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Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies Hardcover – April 21, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“With impressive erudition and polemical panache, David Hart smites hip and thigh the peddlers of a ‘new atheism’ that recycles hoary arguments from the past. His grim assessment of our cultural moment challenges the hope that ‘the Christian revolution’ could happen again.”—Richard John Neuhaus, former editor in chief of First Things
(Richard John Neuhaus)

“Provoked by and responding to the standard-bearers of ‘the New Atheism’, this original and intellectually impressive work deftly demolishes their mythical account of ‘the rise of modernity.’ Hart argues instead that the genuinely humane values of modernity have their historic roots in Christianity.”—Geoffrey Wainwright, Duke Divinity School
(Geoffrey Wainwright)

"In this learned, provocative, and sophisticated book, Hart presents a frontal challenge to today's myopic caricature of the culture and religion that existed in previous centuries."—Robert Louis Wilken, University of Virginia

(Robert Louis Wilken)

“Surely Dawkins, Hitchens et al would never have dared put pen to paper had they known of the existence of David Bentley Hart. After this demolition-job all that is left for them to do is repent and rejoice at the discreditation of their erstwhile selves.”—John Milbank, author of Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology
(John Milbank)

“A devastating dissection of the ‘new atheism,’ a timely reminder of the fact that ‘no Christianity’ would have meant ‘no West,’ and a rousing good read. David Hart is one of America's sharpest minds, and this is Hart in full, all guns firing and the band playing on the deck.”—George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington
(George Weigel)

"Few things are so delightful as watching someone who has taken the time to acquire a lot of learning casually, even effortlessly, dismantle the claims of lazy grandstanders. . . . Hart isn’t making a bid for wealth, fame, or cocktail-party acceptance: He knows whereof he speaks."—Stefan Beck, New Criterion
(Stefan Beck New Criterion 2009-06-01)

"Anyone interested in taking the debate about God to the next level should read and reflect on Hart’s spirited brief on behalf of Christian truth."—Damon Linker, New Republic

(Damon Linker New Republic 2009-04-23)

"Hart writes with elegance. Even his invective has style."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

(Richmond Times-Dispatch 2009-06-08)

"Absolutely brilliant . . . a cultural tour-de-force"—John Linsenmeyer, Greenwich Time

(Greenwich Time 2009-04-08)

“[A] major work by one of the most learned, forceful, and witty Christian theologians currently writing.”—Paul J. Griffiths, First Things
(Paul J. Griffiths First Things 2009-08-01)

Atheist Delusions is a history that serves life . . . Hart argues for a brave thesis . . . . With astonishing success, [he] achieves his objective.”--Christopher Benson, The City

(Christopher Benson The City)

"Indeed, in a culture battle, pitting religion against secularism, Hart may be the best 'corner man' in the business, providing would'be Christian pugilists with a better understanding of both their own strengths and their opponent's weaknesses."—Graham Reside, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology
(Graham Reside Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology)

"Hart aims to provide his readers with a persuasive evocation of historical facts, moral judgments, philosophical principles, and theological musings, which may persuade them of the beauty of Christian truth. . . . Atheist Delusions is an honest book, which doesn't hide the sometimes repulsive truths related to the political or social aspects of historical Christianity."—Mihail Neamtu, Modern Age
(Mihail Neamtu Modern Age)

About the Author

David Bentley Hart is the author of several books, including In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments and The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. He lives in Providence, RI.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300111908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300111903
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Bentley Hart is the author of several books, including In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments and The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. He lives in Providence, RI.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

208 of 233 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Puterbaugh on March 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To begin with, the book should probably be titled "Atheist Delusions About Ancient History." This book is not so much a debate with our Fashionable New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens -- "The Gang of Four?? :-) ) It is more a long, and endlessly fascinating, revisit of Ancient History.

