Book review from The Movie Snob
Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, by David Bentley Hart (Yale 2009). Recently, a handful of prominent atheists have written best-sellers. I haven’t read them, but I gather from the many book reviews I have read about them that they are defenses of atheism, attacks on theism (especially the big C, Christianity), or both. Then I read a review of this book and decided to check it out. It wasn’t quite what I had expected, because it doesn’t really respond to the atheists on philosophical grounds. Rather, Hart spends most of his firepower developing a historical thesis that the “Christian revolution” was one of the most startling and positive influences on the development of civilization in human history. He then develops a secondary thesis, which is that many of the virtues espoused by the New Atheists are vestiges of Christian morality that (1) would never have grown up in pagan soil and (2) are unlikely to retain any vitality or persuasive force in an atheistic or secularist milieu. I enjoyed the book, in part because Hart bends over backwards not to overstate his case. His argument is not that Christians are everywhere and always wonderful people. His argument is simply that the pagan society that preceded Christendom was much worse, and that the cause for wonder is not that so many Christians have failed to live up to Christianity but rather that any system so contrary to man’s worse instincts should have erupted onto the world stage and acquired any influence at all.