Book Review: The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails-Pt. 2 of 2
So let’s continue.
Context doesn’t matter. That one was a little jab. Of course, this is not a stated value of the book, but this is certainly the practical application as the arguments play out. The authors have little regard for context in regards to the areas of Scripture they do analyze. As a result, they are completely incapable (or unwilling) of determining if a particular area of Scripture is meant to be a special circumstance or a timeless principle. For me, this is a daily and mandatory discipline. But rather than try to determine the context, they liberally vacillate between the literal and metaphorical understandings—depending on which will more readily support their current point or eviscerate Christianity more.
In the same vein, they also make no distinction between the religion of Christianity and those actually desiring to be a follower of Jesus. For example, I did not join a ‘religion’ or belief system (and I did not grow up a Christian). I simply wanted to try to follow the teachings of Jesus and apply them to my life.
Religion kills, Christianity is the worst, and Atheism is all sunny days and yummy milkshakes. If someone in history has claimed to be Christian and done horrible things, like Timothy McVeigh (He is a favorite example of Atheists, although McVeigh was a self-proclaimed agnostic, but I’ll let it stand for the sake of argument.), it was because he was a religious nut and religion is to blame (it made him that way). However, if someone was an Atheist or agnostic and did terrible things, like Mao Zedong, his godless worldview is not responsible. It was just because he was crazy or bad. Christianity is held accountable while Atheism gets a pass.
Plus, Atheism is awesome because it has never had missionaries corrupting societies or hurt anyone. So in the “Age of Reason” France never banished pastors, converted churches to temples of reason, and punished people for claiming to “know the truth” I guess? This is a good place to introduce the 2nd major flaw of the book.
Flaw #2-“The Original Sin”. What is the Original Sin of this book? It takes shape as a HUGE oversight. It does not even delve into the very reason for religion. That is to say, it doesn’t offer one thought as to how this all started or where we all come from. More fundamentally, it does not even do a cursory mention or a courtesy bow to the idea of how you get something from nothing. If you’re going to write a whole reference-type book on debunking Christianity, you better offer something on this.
That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? That’s why I believe at all. Where did this all start? What about our origins? Saying “Darwin” or “Evolution” isn’t enough. Give me “Cosmic Goo” or “X” the “Big Bang.” It isn’t an explanation, but its something. What started this all? Did aliens seed all this as noted Atheist Richard Dawkins said could be possible? To not offer anything is a major flaw of a book seeking to destroy Christianity and promote Atheism. You better offer something, or at least say why you’re not offering anything. But let me say, in offering something you may only put forward what science can prove and test. Remember, the natural (or physical) world is all that we may believe in or that can guide us. That means nothing that can be construed as “extraordinary” or hint at something “supernatural” may be proposed. I suppose that may be why our origins is ignored in this book. It is difficult to explain.
How do you get something from nothing?
Christianity can’t be because it isn’t. Christianity can’t be true because it probably isn’t the only religion you (or I) tried. That’s a major contention. They hold that I must treat every religion with the same amount of validity. If I want to have any integrity I must flush out and try each one before I am allowed to decide.
The Outsider Test For Faith. What I gather to be one of the benchmarks of the book is described as the Outsider Test For Faith (OTF). This is somewhat related to the point above. It is something the editor and main contributor, John Loftus, builds his very Atheism on. Unfortunately, he never stated exactly what the Outsider Test For Faith is. I read the chapter several times to try and find it. He laid out questions that he uses to guide his skepticism based on the OTF, answered objections based on the OTF, but never defined clearly what the OTF was/is. In addition, I know he wants us (Christians) to subject the same amount of skepticism to Christianity as we do other religions. I suppose that is what it is. Still, I’m not sure. Nowhere did Loftus say “The OTF can essentially be summarized as…” and then build from there. Perhaps, I missed it. I guess I failed the test.
Marxism and Atheism. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that most Atheists are Marxists in regards to their socio-political philosophy (most are Socialists and a few admit to being Communists). And I extend this assessment beyond the confines of this book. I find this somewhat inconsistent and even humorous. It is a true lapse of the ‘unwavering’ logic they profess. They don’t have the integrity or decency to be anarchists at best (the only ‘survival of the fittest’ socio-political philosophy) or Libertarians at worst (the only amoral one). Atheists are so often averse and upset about the influence of religion on society and its ‘oppressive’ morality. Their perfect, reasoned, and logical solution? To revert to another form of moralism. They seek to employ all the authoritarianism of a theocracy, minus the God part.
*The book alleges that the Bible promotes a “flat earth” view of cosmology because it employs such terms as the “four corners of the earth”. This is to show how primitive framers of the Bible were and, subsequently, must have been wrong about God too. Somehow there is no understanding of the poetry and parallelism in Hebrew writings and banter. For example, Jesus once said to take the plank out your own eye before pointing out the piece of sawdust in someone else’s (in regard to being judgmental). This may come as a surprise, but Jesus did not in fact think we are all actually made of wood. It was a creative metaphor.
*The book contends that we are all moral relativists because we view someone else’s view of morality as relative to ours (often a clear distinction between belief and non-belief). But that’s not what I view as moral relativism. I am not a moral relativist because I believe in absolutes that are intrinsic and fixed. Perhaps we are operating from two different meanings of ‘relative/ist.’
*Christians must give opponents of Christianity more validity than promoters of it if they want to truly find the truth. Of course, no one ever does this. Do the environmentalists look to skeptics to learn how to protect the earth? Do pro-choice advocates glean wisdom from pro-lifers when weighing their decision? (And so on) This is simply hedging and an air of moral superiority, because we’re all guilty here—even Atheists.
*Science picks up where philosophy leaves off, is what they say in this book. In direct contrast, I say the exact opposite in my book. Philosophy offers a theory or explanation when science can’t.
