October 24, 2010

REACTING THEIR WAY INTO THE VOID:

Equally Not Nothing: a review of Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies by David Bentley Hart (Peter Augustine Lawler, Fall 2010, Intercollegiate Review)

This brilliant, stunningly erudite, and powerfully provocative work begins as a tough criticism of the naive stupidity of the books of our popularizing “new atheists”—the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. Those best-selling authors have made atheism newly fashionable by spinning it shamelessly to appeal to our “sophisticated” prejudices. They criticize the immoral effects of Christianity from an anti-cruelty, pro-freedom, pro-Enlightenment perspective. They paint a historical picture of the scientifically advanced civilizations of the ancient Greeks and Romans, reasonably adorned with an easygoing polytheism. That admirable world was ruined, they explain, by the repressive disruption occasioned by the superstitious belief that there is only one, true, personal God.

Hart's “governing conviction” is that what our new atheists regard as modern progress in the direction of rational liberation is itself a reactionary superstition. The modern Enlightenment has actually been a rebellion against the whole truth about our natures, about who we are, and about the true source of our freedom and dignity. And that rebellion has been not so much radical as selective and self-indulgent. By compassionately privileging personal freedom and human rights over what they believe they know through science, the new atheists remain parasitic on the key Christian insight about who we are. Their attachment to the humane virtues makes no sense outside the Christian claim for the unique and irreplaceable dignity of every human person. That claim is completely unsupported by either ancient (Aristotelian) or modern (Darwinian) science. The sentimental preferences of our atheists are really those of a Christianity without Christ. [...]

It is barely too strong to say that, for Hart, Christ transformed each of us from being nobody to being somebody—indeed, a somebody of infinite value. None of us is destined to be a slave, and death has been overcome. We are no longer defined by our merely biological natures, because our nature is now to be both human and divine.



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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 24, 2010 2:19 PM
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