What's Not Great About Christianity?
"Nietzsche's proclamation 'God is dead' is now proven false.
Nietzsche is dead. The ranks of the unbelievers are shrinking
as a proportion of the world's population."
How liberating childhood initially seemed to those of us bred without religious instruction. We never had to attend catechism classes or miss a single National Football League game on Sunday. There seemed to be little more to the universe than our parents'rules and edicts, yet gradually, after adolescence, it became more and more apparent that another world-one within and above the realm of our daily affairs-existed. One in which right and wrong were more than legal constructs.
It was at this moment that we fathomed the dimensions of our inner-void. The wisdom and guidance of the Bible are an invaluable framework within which to interpret human relationships and the rigors of life. As adults, untold numbers of the parochially deprived come to look at The Good Book with both a feeling of respect and loss.
Perhaps it was with the spiritually challenged in mind that Dinesh D'Souza penned
What's So Great About Christianity. The title of his recent release is in keeping with a
previous work in which the author outlined the positive aspects of America. In these new chapters, D'Souza eloquently and convincingly defends Christianity along with religion on the whole.
That Mr. D'Souza would take up such a theme is wholly expected as he has made a career out of defending long shots.
Illiberal Education, released in 1991, was one of the first works to document the politicization and ideological corruption of our universities.
The End of Racism indicted race shysters and the pernicious effects of affirmative action a decade before Shelby Steele did the same thing in
White Guilt. Therefore, a defense of Christianity fits well within the parameters of his oeuvre.
What's So Great About Christianity is very much a return to past form. D'Souza has always been hated by the left, but a work released earlier this year,
The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, brought about a fury of condemnation from the right as well. Discussions of that book were fierce, but my guess is that few conservatives will have anything negative to say about his latest offering. God-fearing people of all persuasions will be receptive to his missive. D'Souza meticulously debunks all manner of anti-religious societal clichés and conventional wisdom in these timely pages.
Atheism, seemingly, has never been more popular among our elites than it is today. Several works devoted to the subject have come out over the course of the last year- such as Richard Dawkins'The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens'God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon-and D'Souza does his utmost to deconstruct them all.
Christians may be stunned to discover that atheists, at least in the case of Dennett and Dawkins, have abandoned their previous practice of implying they are stupid. Now they are only too pleased to make their views overtly known by suggesting that they themselves be termed "brights;" which makes the rest of us dim by comparison. In this way Dennett and Dawkins have rendered self-evident the connection between elitism and atheism.
Always serious about the burden of rejoinder, D'Souza is not content to present his case while occasionally alluding to opposition positions. He devoutly analyzes their words throughout the text, and his attention to detail (and mental quickness) is quite evident in the debate he had with Hitchens last month at
The King's College.
Erudition is what's most rewarding in What's So Great About Christianity. A quote from H. Richard Niebuhr aptly sums up the liberal "anything goes" version of Christianity: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." How many vacuous, touchy-feely, services does that phrase resuscitate? It further explains why the "do your own thing" message of the Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches have led to the melting away of their congregations. An unserious and flighty God is a fiction, but also one of no service to humanity.
That being said, right/left distinctions are largely absent. This is not a work by Ann Coulter or Michael Savage. There is no gloating partisanship endemic to D'Souza's narration. The discussion largely revolves around philosophy. Here the views of Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Locke, Rawls, and Mill are clarified and expounded upon.
This book will resonate with parishioners of all denominations as D'Souza never advances the notion that one should blindly follow the doctrines of a particular church. His central premise is that reason, science, and history-the intellectual tools acclaimed by atheists-support the existence of God along with the greatness of Christianity. D'Souza appeals to science and logic as a means to illustrate the rationality of belief.
Despite what Time magazine may put on its cover, there is no "God vs. Science" conundrum. The two entities are not mutually exclusive. D'Souza points out that it was within Christendom, and uniquely there, in which science first flourished. He further indicates that the supposed disharmony between the two was but a nineteenth century fabrication. The case of Galileo was a case in point. His difficulties with the church have been widely fictionalized over the years. The specifics of his trial suggest that his detention may have been for personal and religious reasons as opposed to those uniquely arising from his scientific conclusions.
Believing that God created humanity and that we evolved from there is a concept perfectly acceptable to many believers. That His hand produced "the big bang" makes perfect sense. That is why, as D'Souza notes, so many atheists prefer the "steady-state theory" as a way to explain the universe because it obviates the need for a Creator. D'Souza himself accepts evolution ["evolution remains the best and most persuasive account of our origins"] but draws a distinction between it and Darwinism.
D'Souza accomplishes much by simply restating the facts. We (rightly) celebrate the cultures and authors of ancient Greece and Rome but usually ignore the anti-Democratic practices of their citizens and institutions-which differ markedly from those central to Christianity. Jesus's affirmation of the average person-wherever they fell within the social strata-was a radical departure from the inequitable precepts of Aristotle and Plato. Only Christ held that serving others was the truest way to lead men. Christian humility does not allow for the transcendence of a "great-souled man" over the masses. Furthermore, it was not Christians who sacked Rome but barbarian hordes of Visigoths and Vandals.
What's So Great About Christianity is most timely as atheists are on the offensive, and works like D'Souza's are imperatively needed to combat their influence. Atheists are not content to have honest discourse on this subject. Many of them are housed in our universities and see it as their role to imbue the young with their anti-faith. Given the actions of pseudo-scholar activists, over the course of the last few decades, this is wholly expected. Indeed, Richard Rorty admitted just such a rationale when he said that it was appropriate for students who came to college as "bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists" to leave with views in keeping with those held by their professors. D'Souza makes reference to the way this slant has insinuated itself into our culture via the example of a children's book concerning the Berenstain Bears. A propagandistic juncture instructs young minds that "Nature is all that IS, or WAS, or EVER WILL Be."
What's so great about D'Souza? Well, the fact is most Christians are nothing like him. They are not "contenders" of their faith. They live their lives and that's about it. They reside in the world but refuse to be of it. Believers tend to look at our culture as if it were a tornado which will soon pass by and hopefully leave them unscarred. I suppose tornados sometimes do that, but they also level entire communities. If American Christians fail to defend their values and their tradition, no one else will step in and do it for them. Today, the Third World alone seems excited about carrying forth Christ's banner. If it were up to western atheists, our brights would auction off our churches and turn them into condominiums. The time to stand up for what's right...is now.
Bernard Chapin is the author of
Women: Theory and Practice and
Escape from Gangsta Island.
He can be contacted at