*Atheists get mad that Atheism often gets called a religion by Christian apologists. While I understand Atheism is not a religion, in that it is not a belief system and is more accurately non-belief or non-religion, can we agree that sometimes this is an argument about semantics? Religion can be defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. Does Atheism not sometimes fit that description when having these debates? Perhaps Atheism can sometimes be viewed as a religion with a little “r” and not a big “R”, as it is not an organized and formal religion. But you get the idea, academically speaking, when we’re having these talks, don’t you?
*Atheists also dispute Christianity because there are so many variations of it (with the denominations, non-denominations, and cults, to a lesser degree). In essence, Christianity (and Christians) can’t agree with itself, so it must be false. So am I to understand that because there are varying viewpoints on a particular subject (the result of free will, mind you) then none can be correct or worth considering? That makes no sense. Bring that into a marriage or friendship and see where that gets you. Not to mention, this isn’t exactly a fair point to make at all. Atheists only have to agree on ONE THING: there is no God. In the inverse, Christians unanimously agree on this point (that there is a God). And they agree on the most important element of Christianity: Jesus. Beyond that, there can be no more comparing, since we have doctrine, principles, and lessons to learn from and interpret. If Atheists had the same to consider they would obviously find themselves in the same predicament.
Flaw #1-“The Epic Fail”. The very title “The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails” is an epic fail. That is to say, the very premise of the book fails. Why? Because Christianity is alive and well. In fact, it started with just 12 followers 2,000 years ago and has bad BILLIONS of followers since then. If we put this in an empirical and scientific context, as Atheists claim to guide their lives with, we see that the evidence proves that the title breaks down in a major way with very little analysis—because faith hasn’t failed.
In fact, the very first sentence of the first chapter confirms my point. It opens with, “One of the great mysteries is why, despite the best arguments against it, religion survives.” There it is: an inadvertent admission that the title does not stand up under the weight of its own scrutiny. And if that’s the case, then doesn’t the whole premise of the book fail? Perhaps a better subtitle would be something like “Why Faith Should Fail”. A title with a qualitative word in it helps to deliver on the promise. This is something I learned writing my own book. With all the contributors claims of intellect, experience in academia, and fancy letters after their names, how did they miss this epic fail?
Lastly, a word to Atheists:
I do not hate you. I am not trying to convert you. I do not want to control you. I do not want to create a theocracy. I understand your frustrations and doubts—I have them weekly. I believe in God. You do not. I believe there is a spiritual element to life. You do not. I believe Jesus was the Son of God. You do not. But make no mistake:
I believe because I know it to be personally true. Sometimes resolute and sometimes strong. And sometimes a little more dimly. But I know this:
I will always believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. To me, that’s just the best news ever.
This entry was posted by Jason Berggren on August 31, 2010 at 10:24 am, and is filed under Book Reviews, Reviews, Touchy Subjects, Unauthorized Blogs. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.
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Edward could just have written the last paragraph and he would have said all that was needed.
Or to put it another way, it doesn’t matter how convulated or ridiculous his position is, it has to be better than what Christianity offers.
His option 2 says that instead of a single cause that requires no origin we have an infinite number of non-causes (effects?) that have no explanation for their origin.
An intellectual fraud is about the kindest description I’d attach to him.
Well put, but he has always been very kind to me. However, that does not leave his opinions above reproach.
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Well, Edward, I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Is this trying to remain distant and noncommittal (and cool)?
You cannot discuss those ‘beliefs’ without tackling the existential stuff (even by default). And TCD does this quite a bit, if you ask me.
Speaking of existential questions, I don’t know whether “nothing” every existed in either a theistic or non-theistic cosmos. The fact that our space-time bubble had a beginning tells us nothing about what existed before it. There could be an infinite something that has always existed and in which cosmic space-time bubbles arise. (In fact a portion of galaxies in our own space-time bubble appear to be moving in one direction in unison which may be accounted for by the existence of another cosmos lying just outside our own in that direction, perhaps tugging on that part of our own space-time bubble.)
I would also add that at least three options exist:
1) God created the cosmos–a God that is by definition eternal, infinite and creative (is it the “Christian Bible-God?”–that’s open to question.)
2) Our cosmos is one tiny space-time bubble that arose along with an infinite number over an infinite period of time in a cosmos that is eternal and infinite in all directions.
One could believe either 1) or even 2) because in a truly infinite and eternal flux of matter and energy, evolutions of all sorts have the possibility of occurring, perhaps even the inevitability of occurring over an infinite period of time and flux. So “creativity” of a pre-programmed and directed sort is not necessary.
3) One other alternative to keep in mind is this, from Robert Anton Wilson: A form of distributed intelligence (no hierarchical personal or conscious deity at the “top”) sometimes manifests itself in the evolution of life and sentient beings on the thin atmospheric surfaces of a few fragile lifeboats bobbing in space–and those beings are part of a dance of equilibrium between life and death, since they all eventually die, along with planets and galaxies. But here’s Wilson’s exact words:
I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.
I strongly suspect that a world “external to,” or at least independent of, my senses exists in some sense.
I also suspect that this world shows signs of intelligent design, and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignity, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology.
I somewhat suspect that Theism and Atheism both fail to account for such decentralized intelligence, rich in circular-causal feedback.
These suspicions have grown over 72 years, but as a rather slow and stupid fellow I do not have the chutzpah to proclaim any of them as certitudes. Give me another 72 years and maybe I’ll arrive at firmer conclusions.
Hi Jason, I think your largest criticism of the book is for not being something it never claimed to be. The Christian Delusion does not claim to provide all the answers to broad existential questions like what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything. It focuses on specifically Christian beliefs, Christian sociological and psychological influences, the Christian Bible, and related questions of Christianity and history.