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    • Renwable Revolution
“Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable  Enemies”

Agelbert Note: Memes taken apart here (and at the link) are quite common on liberal forums attacking Christianity and VERY MUCH part of RE's mistaken view of history at the DD  >:(  I always new RE's childish tantrums about religion and Christianity being total failures was BS. This book sets the record straight; not that people like RE will listen, however.  :(

Book Review

Anthony Kenny on ‘Atheist Delusions’

Posted on May 13, 2010

This review originally appeared in The TLS, whose website is www.the-tls.co.uk, and is reposted with permission.

In the ongoing suit of Secularism vs God, David Bentley Hart is the most able counsel for the defence in recent years. Though confident in the strength of his case, he does not hesitate to abuse the plaintiff’s attorneys, and he does so in grand style. Richard Dawkins is guilty of “rhetorical recklessness”. Christopher Hitchens’s text “careens drunkenly across the pages” of a book “that raises the wild non sequitur almost to the level of a dialectical method”. Daniel Dennett’s theses are “sustained by classifications that are entirely arbitrary and fortified by arguments that any attentive reader should notice are wholly circular”.

Hart (in his book “Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies”) has the gifts of a good advocate. He writes with clarity and force, and he drives his points home again and again. He exposes his opponents’ errors of fact or logic with ruthless precision. He is generous in making concessions on his own side, provided they leave intact his overarching claims. Above all, he has ensured that his brief is modest and manageable.

Thus, no attempt is made to plead in defence of religion as such. “Religion in the abstract”, Hart says, “does not actually exist, and almost no one (apart from politicians) would profess any allegiance to it”. This is a sound and fundamental point. The creeds of the major religions are mutually contradictory, so that the one thing we know for certain about religion is that if any religion is true then most religions are false. Hart’s client is not religion in general—it is traditional Christianity. It is this, he claims, that has been misunderstood and slandered by its cultured despisers.

Again, Hart concentrates on issues of history rather than philosophy. True, he claims that Dawkins’s philosophical arguments are ones that “a college freshman midway through his first logic course could dismantle in a trice”. However, the claim that Dawkins is philosophically illiterate is based on an ontology that would be rejected by many a seasoned professor of philosophy. Hart’s own strengths lie elsewhere, so he is wise to concentrate on narrative and invective.

The aim of the first half of the book is to demolish “the mythology of a secularist age”. Secularists invite us to believe the following story. (RE's MISTAKEN View of History Pushed NONSTOP at the DD) In the medieval ages of faith, culture stagnated, science languished, wars of religion were routinely waged, witches were burned by inquisitors, and Western humanity was enslaved to superstition. The literary remains of antiquity had been consigned to the flames, and the achievements of Greek science lay forgotten until Islam restored them to the West. The age of faith was succeeded by an age of reason and enlightenment, which gave us the riches of scientific achievement and political liberty, and a new and revolutionary sense of human dignity. The modern separation of Church and State has put an end to the blood-steeped intolerance of religion. Western humanity has at last left its nonage and attained to its majority in science, politics and ethics. “This is”, Hart says, “a simple and enchanting tale ... its sole defect is that it happens to be false in every identifiable detail.” Six chapters demolish detailed elements of this secularist myth. Chapter Four refutes the allegations that the ancient library of Alexandria was destroyed by Christians and that the pagan philosopher Hypatia was murdered out of hatred for women and learning. Chapter Five shows that far from burning Classical texts, Christian monastic librarians preserved them from decay. Chapter Six argues that Greek science had become sterile long before the Christianization of the Roman Empire. The only innovative physicist of late antiquity, we are told, was the Christian John Philoponus. During the four and a half centuries of its scientific pre-eminence, Islam made “no more progress than a moderately clever undergraduate today could assimilate in less than a single academic year”. Paying tribute to the Oxford calculators of the fourteenth century, Hart illustrates the continuity between medieval and Renaissance science. Pope Urban VIII’s condemnation of Galileo, he claims, was not an index of inherent ecclesiastical hostility to science, but a clash of arrogant personalities.

The seventh and eighth chapters defend Christianity from the charges of intolerance and cruelty. The persecution of witches, Hart points out, was an early modern rather than a medieval phenomenon, and the inquisitors of the time did their best to suppress witchhunts.

