Monday, May 12, 2008

Book Review: What’s So Great about Christianity

If you walk into any book store and browse the newest books, you are likely to see a book attacking religion in general or Christianity specifically. A market has sprung up around such books as The God Delusion, God Is Not Great, or Letter to a Christian Nation. Dinesh D'Souza has written a very good rebuttal to these books. The first thing I noticed when I picked up What's So Great About Christianity is the lack of a question mark in the title. The Title isn't a question, it is a defense. In this very well written book, D'Souza attacks many of the common myths professional atheists use to attack Christianity. He doesn't use scripture to refute their claims, but history, science, and reason.

What's So Great About Christianity is divided into a number of sections. Each section is roughly three chapters long. Some of the sections include: Christianity and the West, Christianity and Science, The Argument for Design, and Christianity and Morality. D'Souza analyzes many of the attacks against Christianity using noted atheist such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens to explain the atheist viewpoint. He then tears apart the atheist claim piece by piece.

What's So Great About Christianity is a very serious defense of a key element of Western Culture. D'Souza states, "Many of the best things about our world are the result of Christianity, and some of the worst things are the result of its absence, or of moving away from it." This is a very bold statement and by the end of the book, it is one that is hard to argue against. Whether you are a believer or not, it is hard not to acknowledge Christianities part in shaping our world for the better after you read this book.

I would encourage both Christians and non-Christians to read this book. D'Souza's asks unbelievers to not, "…read this book merely as an intellectual exercise," for in a very real way, your life may depend on the questions in this book. Instead, put serious thought into it. If you are undecided, D'Souza points out that death will eventually force a choice on you. "Death forces upon you a choice that you cannot escape…when you die all abstentions are counted as 'no' votes," says D'Souza.

I have read very good books about religion before. I think this one is a step above most of them. I would challenge any of my readers who think Christianity is the root of many of today's problems. I would ask you to go into your local bookseller and read a random chapter of What's So Great About Christianity. You might be surprised, and you might find yourself asking questions you haven't asked before.


Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book, though I might now. I too think Hitchens, Dawkins (especially Dawkins), etc. and others need some therapy.

I'm a Christian. Every week in church. I think there's a lot that's great about Christianity.

I really don't like it, though, when people like D'Souza make Christianity into a death threat. It's ugly and it's wrong.

Christianity is a gift, is good news, is a joyful and difficult way of life, is diverse, is hopeful, is warnings about selfishness and self-righteousness, is, I believe, True. It is not a threat of going to hell after you die for not believing its theological doctrines.

Andy D said...

D'Souza doesn't threaten hell for those who don't follow the Bible. However, he does point out the repercussions the Bible lists for rejecting God. This book doesn't get into particular doctrine, or the differences in the different denominations of Christianity. If I gave off that impression, then my apologies.

Anonymous said...

If you are undecided, D'Souza points out that death will eventually force a choice on you. "Death forces upon you a choice that you cannot escape…when you die all abstentions are counted as 'no' votes," says D'Souza.

My translation: God is gonna punish you forever if you don't check the right box.

But I haven't read the book yet.

Andy D said...

I think his point is that if you live your life as an agnostic, meaning you decide you simply don't know one way or another, then it is the same as deciding there is no God. I think he is on solid theological ground on that.

However, he doesn't spend the entire book harping on that point. He brings it up once at the very beginning to encourage non-believers to take the rest of the book seriously, and I think he brings it up again at the end of the book in his conclusion. I don't remember it appearing in any of the chapters where he is making or refuting arguments.

Mr President said...

I'm afraid I'd have to respectfully disagree that agnosticism is the same as deciding there is no God. In fact, as an agnostic, I'm as hard on atheists as I am on theists.

Agnosticism is not deciding that there is no God, but rather choosing not to have blind faith in one, which, according to the Bible, is what God asks of us in order to go to Heaven.

What D'Souza would be right in stating is that agnosticism, as the rejection of belief, is not a "get out of jail free" card in the event that there is a God. Agnostics should expect to go to Hell, as we've refused to believe in God.

I actually wrote quite a long comment but then decided I might use that as a blog post of its own. Of course I'll be sure to link back here.

Thanks for the inspiration Andy!

Andy D said...

Glad I could help. I think you and I are arguing the same point. Most people who claim to be agnostic, say they don't know if there is or isn't a God. From a Biblical stand point, that is the same as saying there is no God. From the Christian perspective, atheism and agnosticism are the same. I understand the difference from the agnostic point of view though.

