He Read the Book So You Don’t Have To

Have you been meaning to read Dinesh D’Souza‘s What’s So Great About Christianity but just haven’t gotten around to it?

Yeah, me neither.

But Brock took the bullet for us.

He read the book and offers this commentary (PDF).


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Sorry, but I’m not even interested enough to read a review. :-(

  • http://synapostasy.blogspot.com Aaron Golas

    I’m proud of myself. I shook Dinesh’s hand on Monday night and resisted the urge to spit in his face.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de MorseCode

    D’Souza has seriously impressed me.

    He’s reached the point where he’s not only annoying in person or in print, but he’s annoying when someone else is speaking about him.

  • Sudo

    I don’t know, the review actually made me want to read the book.

  • Adrian

    Dinesh is insufferable when he speaks and even these small excerpts are worse. He’s a smart guy, but when talking about Christianity he is gobsmackingly stupid. There’s no two ways about it, no way to sugarcoat it, no inoffensive way of saying it – this is some deeply stupid stuff.

    Something horribly wrong must happen to human thought for someone to produce such unrelenting dreck.

    What is astonishing, literally breathtaking is the level of vitriol and abuse that is crammed into these excerpts. It’s hypocritical and clearly exposes the lie that is behind Mike Clawson’s (and many other Christian’s) claim that atheists are offensive and Christians are innocent victims. Dinesh drapes himself with every petty cause and then lashes out at atheists for their impiety, using everything from Virginia Tech to the Holocaust to attack atheists. He sneeringly refers to atheists as acting like “noble figures” and then plays the martyr himself.

    What a dismal example of human thought.

  • Cathy

    The old Pascal’s wager again? I thought we were long past that. After all, it is an argument so weak that intro to philosophy students are expected to be able to tear it apart. You see, Pascal assumes quite a lot from the outset. He assumes that if there is a god, there is a heaven and hell and that god sends believers to heaven and unbelievers to hell. So, Pascal omits quite a few possibilities, for example, that everyone goes to heaven regardless of belief, that god likes people to not believe and so sends believers to hell and nonbelievers to heaven, or that there is a god but no heaven or hell. When these options are figured in, the point becomes moot and one has no more reason for believing in God on this basis than for not believing.

  • Samuel Skinner

    At least it isn’t Vox Day! I know it is wrong to passionately hate strangers… but that man is evil. He make D’Souza look good.

  • mikespeir

    Chapter 12:

    “It seems worth pointing out here what Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich seems to be the first to have noticed: anyone who can believe in multiple universes should have no problem believing in heaven and hell. Just think of them as alternate universes, operating outside space and time according to laws that are inoperative in our universe.”

    Of course, if D’Souza is going to argue this way, he exposes himself as a proponent of the multiverse hypothesis, something he denies. Thus, if he doesn’t believe in multiple universes, why does he believe in Heaven and Hell?

  • ash

    It’s hypocritical and clearly exposes the lie that is behind Mike Clawson’s (and many other Christian’s) claim that atheists are offensive and Christians are innocent victims.

    except…Mike C. doesn’t claim that all atheists are offensive (in fact i’ve yet to hear him suggest that this even applies to the majority), and will even go as far to agree with some of the opinions ‘offensive’ atheists hold. and he’s well aware that many , many christians are, far from being ‘innocent victims’, deeply offensive themselves.

  • Adrian

    ash,

    except…Mike C. doesn’t claim that all atheists are offensive (in fact i’ve yet to hear him suggest that this even applies to the majority), and will even go as far to agree with some of the opinions ‘offensive’ atheists hold.

    I was referring to Dawkins, Dennet and Harris. The discuss the factual question of whether God exists and he calls them offensive and personal, yet Dinesh pulls this crap and there’s narry a peep. I don’t really care if Mike C rails against Dinesh (I don’t expect him to), but is it too much to expect for him to say “I think Dawkins is offensive, but, to be fair, he’s a blushing bonny boy compared to the hate-filled nonsense that some Christian apologists pump out”?

    It’s a perfect example of Harris’s thesis, that liberal Christians protect the loonies by defending faith and by acting all offended whenever the factual basis of their faith is questioned.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 Ben

    It’s hypocritical and clearly exposes the lie that is behind Mike Clawson’s (and many other Christian’s) claim that atheists are offensive and Christians are innocent victims.

    Except that that would be a gross misrepresentation of what Mike Clawson claims.

    Edited to add: Ah, you’ve clarified it. Yes, Mike C. does complain about Dawkins and company. Has he ever commented either way on Dinesh?

  • Adrian

    Except that that would be a gross misrepresentation of what Mike Clawson claims.

    Technically, it’s a slight misrepresentation of what Mike C claims :)

    I elaborated more on this point, here and elsewhere. He doesn’t emphasize the “innocent victims” thing anywhere that I know of, but he doesn’t allow any way for many atheists to express their position without being offensive, he doesn’t acknowledge the genuine offences that atheists deal with, and he doesn’t acknowledge any Christian position which deserves being offended.

