Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Atheist Assault on Religion

The third and forth chapters of What’s So Great About Christianity contain quite an informed characterization of the atheistic challenge to religion and Christianity in particular.  D’Souza quotes a number of prominent figures to highlight their overtly negative views.  Had I not read The End of Faith and listened to a portion of The God Delusion audiobook, I might have taken quite a dim view of Dawkins and Harris, considering them to be taking mere elitist positions in relation to science.  I now know that while their attacks on religion are strong, both men remain positive and mystically-oriented rather than negative and materialistic.  Understandably, given that D’Souza has already confirmed himself to be firmly a believer in the supernatural, he is going to be on the defense to what amounts as a strong attack on his position.  His task in this book is to prove that Christianity is not the evil that it has been characterized to be by prominent atheists.  As such, these chapters feature quotes to highlight some of the strongest attacks made to date.

I highly doubt that there is one large philosophical structure called ‘atheism’.  Atheists can vary from the materialistic to mystical, and as such have entirely different views on life.  The very best of atheists would put religion in centre square of our education systems, if only to align the mythical stories with scientific rationalism.  In other words, to explain religion in as natural terms as possible.  Atheists generally get characterised as being in denial; rather, they are simply those who choose a perspective that is more in line with reality as it is perceived.  As a Christian I perceived atheists as deluded – how could they deny the obvious?  How could you not see from the complexity of nature the signs of a Creator?  Now I understand that God is not a necessary explanation, and gladly D’Souza does not imply delusion on the part of atheists (unlike most Christian authors).  Even editor of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer, recommends the book to atheists as a well-reasoned work (even though he disagreed with most of the conclusions).


What’s So Great About Christianity?

I am shifting gears a little after some time of focusing on all the negative aspects of religion and Christianity.  A pristine second-hand copy of What’s So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D’Souza became available to me recently, and I just started reading it today.  It tackles the current onslaught of atheistic attacks on Christianity by addressing the primary arguments within the framework of traditional Christianity.  This is the kind of Christianity that takes the Bible to be the revealed word of God, the primary source of revelation.  In this walkthrough of the book, I will leave aside any pre-conceived judgements and take it as it is, until I have completed it.

Here’s a snippet from the Introduction:

Taking as my foil the anti-religious arguments of prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitches, and the others, in this book I will demonstrate the following:

  1. Christianity is the main foundation of Western civilisation, the root of our most cherished values.
  2. The latest discoveries of modern science support the Christian claim that there is a divine being who created the universe.
  3. Darwin’s theory of evolution, far from undermining the evidence for supernatural design, actually strengthens it.
  4. There is nothing in science that makes miracles impossible.
  5. It is reasonable to have faith.
  6. Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the mass murders of history.
  7. Atheism is motivated not by reason by by a kind of cowardly moral escapism.

That’s quite an audacious list of claims, and I am very interested to see how D’Souza addresses each one.  I have read up to chapter three so far, and the preceeding chapters have largely been a sociological survey of the current success of Christianity as the world’s fastest growing religion.  Vibrant Christianity, it seems, is an emerging force particularly in South America, Asia and Africa.  This comes as no surprise to me, considering that my greatest sources of encouragement came not from Western churches or ministries but from the testimonies of Christians in very different material circumstances who seem to have a rich and deep faith.  I can attest to the depth of joy and gratitude that third-world Christians hold from my experience on a mission trip to PNG a number of years ago.  Those two short weeks still remain richly embedded in my memory as the highlight of my life up to this time.  Additionally, some of the greatest sermons I ever heard were from ministers of third-world countries.  They were all less concerned with words and eloquence than the depth of the spiritual life.  They had no desire to impress, no need for material wealth, just a burning passion for God.

I think I’m going to enjoy this book, even as I feel the resistance rising within to many of its statements.


A Beautiful Soul

“Gary?”

I turned around and looked into her face.  It was vaguely familar at first, but suddenly the realization of who this was came rushing back.

“Oh my gawwww!” I held myself back from completing the word.  She might find my use of “god” offensive.

“Wow, how are you?”

Quickly I came to learn that this girl who was once the object of my desire was still very much on the Christian path, having found ‘old-time religion’ in a traditional church that kept its roots firmly in the ways of the revivalists.  Ah, how I once loved that world!  I remember chatting with her in the past about reading a biographical book on four revivalists who shook their world with riveting conviction of faith in God through Jesus.  Little did I know that one day I would radically shift from my devotion.  I knew as I shared that I had not been to church at all for some time that we would need a long time to chat, so I suggested we sit down.

One thing that struck me as I spoke with her was the intense radiance that eminated from her being.  It was ultimately the thing that attracted me to her in the first place, beyond her physical beauty.  It was easy talking with her, even while we differed significantly in our convictions.

“Let me ask you, do you believe in God?  Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God?  What about Jesus, liar, lunatic or lord?”

I said that I do not believe the Bible to be inerrant, and that I would disagree with C.S. Lewis’ formulation.  It was difficult for her to continue the ‘gospel spiel’ without these fundamentals.  Most of the rest of our conversation revolved around our stories – my deconversion experience as has already been explained in this blog, and her journey to finding her current church and relationship with God.  I explained that postmodern theory had a lot to do with my new position, and she understood given her own exposure in the past.  However, her convictions were deep and very true to her experience, and she had moved from a dark place of doubt to a place of trust and assurance.

It was amazing to be able to share my journey at such depth with someone who was there with me in my old perspective.  I could totally appreciate her own position, and even affirmed it as a real and vibrant experience, while explaining that my own position has been liberating, albeit confusing.    No longer a slave to the ‘true’, while still affirming that there are spiritual depths true to all beings.

After hours had passed, I walked away from her not with the feelings of attraction that I once held, but wonder in how we met yet again after all this time, and how present I was able to be with her in sharing our stories.  Very rarely have I met such a beautiful soul, one who has the ability to inspire you with their presence.  Thank God for this opportunity.