gulf between the amoeba and the St. Matthew Passion-not only does that story pose no challenge to faith, it is in fact perfectly compatible with what most developed faiths already teach regarding religion. Of course religion is a natural phenomenon. Who would be so foolish as to deny that? It is ubiquitous in human culture, obviously forms an essential element in the evolution of society, and has itself clearly evolved. Perhaps Dennett believes there are millions of sincere souls out there deeply committed to the proposition that religion, in the abstract, is a supernatural reality, but there are not. After all, it does not logically follow that simply because religion is natural it cannot become the vehicle of divine truth, or that it is not in some sense oriented toward ultimate reality (as, according to Christian tradition, all natural things are).

Moreover-and one would have thought Dennett might have noticed this-religion in the abstract does not actually exist, and almost no one (apart from politicians) would profess any allegiance to it. Rather, there are a very great number of systems of belief and practice that, for the sake of convenience, we call "religions," though they could scarcely differ more from one another, and very few of them depend upon some fanciful notion that religion itself is a miraculous exception to the rule of nature. Christians, for instance, are not, properly speaking, believers in religion; rather, they believe that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified under Pontius Pilate, rose from the dead and is now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, present to his church as its Lord. This is a claim that is at once historical and spiritual, and it has given rise to an incalculable diversity of natural expressions: moral, artistic, philosophical, social, legal, and religious. As for "religion" as such, however, Christian thought has generally acknowledged that it is an impulse common to all societies, and that many of its manifestations are violent, superstitious, amoral, degrading, and false. The most one can say from a Christian perspective concerning human religion is that it gives ambiguous expression to what Christian tradition calls the "natural desire for God," and as such represents a kind of natural openness to spiritual truth, revelation, or grace, as well as an occasion for any number of delusions, cruelties, and tyrannies. When, therefore, Dennett solemnly asks (as he does) whether religion is worthy of our loyalty, he poses a meaningless question. For Christians the pertinent question is whether Christ is worthy of loyalty, which is an entirely different matter. As for Dennett's amazing discovery that the "natural desire for God" is in fact a desire for God that is natural, it amounts to a revolution not of thought, only of syntax.

The real significance of Breaking the Spell (at least for me) becomes visible when it is set alongside Sam Harris's The End of Faith. This latter is also a book that, in itself, should not detain anyone for very long. It is little more than a concatenation of shrill, petulant assertions, a few of which are true, but none of which betrays any great degree of philosophical or historical sophistication. In his remarks on Christian belief, Harris displays an abysmal ignorance of almost every topic he addresses-Christianity's view of the soul, its moral doctrines, its mystical traditions, its understandings of scripture, and so on. Sometimes it seems his principal complaint must be against twentieth-century fundamentalists, but he does not even get them right (at one point, for example, he nonsensically and scurrilously charges that they believe Christ's second coming will usher in a final destruction of the Jews). He declares all dogma pernicious, except his own thoroughly dogmatic attachment to nondualistic contemplative mysticism, of a sort which he mistakenly imagines he has discovered in one school of Tibetan Buddhism, and which (naturally) he characterizes as purely rational and scientific. He provides a long passage ascribed to the (largely mythical) Tantric sage Padmasambhava and then breathlessly informs his readers that nothing remotely as profound is to be found anywhere in the religious texts of the West-though, really, the passage is little more than a formulaic series of mystic platitudes, of the sort to be found in every religion's contemplative repertoire, describing the kind of oceanic ecstasy that Christian mystical tradition tends to treat as one of the infantile stages of the contemplative life. He makes his inevitable pilgrimage to the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, though without pausing to acquaint himself with the Inquisition's actual history or any of the recent scholarship on it. He more or less explicitly states that every episode of violence or injustice in Christian history is a natural consequence of Christianity's basic tenets (which is obviously false), and that Christianity's twenty centuries of unprecedented and still unmatched moral triumphs-its care of widows and orphans, its almshouses, hospitals, foundling homes, schools, shelters, relief organizations, soup kitchens, medical missions, charitable aid societies, and so on-are simply expressions of normal human kindness, with no necessary connection to Christian conviction (which is even more obviously false). Needless to say, he essentially reverses the equation when talking about Buddhism and, with all the fervor of the true believer, defends the purity of his elected creed against its historical distortions. Admittedly, he does not actually discuss Tibet's unsavory history of religious warfare, monastic feudalism, theocratic despotism, and social neglect; but he does helpfully explain that most Buddhists do not really understand Buddhism (at least, not as well as he does). And in a disastrous chapter, reminiscent of nothing so much as a recklessly ambitious undergraduate essay, he attempts to describe a "science of good and evil" that would discover the rational basis of moral self-sacrifice, apart from religious adherences: an argument composed almost entirely of logical lacunae. In short, The End of Faith is not a serious-merely a self-important-book, and merits only cursory comment.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Atheist Delusions by DAVID BENTLEY HART Copyright © 2009 by David Bentley Hart. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction....................ix
PART ONE: FAITH, REASON, AND FREEDOM: A VIEW FROM THE PRESENT 1 The Gospel of Unbelief....................3
2 The Age of Freedom....................19
PART TWO: THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE SECULAR AGE: MODERNITY'S REWRITING OF THE CHRISTIAN PAST 3 Faith and Reason....................29
4 The Night of Reason....................36
5 The Destruction of the Past....................49
6 The Death and Rebirth of Science....................56
7 Intolerance and Persecution....................75
8 Intolerance and War....................88
9 An Age of Darkness....................99
PART THREE: REVOLUTION: THE CHRISTIAN INVENTION OF THE HUMAN 10 The Great Rebellion....................111
11 A Glorious Sadness....................129
12 A Liberating Message....................146
13 The Face of the Faceless....................166
14 The Death and Birth of Worlds....................183
15 Divine Humanity....................199
PART FOUR: REACTION AND RETREAT: MODERNITY AND THE ECLIPSE OF THE HUMAN 16 Secularism and Its Victims....................219
17 Sorcerers and Saints....................229
Notes....................243
Index....................251
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

