Book review: What’s So Great About Christianity?

by Dinesh D’Sousa

★★★★

I smiled at D’Sousa’s portrayal of liberal Christians (readers know me as one): “Instead of being the church’s missionaries to the world, they have become the world’s missionaries to the church. They devote their moral energies to trying to make the church more democratic, to assure equal rights for women, to legitimize homosexual marriage, and so on … Liberal Christians are distinguished by how much intellectual and moral ground they concede to the adversaries of Christianity.” Guilty as charged.

So D’Sousa is unafraid to voice his opinion, but they are admittedly studied opinions, fun to contemplate, and worth the effort. His purpose, of course, is to highlight what is great about Christianity. This he does by appealing to our Christian roots in America, debunking atheist arguments about the evils of Christianity through the ages and instead listing Christianity’s accomplishments, and appealing to our common sense of values and morals as God-given. In discussing Christianity’s failings (such as witch hunts and holy wars) D’Sousa points out that atheist regimes have destroyed far more lives than Christian regimes (he convincingly paints Hitler as an atheist).

D’Sousa’s writing is engaging and intelligent, but he occasionally seems to miss the point. His portrayal of how atheists think is off the mark. He claims the Anthropic Principle for his side, to argue for design, favoring, without making a distinction, the “strong” variant—that the creation must have been fine tuned (presumably by a designer) to meet the needs of intelligent life. He ignores the AP’s weaker and more original stance—that of course the universe contains the natural laws and perfect timing for life to evolve, because if perchance it did not, no one would know it. The weak Anthropic Principle hints that there may be other unfriendly universes where no life could evolve, an idea which D’Sousa dismisses with a wave of his hand, stating that such speculation would hardly survive Occam’s Razor.

Of critical importance in D’Sousa’s Christianity is miracles. (What happened to Occam’s Razor?) He rightly notes that Christianity is founded upon a miracle: the resurrection of Jesus. He quotes Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14 to say that without Christ’s resurrection, “our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (D’Sousa ignores the fact that Paul saw the risen Jesus not as a physical resurrection, but as a light from heaven, and presumes other Jesus sightings were the same). From a required belief in bodily resurrection, D’Sousa extrapolates to define a Christian as one who believes literally in all of the nature miracles reported in the New Testament. Don’t believe a man could really walk on water? Then you’re not a Christian. I’m not complaining—I’m quite used to this attitude—I’m just pointing out where D’Sousa draws the line between believer and nonbeliever. D’Sousa’s line requires a belief in nature miracles.

There is no condemnation of competing religions in this book, and only a small argument at the very end of the book for the historicity of the Christ story, by arguing that the resurrection really happened. This book is not really going to convince you that the Bible is true; more effort goes into finding room for a creator god in our philosophy (the big bang discovery really helped!), and accepting that religion is good for us. But perhaps this is the appropriate direction for 21st-century apologetics? We recognize the accomplishments of science, and that by making our life better, science “works”—yet we also recognize science’s shortcomings and the viability of a creator. Evolution, while certainly true, cannot account for the origin of life, consciousness, human rationality or morality (here, D’Souza’s arguments for a soul seem to compete with his assumption that only humans have souls). So why dump on Christianity as a solution? As D’Souza points out, Christianity “works” too, bringing meaning and comfort to lives, speaking to human longings and needs.

While many of the topics D’Souza introduces are unoriginal, his arguments are well-prepared and often fresh. In rereading my review, I may have come down a little harder than intended; the fact is I very much enjoyed the book.

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