It may not be surprising to learn that there are at least two main narratives commonly provided for "The History of Western Civilization." Here they are (very compressed):

Narrative #1: The Christian Version. "The world was lost in pagan immorality and darkness; man enslaved man and man dominated woman. Then, with the Birth of Christ, came the Divine Light, and the world was forever transformed. The barbarian, knuckle-dragging rapists of Europe were baptised and brought to Jesus, and the world got much, much better. Even today, there is no other known source of European civilization and we reject it at our peril." One of the most popular novels of all time, "Quo Vadis," is in this narrative tradition.

Narrative #2: The Modernist Version. "We had the Glory of Greece and the Splendor of Rome, but alas a bunch of superstitious people completely replaced the glories of Paganism with the knuckle-dragging ignorance of Blind Faith. The result was the Dark Ages, which only ended when Heroic Forces restored the classics of Greece to a benighted Europe. Then came the Enlightenment, and Democracy, and all manner of good things, once the Europeans cast off the shackles of Faith." Arthur C. Clarke and many other modern thinkers followed this narrative.

Whether you approve of my "summaries" or not, the point is that they are both tremendous oversimplifications and they are both therefore silly.
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184 of 212 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on May 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The only thing I dislike about Atheist Delusions is its title. A few other reviewers have pointed out that it seems to indicate the book will be a rebuttal of atheist writers like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and the rest. It is not. Indeed, David Bentley Hart asserts that men like them are hardly worth attention because of the infantile level on which they argue. What Hart does, instead, is provide a history lesson for the "fashionable enemies" of Christianity.

The delusions in question, Hart says, are mostly historical ones. One will not discuss religion with an atheist long before history comes up. What of the injustice of the Inquisition? The Crusades? The long-running war of religion against science? The Reformation and the subsequent wars of religion? We hear constantly that religion (read: Christianity) is the most destructive force in human history. It is Hart's purpose to debunk the delusions and historical fabrications that characterize historical arguments against Christianity.

The primary focus of Hart's book, hinted at in the subtitle, is the "Christian Revolution," those first, tense centuries AD when Christianity replaced ancient paganism. The pagan era has been eulogized since in the Enlightenment as an era of peace and progress, of scientific advance that was stymied by the bigoted, book-burning Christians of the "Dark Ages." Hart shows that, while we owe much to the ancient world, it was also an irredeemably ugly place of slavery, infanticide, of callousness and hopeless reconciliation to the whims of cruel fate. Christianity, which he calls the only true revolution in history, changed everything from the bottom up--and since Christianity was first accepted among the lower classes and slaves, it changed everything quite literally from the bottom up.
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78 of 88 people found the following review helpful By matt on January 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Obviously there are tons of reviews here that you can read to make up your mind over the purchase of this book, but as someone who has been on both sides of this debate, and as a trained historian and teacher of history, I can say that what I found most useful was the author's critique of so many mythical versions of history that pit religion (Christianity in particular) against reason, charity, science and history itself. At university I was indoctrinated with almost every alternate, pop-historical theory that supported a discounting of Christianity's usefulness, along with any possibility that the historical documents could have any usefulness in knowing what actually took place. The historical and exegetical gymnastics and twists that were employed by both myself and the faculty were, in retrospect, rather dishonest. But that is the post-modern milieu; distrust all ideologies (except the current one that got you your PhD thesis accepted).

So I would say check the book out at the library at least. It reads very well and Hart can turn a phrase. You may even laugh out loud a few times, either because you see his point or think he is so off the mark that you cannot believe it made it into print. But let's be honest, too much of the debate ignores history and is built upon straw men- barns full of straw. Hart helps clean the floor so we can be a little more honest with our sources. As he notes, "The past is always to some extent a fiction of the present."

And philosophically, he shows what seems obvious to many: the fundamental presupposition of a logical argument is not provable, but assumed. Questions about the existence or non-existence of God(s), and all epistemology, begin with begged premises that are then built upon based upon experience, history, reason, etc.
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