What's So Great About Christianity?
Born and raised in India, Dinesh D'Souza speaks eloquently about Christianity from a point of view different from a US perspective.
Ch 1 The Twilight of Atheism
p3-4 numbers for denominations
p4 growth of traditional religion
p5 Europe, Australia, Canada religion "expunged from the cultural mainstream"
p5 Europe 10-25% churchgoers, Ireland 45% Greece 90% believers only 5% atheist, Poland and Slovakia most religious with Ireland. US 40% attend church, >90% believe in God, 60% faith important. US the most religious in the western world.
p7 Islam fastest growing in Europe, Christianity only faith with a global reach
p7 In 1900 80% of Christians were in Europe, now 60% in the developing world. "vital centers of Christianity not in Europe, but in Brazil, etc.
p8 Numbers of Christians in different countries
p8-9 Numbers in Africa, South America
p9 South Korea has 12,000 Christian missionaries, second only to the US
p10 Peter Berger "the thesis of inevitable secularization has now lost its credibility"
p10 Wolfhart Pannenberg "Secular culture itself produces a deep need for meaning in life and therefore also for religion."
p10 "I am a native of India, and my ancestors were converted to Christianity by Portuguese missionaries." "When I came toAmerica as a student in 1978, my Christianity was largely a matter of birth and habit. But even as I plunged myself into modern life in the United States, my faith slowly deepened. G.K.Chesterton calls this the 'revolt into orthodoxy'. Like Chesterton, I find myself rebelling against extreme secularism and finding in Christianity some remarkable answers to both intellectual and practical concerns". p11 "God is the future, and atheism is on the way out."
Ch 2 Survival of the Sacred
p13 "The vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply." Darwin, The Origin of Species
p15 Randy Alcorn - two tribes, believer tribe healthy, happy, hopeful and atheist tribe in despair
p16 American Atheists organization 2500 members
p16 quote "You can throw a stone ..."
p17 Russia -- abortions outnumber live births 2:1 paragraph 1, Paragraph 2 low birthrates, birthrates of religious people 2:1 over non religious.
p18 last paragraph to p19 "not religion but Darwinism that requires a Darwinian explanation."
Ch 3 God is Not Great: The Atheist Attack on Religion
p21 "far from dying quietly, religion is on the global upswing.." Pluralism pop 40 million, 15%, up from 10% in 1990.
p22 Paragraph 2 list of books and authors stating atheist position, atheist pride, "brights" from Dennett and Dawkins, quotes
p23 par 2, Weinberg, Majority of scientists atheists, 40% believe in personal God, National Academy of Sciences 7% believers.
p24 Sagan, Pinker, Harris, Dawkins, Sagan and the "god of the gaps"
p25 Dawkins, Dennett, Ayala, Provise, Crick, Wilson
p26 History including Voltaire, Diderot, d'Hobach, Freud
p27 Nietzsche's approach
p28 Bertrand Russell
p29 E. O. Wilson
Ch4 Miseducating the Young: Saving Children from Their Parents
p31"Isn't it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought about?" Dawkins, The God Delusion
p32 "Darwinism has become an ideology." Political movement for Darwinism, but "Why isn't the ACLU filing lawsuits on behalf of Boyle's Law?" humorous couple of paragraphs.
p32-33 quotes from Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Weinberg, Wilson, Lewontin, Dennett railing against religion. Lewontin: objective of science education is to "get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world ... and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, science, as the only begetter of truth."
p34 Cosmos, Carl Sagan "The cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be."
p34 Carolyn Porco, Space Science Institute - quote on p35 science as God substitute
p35 suggestions along the line that children should be taken away from religious parents Dawkins, Dennett, Nicholas Humphrey, Richard Rorty - Rorty's outrageous and arrogant statements. The strategy of just ridiculing anything religious.
p Kenneth Miller "grow out of .."
p37 D'Souza's satire of this "ridiculing" strategy
Ch 5 Render Unto Caesar: The Spiritual Basis for Limited Government
p42 "the West was built upon two pillars: Athens and Jerusalem."
p43 "The Athens we know and love is not Athens as it really was, but rather Athens as seen through the eyes of Jerusalem."
p43 Makes a scathing attack on Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as being a deliberately anti-Christian and deliberately distorted view of history.
p45 credits Christianity as being the source of western civilization. Starts the first of three central ideas, "the idea of separating or disentangling the spheres of religion and government."
p48 Islamic theocracy
p48 Augustine's The City of God as containing the embryo of the idea of limited government. Citizen's of two realms, so government's claim is not complete or absolute.
p51 John Locke and his advocacy of religious tolerance.
p53 Washington's and Adams' statements about morality and religion and government.