Anonymous said...

Are atheism and agnosticism the same from a Christian perspective?

Interesting question. I would rephrase the question slightly to "Christian perspectives" (plural, as there are many Christian perspectives, not just one.)

I do think they are different.

Someone who has decided firmly that there is no God has done a distinctly different mental/spiritual act than one who says "I don't know, I'm open to the possibilities." In that sense, the "atheist" has actually committed a hard-line "religious" act, in the pejorative sense of the term religious, i.e. committing oneself unreservedly to a position while not really having enough evidence to justify an unequivocal position.

It seems to me that the category of "faith" has within it a layer of agnosticism. "Faith" is not "sight" as the good book says. My Christian faith is a leap, a commitment, but one that takes the leap with eyes open: I might be wrong about all this. I think that remembering that we "believers" by definition might indeed be wrong (it is faith, not certainty) keeps an important element of humility in our faith.

The dangerous thing, I often think, is the fundamentalism of both the "religious" and "atheistic" types that sees no possibility that they might be wrong.

That's what the guys in the planes did on September 11, that's what the Crusaders did, and it's what Stalin did.

On the other hand, I'm wondering about a kind of Christian "certainty" that is non-violent, though... Martin King, etc.

Mr President said...

I wholeheartedly endorse the comments made by Anon. Atheists have committed to a religious philosophy in a way agnostics haven't. Agnosticism is non-committal.

Like Anon I agree that the dangerous thing is fundamentalism, and I oppose atheistic fundamentalism as much as religious.

I hadn't really considered the possibility that faith in a tolerant society necessarily includes a layer of agnosticism. To avoid the trap of fundamentalism people must embrace the possibility they "might be wrong", which is really what agnosticism is all about.

Where I'd distinguish someone like MLK and the 9/11 bombers is that MLK's certainty was arguably not even in religion, but the values it stands for. Values like hope, good, equality; values that God and religion are symbolic of.

It wasn't "my beliefs are right and yours are wrong". It is that sort of certainty that must be avoided in a tolerant peaceful society.

Andy D said...

I stand by my statements as to the Christian / Biblical interpretation of the differences between atheism and agnosticism. However, I think the vast majority of Christians are ok with others practicing whatever faith or belief (or lack there of) they have, so long as they don't infringe in others beliefs.

Saint said...

I would be interested to see what everyone's impressions of fundamentlist are. From what I read, it sounds like everybody thinks they are hateful, violent, foaming at the mouth bigots. I'm a fundamentalist, and I'm not any of these. All the fundamentalist I know are not like this.

There isn't anything wrong with having a belief system, and sticking to it. In fact, you could argue that without it, society would fall apart. If everyone is right, then everything is right. Please don't simply blow off what I'm telling you, think about the ramifications of this.

"It is that sort of certainty that must be avoided in a tolerant peaceful society." - Why? Certainty does not promise violence. Don't automatically assume violence and hatred because someone is a fundamentalist. Most of us are peaceful. By the way, the statement I copied, not very tolerant.

Christina said...

Well, this is my 2nd. visit to 'Political Friends', and just like the 1st. one, glad I stopped by! Andy, you rock for publishing your article on this book, and I will be looking into getting it.
Actually, I was never sure what the dif was between agnosticism and atheism. Now, I get it.

'anonymous', I think, mentions a person considering that they may be wrong in their beliefs, etc., and I find that, for myself, when speaking definitively about the Lord, Scripture, etc., I try to remember to say "I believe (that this or that is true). Others absolutely believe something that I disagree w/it, but from their standpoint, they are RIGHT...I don't want to come off in that light.

Plus, you catch more flies w/honey.

Sometimes we need to let the Lord open others' eyes...or our own.

Mr President said...

For anyone interested in reading the post I wrote, inspired by the discussion we've had in these comments, here it is:

Andy D said...

Good comment. Your, “if everyone is right..” is just another way of expressing relativism or a world without morals. I think it is a real danger. I think the only dangerous fundamentalist are the ones that wish to force their beliefs on others at gun point.


Welcome back. I agree with you, there are two points I want to stress. First, I believe most Christians would say as long as you don’t force your beliefs on me, I can let you believe whatever you want. I question my own beliefs on a daily basis. But there is a difference between believing in God, and re-examing your beliefs, and flatly stating I don’t know if there is a God or not, and I am not going to worry about it.

Mr President,

You always turn out good posts. I hope everyone checks your article out.