    2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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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

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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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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  • Anonymous

    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.

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  • Posted June 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    When this book was suggested by one of my online dealers, it see

    When this book was suggested by one of my online dealers, it seemed they not only knew me, but cared deeply about what I was reading.  I felt warm, well cared-for, optimistic that, when I come to a place of having “nothing to read,” I would be aided in that moment by a benevolent guide who could know my plight and shine a light in a darkened moment.  The title of this volume suggested that it would begin to speak back to the “presently” (even though the practice has been around since the beginning of religion) popular pastime of the vehement, bombastic, uncritical destructing of faith in general and Christianity in particular.  Here was a voice that would be a rational, steady, well documented and easily comprehended retort to that particular activity.  Reading it brought to light the reality that, while Dr. Hart’s passion is evident, his present book is overly enthusiastic and under documented.
    In the preface, the author outlines the process of what is to follow; this is to be an essay, rather than a book and more of one dealing with Church History than theology.  With those parameters set he opens the book with a first paragraph that sets the mood for what follows.  In the neighborhood where I grew up, had someone spoken to another in the manner Dr. Hart chooses to speak in the opening moments, those would have been considered “fightin’ words.”  He names authors, books, articles of the “faith questioning camp” with surprising viciousness and insult.  
    The following chapters address the various arguments posited by present day “atheist” authors.  He is careful to site how those authors have missed-led or down right lied to their readers or have ignored/been ignorant of history as it pertains to the benefit Christianity has had on culture, many of the sciences, philosophy and politics.  This is a plus, what detracts from his astute observations are his own use of innuendo, lack of documentation (for a history book that speaks of people, places and times, he has less than 7 pages of notes in support of his “facts;” for a historian, if it cannot be documented, it is opinion, not fact) and his use of near libelous language in stating his case.
    I was very disappointed in the writing of this book.  Faith is matter of deeply personal matters.  I believe that everyone has faith (atheists have faith that what science/rationality/their heart tells them is true).  I have been given the gift of believing and the gift/responsibility for being a rational being.  I cannot “prove” why I have faith, but neither can I cease to believe.  God, as I understand that Being has endowed me with the ability to reason and be responsible with that rationality to the betterment of all, even if “all” at that moment is but one person.  When one as learned as is Dr. Hart shoulders the task of speaking back to those who (apparently) dishonestly besmirch faith, it would be of immense help to recall the biblical admonition found in Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  His seeking to answer his counterpoint in the same language as he is addressed only underscores the detractor’s argument that “faith is of little affect,” for in so speaking, he shows himself to have been little changed by his faith.
    May I be passionate in my belief, honoring of others “disbelief” and able to speak with both in my discussion of either.    

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    Posted January 19, 2010

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