Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: Atheist Delusions

I must admit that I had high hopes for this book by David Bentley Hart; however I found his argument to be mostly emotional. He was writing as a man who was offended and was lashing out. This aspect of his book can be found in an essay that we wrote for First Things. This essay has been thoroughly discussed on Pharyngula, Kevin Drum’s blog, and by Grad Student.

The other aspect of his book, mostly in the body of the work, is an overview of Christian history. He attempts to counter several narratives that are common today: The War Between Science and Religion, Christianity has a violent history, etc. However he seems to set up a straw man argument based on views of historians over a hundred years ago. He undercuts his own argument by stating up front that he is not a historian and what he is presenting is biased. But worse than that, even if everything was factual, I don’t think it supports his argument against atheists.

He attempts to minimize the involvement of the church in various atrocities. For example he tries to argue that Hypatia was not brutally murdered because Christians were intolerant of science, but because she caught up in the political undercurrents of a decaying society. Of course that doesn’t change that she was murdered by Christian monks. This episode is dramatized in a movie called Agora with Rachel Weisz, which may be less historically accurate then David Hart, however the trailers are quite chilling. The logical pretzels were quite contorted when he tried to minimize the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades were completely glossed over. His argument is that the church actually had a tempering role on the Inquisition and that it is the fault of secular powers.

The good news, is I was able to sell this book back to Powell’s and I was able to reinvest the money into a better book.

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