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Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies Paperback – February 23, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300164297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300164299
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“An unanswerable and frequently hilarious demolition of the shoddy thinking and historical illiteracy of the so-called New Atheists.”—Michael Robbins, Commonweal
(Michael Robbins Commonweal)

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

Apparently David Bentley Hart had two mandates when writing this book.
Mennonite Medievalist
Modernity's current defenders, and this is the first half of Hart's book, retell the Western story in a way to demonize Christianity in their defense of modernity.
Jacob
I really enjoyed Hart's style of writing and the authority with which he writes.
martin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

199 of 222 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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178 of 206 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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74 of 84 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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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.

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