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Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies [Paperback]

David Bentley Hart
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Feb 2010
Currently it is fashionable to be devoutly undevout. Religion's most passionate antagonists - Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and others - have publishers competing eagerly to market their various denunciations of religion, monotheism, Christianity and Roman Catholicism. But contemporary antireligious polemics are based not only upon profound conceptual confusions but upon facile simplifications of history or even outright historical ignorance: so contends David Bentley Hart in this bold correction of the distortions. One of the most brilliant scholars of religion of our time, Hart provides a powerful antidote to the New Atheists' misrepresentations of the Christian past, bringing into focus the truth about the most radical revolution in Western history. Hart outlines how Christianity transformed the ancient world in ways we may have forgotten: bringing liberation from fatalism, conferring great dignity on human beings, subverting the cruelest aspects of pagan society and elevating charity above all virtues. He then argues that what we term the 'Age of Reason' was in fact the beginning of the eclipse of reason's authority as a cultural value. Hart closes the book in the present, delineating the ominous consequences of the decline of Christendom in a culture that is built upon its moral and spiritual values.

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Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies + The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss + The Story of Christianity: A History of 2000 Years of the Christian Faith
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (23 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300164297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300164299
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Few things are so delightful as watching someone who has taken the time to acquire a lot of learning casually, even effortlessly, dismantle the claims of lazy grandstanders - Hart isn't making a bid for wealth, fame, or cocktail-party acceptance: he knows whereof he speaks.' --Stefan Beck, 'New Criterion'

'Anyone interested in taking the debate about God to the next level should read and reflect on Hart's spirited brief on behalf of Christian truth.' --Damon Linker, 'New Republic'

About the Author

David Bentley Hart is visiting professor, Theology Department, Providence College, and author of several books, including 'In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments' and 'The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth'.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Some of the reviewers on Amazon seem not to have noticed that this book is not a defence of Christian beliefs, nor an attack on atheism as such. It is instead a defence of Christianity against claims made about its allegedly harmful historical impact and character by many today, including the 'new atheists'. It argues that Christianity gave to the world revolutionary ideas of charity and justice: they have been so successful that we hardly notice how radical they were, though most of us accept them. It argues that the Church, for all its many failures, has been, in general, a positive influence on the world. It cites many cases where the story behind the myth shows the Church to have acted better (or, at least, less poorly) than legend holds - the Galileo case for example. It sets out the argument with verve and wit even if, at times, it appears to be indulging its polemical style a little too much. It made me realise how accustomed even knowledgeable - even Christian - people have become to making assumptions about the past that do not reflect well on the Church. Those who do not like the book might do better to stop attacking it for what it is not, and demonstrate its historical errors if they can.
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95 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant debunking of atheist mythology 23 July 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is an in-depth exploration of the bad history, as well as the misconceptions and ignorance about what it is people believe, that is so often used to attack religion. Written by well known American University lecturer, philosopher, and theologian, Professor David Hart, Atheist Delusions tackles such contentious moments in history as Galileo's trial and the witch hunts, explaining history and faith without resorting to popular misinformation or rhetoric, his history strong, verifiable, even-handed, and matter-of-fact, his arguments giving plenty of room for you to make up your own mind, something totally lacking from the populist rants of New Atheism's most virulent supporters, who tend to assume, if not demand, that you agree with their every view, regardless of how extreme or defamatory.

Professor Hart does not take not the opposite stance of defender railing against atheism itself, but instead attacks idealistic fanaticism on both sides, confessing that there are many denominations of Christianity that he vehemently dislikes, as well as many outspoken atheists he admires, warning against the angry and destructive creed of aggressive 'New Atheism', as well as challenging those who attack Christianity and other faiths without any idea of what they are about and the bad logic that they often use.

Though I wish it this book could have been a little stronger, and maybe a little less wordy in the introduction, this is a very good book for anyone who has already experienced much of the debate and despairs of the simplistic and pedantic nature of many current arguments, and is a timely warning not to take history's headlines at face value.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This book does not set out to "disprove Dawkins" as you might have thought from the title (and some reviewers seem to have thought).
It is a careful review of certain parts of the history of Christianity aimed entirely at correcting areas of ignorance and misunderstanding about Christianity that are very popular or common today. The writer points out that one of his reasons for writing is that these misconceptions and misunderstandings are often seized upon -or indeed invented by- the "new atheists" as reasons to discredit Christianity, often in the most strident terms.

Thus if you thought that the ancient Greek and Roman world was bustling with scientific vigour and enquiry until the Christian church stifled it- read the facts and you will find you are very much mistaken. If you thought that the "wars of religion" in the 1600s arose as the result of violence between Christian persuasions- read this to find out why you are wrong and see how they were in fact, secular in origin.

The writer in no way actually makes a case out for or against Christianity per se, and he clearly states that it is not his intention to do so. He is good at pointing out the limitations of inference that one can draw from the factual material he cites which makes a refreshing change from some writers in this area. The book is easy enough to read and helps clear up a lot of lazy thinking about the last 2000 years.

If you are a Christian it will probably give you a better knowledge of the past of your own church unless you are well read already.

If you are not a believer read it anyway for the sake of integrity, so that you at least know the historical truth behind Christianity, not the rubbish that people like Hitchens churn out.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hart's historical essay is an excellent and refreshingly academic contribution to the God debate. He makes some very insightful remarks on the foundations of the scientific, modernist enterprise and avoids any "low blows" characteristic of the more reactionary apologetics on both sides.

The reason I didn't give this 5 stars is because the various bits of historical analysis can be long-winded and very tedious. Just skim read those parts if you have other things to be reading or you're not that concerned about the patristic period.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong and pointed
The book is presented at a high academic level and uses "academic" language, with a degree level education I had to use a good dictionary. Read more
Published 8 months ago by DCnotAC
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Impressed!
see T Deegan's review....it says everything I would about this book. It is written well and easy to read - I have used it for an essay for a BA in Biblical Studies and found it... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Lyn Kenny
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting perspective
Hart writes with an angry style, but he has some very interesting perspectives on how Christianity has been presented over recent years.
Published 13 months ago by mark
3.0 out of 5 stars worth borrowing.
Harts arguments ,such as they are , (he has a preference for rhetorical dismissal) are not especially convincing . Read more
Published 16 months ago by Terrano Martinez
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scholarly Christian History
This is in many ways in the tradition of G.K. Chesterton's "Everlasting Man", being readable and reasonable except that being written 80 years down the line it has more facts to... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mr. George R. Featherston
5.0 out of 5 stars He's done the research
This book is a must-read for anyone who's interested in the historical influence of Christianity on the world. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A bold defence of historic Christianity
I am currently half way through this book and enjoying it hugely. As other reviewers have said, it is not a set of arguments for God but a corrective to much contemporary comment... Read more
Published on 7 Mar 2012 by Philip Manning
4.0 out of 5 stars The impact of Christianity in the world
As with quite a lot of books, the title is a little misleading. It might, more accurately, have been entitled "the truth about Christian history", or something of that sort. Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2012 by daddycoool
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED
I won't bore you too much, a very well written book, hard hitting and to the point. It demolishes the notion some have about Christianity and exposes the prejudices of certain... Read more
Published on 13 Dec 2011 by Phillip J. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars A strong defence of the benefits of Christianity
As other reviewers have noted, this book is NOT a defence of the truth-claims of the Christian faith. Read more
Published on 30 July 2011 by Alan Pavelin
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