Thursday, March 06, 2008

What's So Great About Christianity

Dinesh D'Souza, an author and columnist who spoke at Western in 2004, has written a book entitled What's So Great About Christianity. It is a response to several recent atheist bestsellers and a defense of the faith.

D'Souza chronicles the explosive growth of Christianity worldwide, particularly in the third world. At the same time, atheism has gained some ground in America. Religion thrives in part because religious believers are more motivated to have children than nonbelievers. Atheists have attacked Christianity in print and attempt to indoctrinate children in the schools.

D'Souza explains how Christianity provides many of the most basic precepts of Western Civilization. This includes limited government, as opposed to unlimited state power. There is also the belief that there is value in the lives of ordinary people. Then there is the belief that people have inherent worth and equal political rights.

Christianity values reason and there are significant arguments based on reason for the existence of God. Christianity posits an ordered universe, and this belief helped create science. The "war between science and religion" is a myth, as is the story that Galileo was punished for his scientific research.

Scientists have shown that the universe has a beginning (as opposed to always existing), agreeing with Christianity. The physical laws of the universe are structured within very narrow boundaries to make life possible. This is a strong argument for the existence of God. Human and other life implies design and the existence of God. Scientists often assume atheism, but science cannot support this as a conclusion.

D'Souza cites the philosophy of Kant to show that we cannot assume that all that we can see is all that exists. Science cannot disprove miracles, it can only tell us the rules that apply when they don't happen. Pascal's wager explains that faith is reasonable.

The "crimes" of religion have been greatly exaggerated, including the inquisition. Most wars are not religious. Atheists are responsible for the most murders in history. Atheist communists and Nazis murdered more than 100 million people.

Morality is objective and knowable. The fact that most people think about it at all is evidence of its existence, and the major world religions agree on many moral principles. Man has a spiritual component as well as a material body, as we are self-aware and use reason and language. The popular belief that people are their own sources of morality is wrong. Atheism is attractive because it eliminates moral restraints. Suffering is a problem for both Christians and atheists. Bad things happen because God allows free will, but religion provides comfort when they happen.

Christianity is unique in that it offers the gift of salvation from sin. Christianity changes people's lives for the better.

What's So Great About Christianity has many strengths. The biggest weakness is its treatment of evolution. Its argument for a common ancestor of all life is unconvincing. It does not explain the origin of man's spiritual component if his body has evolved from nothing. It also does not explain how death can be a result of sin if it was always a part of the process of evolution.

Still, What's So Great About Christianity is a valuable and profitable read.

Related reading:
Evidence That Demands a Verdict
The Victory of Reason
Godless: A Review
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

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