Chapter 6 The Evil That I Would Not: Christianity and Human Fallibility
p55 The second major principle: Charles Taylor "affirmation on ordinary life". "It is the simple idea that ordinary people are fallible, and yet these fallible people matter. In this view, society should organize itself in order to meet their everyday concerns, which are elevated into a kind of spiritual framework. The nuclear family, the idea of limited government, the Western concept of the rule of law, and our cultures high emphasis on the relief of suffering all derive from this basic Christian understanding of the dignity of fallible human beings."
p55-56 Paul radically departs from Plato and classical philosophy by asserting that the human will is corrupt.
p55-56Very critical of Plato who extolled only knowledge and attributed all bad to ignorance, of the world of Greece and Rome for their exaltation of the rich and noble, of Homer for concentrating only on the ruling class. Aristotle considered the common man as fit only for servitude, even slavery.
p56 Auerbach , D'Souza starts "despite Christ's undistinguished origins, simple life, and lowly death, everything he did was imbued with the highest and deepest dignity". Eloquent paragraph about the honoring of the common man.
p56 Taylor "as a consequence of Christianity, new values entered the world.." "For the first time people began to view society not from the perspective of the haughty aristocrat but from that of the ordinary man. This meant that institutions should not focus on giving the rich and high-born new ways to pass their free time; rather they should emphasize how to give the common man a rich and meaningful life."
p57 Christianity and the idea of the family. --not important in ancient Greece -- Aristotle low view of women as "incapable of friendship", love unimportant, much homosexuality,
p58 Christianity's development of idea of romantic love and love for family as a "calling" from God, introduced idea of mutual consent for marriage,
p60 examples in defense of the rule of law.
p61 idea of servant leadership
p62 modern capitalism , Adam Smith, selfishness channeled in such a way that it is beneficial to all. "civilizes greed in much the same way that marriage civilizes lust. Both institutions seek to domesticate wayward or fallen human implulses in socially beneficial ways. "
p63 in defense of capitalism. Max Weber.
p64 valuing common man leads to a powerful emphasis on compassion.
Ch 7 Created Equal: The Origin of Human Dignity
p67 The third idea is the equality of all human beings. Christianity the propelling force behind ending slavery, for democracy, self-government, doctrine of human rights.
p68 Christianity brought value to life, regard for women, opposition to slavery
p71 Christian opposition to slavery in 18th century Britain.
p72-73 Great awakening and movements toward equality
p73 M L King Jr
p74 just war idea
p76 modern concept of freedom a Christian idea, contrasts with Greek democracy where city still had power over individual and could ostracize story of "Aristides the Just"
p77 Nietzsche - the life of the west is based upon Christianity
pCh 8 'Christianity and Reason: The Theological Roots of Science'
p83 Science and faith enemies? Harris and Wilson
p83 Science arose in Christendom. "Why did science arise here and nowhere else?" Christianity's emphasis on the importance of reason.
p84 "modern science is an inverfntion of medieval Christianity, and that the greatest breakthroughs in scientific reason have largely been the work of Christians."
p84 Christianity based on reason in contrast to Judaism and Islam which are basically religions of law.
p85 Augustine's conclusion that time was created with the universe as a logical exercise. Aquinas argued for God based on causation.
p86 Dawkins and Harris ridicule the idea of God with "Who created God?" D'Souza's comments sound like William Lane Craig's treatment of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
p87 Anselm's ontological argument
p89 Christianity characterized by rigorous exercises of logic like the efforts of Augustine, Aquinas and Anselm.
Ch 9 From Logos to Cosmos: Christianity and the Invention of Invention
p91 "the greatest idea of modern science is based not on reason but on faith." the presumption that the universe is rational. quotes Feynman and Tyson.
p92 "Scientists today take for granted the idea that the universe operates according to laws, and that these laws are comprehensible to the human mind." Quotes by Trefil and Weinberg. Also Wigner in essay "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences'.
p94 Abu Hamed al-Ghazali and Alfred North Whitehead
p95 Universities had roots in the monasteries of medieval Christendom.