To see long excerpts from “Atheist Delusions,” click here. (at link)

The rise of modern science and the obsession with sorcery “were two closely allied manifestations of the development of a new post-Christian sense of human mastery over the world”. In exculpation of the use of torture and the burning of heretics, it can be said that the Church was merely following a fashion which was originated by the State.
During the so-called Dark Ages, the only penalty for misbelief was excommunication, whereas in the heyday of the Holy Roman Empire heresy became a capital crime. “Violence”, Hart says, “increased in proportion to the degree of sovereignty claimed by the state, and whenever the medieval church surrendered moral authority to secular power, injustice and cruelty flourished.”

Addressing the responsibility of the Church for warfare, Hart briskly gets the Crusades out of the way. Admitting that they were “holy wars”—the only ones in Christian history, he maintains—he dismisses them as “the last gaudy flourish of Western barbarian culture, embellished by the winsome ceremonies of chivalry”.   The European wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are treated at greater length. Here, we learn, “no prince of the time waged war against another simply on account of his faith”. In its bloodiest days the Thirty Years War was not a war of religion, but a struggle between two Catholic houses, the Bourbons and the Habsburgs. Hart is at his most convincing when he argues that for the sheer scale of its violence, the modern period trumps any of the ages of Christian faith. “The Thirty Years War, with its appalling toll of civilian casualties, was a scandal to the consciences of the nations of Europe; but midway through the twentieth century ... even liberal democracies did not scruple to bomb open cities from the air, or to use incendiary or nuclear devices to incinerate tens of thousands of civilians.”

In the second part of the book, Hart seeks to replace the secularist myth with a positive account of what he calls “the Christian revolution”—“perhaps the only true revolution in the history of the West”. Many of the values prized by modern secularists are inheritances from the early days of Christianity.

Pre-Christian cults involved human sacrifice, self-castration and self-mutilation. PreChristian society despised the poor and weak and tolerated infanticide; it enjoyed gladiatorial combat, and it was built on slavery. 

Only Christianity fostered the concept of a dignity intrinsic to every human soul. Only the Church built hospitals and almshouses, and taught that charity was the highest virtue.

More at link:


Agelbert NOTE:THIS IS WHERE HE TEARS TO BITS THE ATHEIST'S RELIGION! (Many worshippers at the DD, by the way, with RE as the high priest).

"There is also, however, a negative side to my argument.  It is what I suppose I should call my rejection of modernity — or, rather, my rejection of the ideology of "the modern" and my rejection, especially, of the myth of "the Enlightenment."  By modernity, I should explain, I certainly do not mean modern medicine or air travel or space exploration or any of the genuinely useful or estimable aspects of life today;  I do not even mean modern philosophical method or social ideology or political thought.  Rather, I mean the modern age's grand narrative of itself: its story of the triumph of critical reason over "irrational" faith, of the progress of social morality toward greater justice and freedom, of the "tolerance" of the secular state, and of the unquestioned ethical primacy of either individualism or collectivism (as the case may be).  Indeed, I want in part to argue that what many of us are still in the habit of calling the "Age of Reason" was in many significant ways the beginning of the eclipse of reason's authority as a cultural value;  that the modern age is notable in large measure for the triumph of inflexible and unthinking dogmatism in every sphere of human endeavor (including the sciences) and for a flight from rationality to any number of soothing fundamentalisms, religious and secular;  that the Enlightenment ideology of modernity as such does not even deserve any particular credit for the advance of modern science; that the modern secular state's capacity for barbarism exceeds any of the evils for which Christendom might justly be indicted, not solely by virtue of the superior technology at its disposal, but by its very nature;  that among the chief accomplishments of modern culture have been a massive retreat to superstition and the gestation of especially pitiless forms of nihilism;  and that, by comparison to the Christian revolution it succeeded, modernity is little more than an aftereffect, or even a counterrevolution — a reactionary flight back toward a comfortable, but dehumanizing, mental and moral servitude to elemental nature."

Agelbert NOTE: YEP; Modernity claims that IF YOU CAN'T MEASURE IT, IT DOESN'T EXIST so you are a fool to believe in God or Christianity or tie yourself in "neurotic" knots by attempting to live a moral life. After all, Freud "proved" that freeing yourself from moral behavior and any moral restrainst is good for your mental health, right?


Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. Pr. 22:22-23


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