Book Review: The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails-Pt. 1 of 2
I recently finished reading The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (TCD) in order to review it on my site www.jasonberggren.com. It was recommended to me by one of the contributors, Edward Babinski, who is a reader of my blog (named above). I’ve had many pleasant back-and-forths with him and was excited at the prospect.
I suspect I was approached to read TCD because of the title of my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith —that I am perhaps a borderline Atheist convert, or a “New Atheist” as they’re called. It’s a fair point, but it is not the case as many Atheists have discovered (and then gotten mad about). I suppose there is a frustration that I used such a shocking title, but used it for good (to build faith and bring attention to Jesus) and used it before they did/could. The irony is, much that is covered in TCD I discuss in my own book.
So what about The Christian Delusion?
Following are my overall impressions and thoughts. By the end of this, I will also reveal the three major flaws of the book, as I see them. Please keep in mind, when I refer to Atheists in this review, I am referring to the contributors of this book only unless otherwise noted.
I appreciate the content of the book. It was well written and presents many valid points. I think it’s important to constantly review the objections many raise concerning Christianity. They are questions worth asking and discussing. We, as Christians, should never resist these dialogues. We should be committed to healthy, productive, and respectful discussions regarding our faith. Unfortunately, the ‘respect’ part is difficult in this heated subject from both sides of this aisle.
Let’s get started.
Summarizing Atheism. Let’s begin at the foundation. From what I gather, Atheism hinges on two rejections (in regard to religion in general): 1) there is no spiritual element to life and 2) there is no such thing as the supernatural. That’s my bottom-line description. For this reason, the physical world can be the only guide. What can be tested and proven with scientific methods can be the only evidence for living. This is summed up quite well by Richard Carrier, PhD on page 296, “That’s why I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead: it simply isn’t a plausible event, and is not supported by any sources I trust.”
Intellectual honesty. That was perhaps the favorite phrase in this book when critiquing Christianity. Much was made of our (Christians) intellectual dishonesty. In other words, Christians would cease to be Christians if they were intellectually honest about…(and so on). But anyone who is intellectually honest will realize that much of the counterpoints to faith in this book are not exactly intellectually honest themselves. But then again, I am no intellectual, to be honest.
For example, there is a railing of Christian apologists for not being authentic in their approach since they seek to prove their faith—that they shouldn’t enter into the endeavor with a defined bias. It’s a fair point. But nothing is said of many apologists becoming converts by doing precisely this. At face value the Atheists make the same mistake (regardless of what they may say). They also enter into their undertaking with a defined bias: they seek to disprove God and Christianity. Personally, I could care less. Just be honest about it rather than assuming some level of moral superiority, especially when you do the same.
Humorless, condescending, and cynical. That is the overall tone of the book. One of the last lines of the introduction is, “To honest believers who are seeking to test their own inherited religious faith, this book is for you.” Sounds so magnanimous and polite, right? As if we are all just sitting around a coffee table together after Thanksgiving Dinner just shuckin-n-jivin. Unfortunately, up to that point the introduction spends a great deal of time talking down to people of faith.
For example, if you are a Christian, have faith, or believe in God this book has no lack of descriptions or directions for you. Allow me to elaborate about you (and these are no exaggerations). You are mentally ill, an obstacle to society, unenlightened, uneducated, brainwashed, sexist, prejudice, primitive, stupid, gullible, superstitious, uncivilized, racist, ridiculous, inferior, embarrassingly incompetent, perversely dishonest, wildly deluded, a liar for Christ, a tragedy, programmed to distrust skeptics, in a cult, and scary. You will hopefully evolve out of your need to believe, must realize that Rome didn’t really persecute Christians all that much, should know there has never been much of an effort to destroy the canonical evidence of Scripture or supportive artifacts, must be open to Atheists ideas (but not vice versa), may not use the Bible when discussing faith with Atheists (although Atheists can use the bible in every argument against it they make and are allowed any other bit of supporting work, theory, innuendo, or otherwise to proselytize their non-God worldview), believe in a savior (Jesus) who was an ignorant xenophobe, should be a socialist, should follow Marxism at least (according to most) and Communism at best (according to a few), contribute to the violence in the world, need to appreciate that Atheists are patient enough to ‘deal’ with you, and need to realize that the Apostle Paul hallucinated himself into belief because of guilt. Oh yes, and you have also likely hallucinated and have low self-esteem (which explains your need to believe).
Now you may be wondering why I included so many direct descriptions. Believe it or not, this is just a small percentage of what the book included. I think it’s important to point out that the book attempts to cloak itself in a guise of respect, reason, and magnanimity (as I stated before). But as you can see, these words are quite antagonistic. This dialogue environment is not egalitarian and altruistic as it claims to want to create. These are words of anger and revenge. And if that’s the purpose, again, then just be honest about it.
“Insiders” of Christianity. That is the claim of nearly all the contributors—that they were former ones, that is. I am very suspicious of this because of the blatant disregard for context (which I will get into later). It just seems to me, if this is true, there is quite a but of willful ignorance as the arguments play out. Or perhaps they had very bad mentors when they were “insiders”.
The Bible has NO credibility. Any source seems to be more valid than the Bible to them. Even one with only one or two copies citing a particular event holds more weight (so long as it casts doubt on Christianity) than the thousands of manuscripts of the Scripture. If two books record the same event, the Bible is automatically wrong. Why? Well, because it’s the Bible, of course! Aren’t you paying attention? This is a good place to introduce the 1st major flaw of the book (in descending order) and end part 1 of this review (part 2 posts tomorrow).
Flaw #3-“The Idiot Genius Contradiction”. In my observation, this is a major pillar of the Atheists (again, I refer to the contributors of this book) contention to Christianity. And in order to accept it, you must accept two contradictory theories at the same time and believe them both simultaneously. Although they should largely negate each other (if we are ‘intellectually honest’), somehow they survive each other, together.
The contradiction is this: Christianity (and Judaism to a lesser degree) is built on the brilliantly maniacal manipulative writings of an elite group of people (i.e., the Bible). This group has been able to translate, re-translate, craft, and re-craft the Bible in a way that has enabled them to control the masses, proliferate their religion throughout the centuries, and maintain their own positions of power. With it and through it they prey on fears, promise rewards, and punish disobedience.
And at the same time…
Somehow this elite group was not smart enough to make God perfect, his followers flawless, and his will universal and clear as the Caribbean waters in those same writings. Obviously, this would require no apologies and phony justifications while helping this elite ensure more power, influence, and amass more money. Instead, in the Bible, they make much of alleging God (and often his followers) is an ethical tyrant, moral monster, racial hatemonger, oppressive master, violent father, indifferent to suffering, and permissive of evil. But somehow we were all tricked into following this God while reading all this. In short, this elite crowd was not smart enough to frame a God that didn’t seem bi-polar and is at least good, yet somehow invented the most successful religion (Christianity) ever. It’s very similar to the 9/11 conspiracy theories: somehow President Bush was an evil genius that destroyed the Word Trade Center to line his (and his cohorts) pockets by starting a war for oil without leaving a hint of evidence but was the biggest bumbling idiot at the same time.
So the Bible is brilliant and stupid all at once. Somehow both are true. That’s the Idiot Genius Contradiction.