p95 Bacon the founder of the scientific method was devout Christian
p96 debate deductive vs inductive was religious debate
p97 List of leading scientists who were Christian
p99 Lederberg religious impulse
Ch 10 An Atheist Fable: Reopening the Galileo Case
p101 Multiple quotes from the atheists about the Galileo case.
p102 Dramatizes the rhetoric with a parallel to Star Wars but then deflates it with "suffers from only one limitation: it is not true." Points to John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White as originators of this "conflict between science and faith", discredited by historians likeDavid Lindberg.
p103 Early Greeks and medieval Christians both knew Earth was round from watching ships masts. Debunks the Wilberforce/Huxley fable about the ape ancestor
p104 Bruno excecuted for heresy about trinity, not for Copernicanism
p105 Church aware of data, and it supported Ptolemy.
p106 Galileo got heliocentricity from telescope obs, but Brahe opposed it.
p108 Galileo's errors - motion induced tides, circular orbits. Galileo's indescretion: the dialogue between Simplicio and Galileo. Also argued against literal Biblical interpretation.
p110 lied to inquisition. last paragraph a concise summary.
Ch 11: A Universe With a Beginning: God and the Astronomers
p115 Quotes of Weinberg, Sagan, Wilson as challenge
p118 Weinberg quote about light as main constitutent of the early universe.
p119 Opposition to Big Bang
p120 Bondi, Gold and Hoyle and their steady state universe
p121 3K background, COBE
p122 discussion of 6 calendar days
p123 creation ex nihilo, Augustine's understanding of creation of time and space.
p124 Penzias quote on Bible , Jastrow's band of theologians
p125 Atheist scrambling in face of big bang. Russell, Stenger, Hume
p126 Creator outside space and time
Ch 12 A Designer Planet: Man's Special Place in Creation
p127 Copernicus is dead - principle of mediocrity is dead.
p128 Stenger, Sagan, Weinberg 's version of principle of mediocrity
p128 Copernican principle more importantly challenged man's "special position"
p129 " if man is so central to God's purposes in nature, why do we live in such a marginal speck of real estate in such a big, indifferent universe?"
p129 intro of anthropic principle
p130 Paul Davies "We have been written into the laws of nature in a deep and , I believe, meaningful way."
p130 Barrow and Tipler The Anthropic Cosmological Principle
p130 Martin Rees "Just Six Numbers"
p130 Astronomer Lee Smolin, probability quote from Stephen Hawking
p131 Quotes from Hoyle, Dyson, Gingerich, Jastrow
p131 Lucky Us, Multiple Universes, Designer Universe
p132 Weinberg, Stenger and Dawkins on "Lucky Us"
p132 Leslie's firing squad
p133 Flew on fine-tuning
p133 Multiple universe position
p134 Smolin, Gingerich respond to multiple universes
p135 Occam's razor discussion
p136 Hawking, Weinberg, Dawkins in multiple universe camp
p136 Stephen Barr "It seems that to abolish one unobservable God, it takes an infinite number of unobservable substitutes."
p137 Paul Davies
Ch 13 Paley Was Right: Evolution and the Argument From Design
p139 full Paley quote and reference
p140 Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker, Bernard Cohen, Quammen, Shermer
p141 some creationism history, Scopes trial
p142 quotes from Ayala, Wilson, Gould, Provine
p142 D'Souza comments universe created from nothing, man created from the dust - all of life from the elements
p143 Huxley's hatred of the church
p144 Kelvin's age of the Earth, 4.5 billion year age of Earth
p144 Dobzhansky and Fisher, Christian biologists who were defenders of Darwin.
p145 C S Lewis had no problem with evolution, Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins
p145 Intelligent design Wells, Dembski, Behe, Johnson, Cambrian explosion
p145 Miller and Dobzhansky quotes on evolution as foundation of biology
p147 Quotes from Dawkins and Dennett which led Gould to call them "Darwinian fundamentalists."
pFailure of Miller Urey and everything else to explain the origin of life.
p148 Dawkins likens genetic code to computer program
p148 Harold quote on bacterial cell "displays levels of regularity and complexity that exceed by orders of magnitude" anything in the non-living world.
p148 pegs origin of life between 3.5 and 4 billion years ago
p148 Pinker and Dennett on consciousness
p148 Wallace, Ruse, Pinker on the mystery of consciousness - no answer to its nature or origin
p150 God of the gaps and "atheism of the gaps"
p150 Back to "Paley's argument has never been refuted"
p151 Barrow and Tipler physics has supplied a new "design argument remarkably similar to that proposed by Paley"
p152 Stephen Barr lengthy quote , responds to Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker with "How can a factory that makes watches be less in need of explanation than the watches themselves?"
p152 "It should be clear from all this that the problem i snot with evolution. The problem is with Darwinism. Evolution is a scientific theory, Darwinism is a metaphysical stance and a political ideology." "Darwinism is the atheist spin imposed on the theory of evolution."
Ch 14 The Genesis Problem: The Methodological Atheism of Science
p155 Dennett quote
p156 several quotes on Big Bang and other objectionable science discoveries and peoples feelings about them.
p157 Douglas Erwin "One of the rules of science is, no miracles allowed."
p158 Copernicus, Kepler, Boyle saw nature as deeply compatible with God
p160 some of the biases of Dawkins, Pinker, others "a level of dogmatism that would embarrass any theist.."
p161 Lewontin "we are forced by our a priori commitment to material causes to create .. a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."
p162 Collins, Gingerich and the supernatural, Crick and hostility to religion
p163 difference between procedural atheism and philosophical atheism
p163 Polkinghorne and Penrose
Ch 15 The World Beyond Our Senses: Kant and the Limits of Reason
p167 Sam Harris quote ridiculing acceptance of the Bible
p168 multiple quotes asserting confidence in rationality as providing access to everything. Discussion of transcendence.
p170-171 explores Kant's idea that all we receive is filtered through the lens of our senses. "it is simply irrational to presume that our experience of reality corresponds to reality itself."
p175 I think D'Souza's paragraph starting "The illusion of realism..." is pretty profound. It includes the sentence "Realists like Dennett think of themselves as tough-minded empiricists, but they are not empirical enough to realize that all that is available to them are experiences and nothing beyond them."
p177 Berger quote
p178 "While the atheist arrogantly persists in the delusion that his reason is fully capable of figuring out all that there is, the religious believer lives in the humble acknowledgment of the limits of human knowledge, knowing that there is a reality greater than, and beyond that which our senses and minds can ever apprehend.
Ch 16 In the Belly of the Whale:Why Miracles Are Possible
p179 Christianity is the only major religion in the world that depends on miracles.
p180 Dawkins blast and Gould's separate magisteria.
p181 Hume's argument against miracles
p187 Popper as another spokesman for a Hume type position
p189 "Like the author of a novel, God is entirely in charge of the plot."
Ch 17 A Skeptic's Wager:Pascal and the Reasonableness of Faith
p192 Statements by Gould, Dawkins, Dennett, Sagan ridiculing faith.
p193 William James The Varieties of Religious Experience, Kant weighs in with the reasonableness of faith.
p195 Talks about agnosticism and doubt and then asserts that doubt is a proper habit of mind for a believer. Talks about the nature of faith.
p196 Pascal begins with the Kantian postulate "reason's final step is to recognize that there are an infinite number of things which surpass it."
p197 Not original with Pascal, offered by Muslim theologian Abu Hamed al-Ghazali.
p198 The necessity of making a choice
p199 a suggestion for what he calls the "hiddenness of God" very good
p199 skeptics prayer
Ch 18 Rethinking the Inquisition: The Exaggerated Crimes of Religion
p203 Weinberg quote
p204 Harris, Russell, Dawkins blast religion for great evils
p205 Crusade description
p206 Kamen The Spanish Inquisition - stereotype of the Inquisition is essentially made up.
p207 Kamen estimates 2000, others 1500-4000 executions over 350 years. Salem witch trials fewer than 25, witches burned 100,000.
p211 Brothers Karamazov Christ before the tribunal -thrown into prison - go and never return - Christ is a peacemaker, the opposite of the persecutions and violence that have been perpetrated in the name of Christianity.
Ch 19 A License to Kill: Atheism and the Mass Murders of History
p214 "In the past hundred years or so, the most powerful atheist regimes - Communist Russia, Communist China, and Nazi Germany - have wiped out people in astronomical numbers."
p214 Stalin 20 million, Mao Zedong up to 70 million, Hitler 10 million
p214 Not including Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and "lesser" atheist tyrants Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha, Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong-il. Pol Pot about 1/5 of his population 1.5-2 million people.
p215 All of religious violence approx 200,000 Scales to world population about a factor of 5 to a million, still a factor of 100 down from the atheist regimes
p216 presses the case that atheists have as much responsibility for those atrocities as they could attribute to religion
p217 Details on Hitler and Nazi regime to counter claims of major complicity by Christians
Ch 20 Natural Law and Divine Law: The Objective Foundations of Morality
p226 Atheist claims that morality doesn't need God
p228 Sagan quote on nature's laws, but moral laws can be broken
p230 argues for common morality among major religions
p233 challenge that absolute morality poses to atheists
p235 story of Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his life in Nazi concentration camp in place of a younger man with a family.
p235 C S Lewis example of drowning man
p237 about inner voice of conscience "Even the atheist hears this internal clarion call because even the atheist has morality at the core of his being, and while the atheist may have rejected God, God has not rejected him."
Ch 21 The Ghost in the Machine: Why Man Is More Than Matter
p239 Dennett quote
p240 Stenger and Dennett talk about the soul, Jerome Elbert
p240 Wilson and Crick on absence of free will Crick "It seems free to you, but it's the result of things you are not aware of." Wilson "the hidden preparation of mental activity gives the illusion of free will."
p241 Interestingly, Dawkins holds onto some version of free will. Pinker also has some of this
p244 the mystery of consciousness "no good scientific or Darwinian account of consciousness
p245 Bryan Magee deals with consciousness. Even Pinker admits "human behavior makes the most sense when it is explained in terms of beliefs and desires, not in terms of volts and grams."
p246 Paul Davies and the analogy of the electical billboard. Davies may have gotten it from Mackay, but the point is the same - the explanatory details about mechanism do not give you the message.
p246 "The longer you ponder materialism, the graver the difficulties that present themselves. How can materialism account for the fact that we consider our accounts of the world to be not merely chemically generated reactions but true beliefs?" Biologist J. B. S. Haldane "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose my beliefs are true .. and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."
p246 Hawking's dilemma.
p247 "Perhaps the strongest argument against materialism is the argument from free will."
p248 Kant : "Ought" implies "Can"
Ch 22 The Imperial "I": When the Self Becomes the Arbiter of Morality
p251"To thine own self be true." Shakespeare
p251 the "higher self" secular morality
p253 the inner self from Augustine, developed into the idea of the "priesthood of the individual believer"
p254 Taylor and Rousseau noble savage, "society made us do it"
p255 Oprah phenomenon of self disclosure
p259 "take conscience as your guide"
Ch 23 Opiate of the Morally Corrupt: Why Unbelief Is So Appealing
261 Armstrong quote "It is wonderful not to have to cower before a vengeful deity, who threatens us with eternal damnation if we do not abide by his rules."
261 Bertrand Russell asked what he would say upon discovery that there is an afterlife "Sir, you did not give me enough evidence."
p262 Hegel, Marx religion is the "opium of the people" Freud
p263 Atheists preference that there is no God Nietzsche, Mencken, Stenger, Nagel "I want atheism to be true .. It isn't just that I don't believe in God .. I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that."
p263 Atheism as a dismal ideology
p263 Harris and Dawkins, Williamsm
p264 Gould "We may yearn for a higher answer - but none exists." "This explanation, though superficially troubling if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilirating."
p264 Darwin's loss of faith
p265 Ben Wiker's "Moral Darwinism" "Epicurus confesses that his goal is to get rid of the gods."
p266 Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley "I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning ... The liberation we desired was .. liberation from a certain system of morality."
p267 Czwslaw Milosz "A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death - the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged." D'Souza "So the Marxist doctrine needs to be revised. It is not religion that is the opiate of the people, but atheism that is the opiate of the morally corrupt."
Ch 24 The Problem of Evil: Where Is Atheism When Bad Things Happen
p273 Dawkins and Weinberg. Weinberg "The God of birds and trees would also have to be the God of birth defects and cancer." And for himself as a Jew "Remembrance of the Holocaust leaves me unsympathetic to attempts to justify the ways of God to man."
p274 Pinker "If the world unfolds according to a wise and merciful plan, why does it contain so much suffering?"
p274 "The problem of evil and suffering is considered by many people to be the strongest argument against the existence of God. The reasoning goes like this: If God exists, He is all-powerful. If He is all powerful, He is in a position to stop evil and suffering. But we know from experience that evil and suffering go on, scandalously, mercilessly, without even a hint of proportion or justice. Thus there cannot be an omnipotent being capable of preventing all this from happening, because if there were, He surely would. Therefore God does not exist."
p275 Richard Dawkins in "River Out of Eden" "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference."
Ch 25 Jesus Among Other Gods: The Uniqueness of Christianity