    I singled out Mike C ’cause he’s here, but he’s a stand-in for all of the other liberal apologists that dog the “New Atheists”.

  • Jacob Dink

    This is a very poor review. He skims over the weaker points that he was able to understand, and skips over the more philosophical points that he can’t understand. This is why people’s understanding of the arguments for Atheism should not just be based on Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc: they’re good polemicists for different ends, but they’re not giving the full depth of the arguments.

    For instance, D’Souza argues that miracles are compatible with science, since “cause and effect” is not a phenomena corroborated by science. He is correct on this latter point, but this doesn’t mean that it’s compatible with science. Science assumes, as a necessary axiom, that our universe is consistent and rational, as does everyone else– includes D’Souza. Thus, a miracle is a break from this consistency requiring explanation, and this explanation is unfriendly to parsimony unless its richly evidenced (which, of course, miracles are not).

    This is a complex issue that D’Souza is being clever about. The reviewer’s response? “D’Souza is contradicting himself because earlier he said God caused the universe.” This COMPLETELY misunderstands and avoids D’Souza’s argument.

    I also wish he had gone into why science does NOT owe any credit for its origins to religion. It’s easily answered, why does he merely skip this? For instance, a couple from the RichardDawkins.net response section:

    “Science owes its origin to religion in the same way penicillin owes its origin to syphilis.”

    “Science owes its origins to religion? Simplifying (more than) slightly! Science began in the Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations, and reached an advanced state with the Greeks, as for example in the work of Aristotle on logic, Euclid on geometry, Archimedes on mechanics. Then there was a setback for 1000 years, known as the Dark Ages, during which the Christian religion took over the Roman world, and then Islam spread. It was only with the gradual rediscovery, over the next 500 years, of the ancient Greek achievements, that a new questioning mind-set and willingness to test and experiment evolved that led to the scientific revolution. Far from Christianity creating science or stimulating its development, religion was a force for ignorance for 1500 years, and it was the renewal of thought that led to the Reformation in the church that then permitted the new thought to evolve further.”

  • Siamang

    While we’re piling on Mike C, I’m going to mention a pet peeve of mine that Mike C does…

    It’s the “Dawkins is so mean, he said X!” claim. When people chime in and some support X, some reject X, some say, “well I think X is partly true, but he could have said it better”, and others don’t want to have yet another go-round of ‘Big Bad Dick to the Dawk to the PHD is mean’….

    We get the obligatory Mike C post “I can’t believe so many atheists here are supporting Richard Dawkins!”

    It’s the “Hands up all Friendly Atheists who hate Richard Dawkins” command performance Sister Souljah moment.

    And the reason I’m bringing it up right now is that people on this thread are in essence doing the same thing to Mike C. Go on, Mike C, repudiate Dinesh D’Souza here for all our benefit.

    When in fact, I have no question, no QUESTION in my mind that Mike C detests the level of discourse that D’Souza represents.

    Can we discuss D’Souza’s arguments rather than act like a bunch of politicians who just found out that Barack Obama’s ex-pastor’s cousin’s friend once said something bad about white people?

    Folks, let’s discuss D’Souza, and the content of his arguments. Hell, I’d rather when we discussed Dawkins, we ALSO discussed the content of his arguments (we never seem to get to that point).

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Between ash, who said:

    except…Mike C. doesn’t claim that all atheists are offensive (in fact i’ve yet to hear him suggest that this even applies to the majority), and will even go as far to agree with some of the opinions ‘offensive’ atheists hold. and he’s well aware that many , many christians are, far from being ‘innocent victims’, deeply offensive themselves.

    and Adrian who said:

    It’s hypocritical and clearly exposes the lie that is behind Mike Clawson’s (and many other Christian’s) claim that atheists are offensive and Christians are innocent victims… he doesn’t allow any way for many atheists to express their position without being offensive, he doesn’t acknowledge the genuine offences that atheists deal with, and he doesn’t acknowledge any Christian position which deserves being offended.

    ash is far closer to the truth of my views. In fact, I can’t recall ever doing or saying the things Adrian alleges.

    As for D’Souza, I’m sure I would criticize him if I had ever read him. However, I have not and generally try not to waste my time exposing myself to people like him. Frankly don’t know much about him at all. He’s another one of those fundamentalist apologists (like Ray Comfort), that as a Christian, I had never even heard of until I started hanging around atheists. I would guess that you guys probably pay way more attention to him than most of us do.

  • Adrian

    Mike – I’d be happy to provide quotes and references, but perhaps it would be better to let it die. I had just made an off-hand reference which has become a distraction.

    There is one thing that’s interesting and, better still, relevant:

    He’s another one of those fundamentalist apologists (like Ray Comfort)

    What makes you say that D’Souza is a fundamentalist apologist?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    What makes you say that D’Souza is a fundamentalist apologist?

    I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t know anything about him. That’s just the impression I’ve gotten from the way you guys have talked about him.

  • Siamang

    From D’Souza’s bio on Amazon.com

    Dinesh D’Souza, a former White House domestic policy analyst, is currently the Rishwain Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

    From the review, I think the title of the book is a misnomer… it shouldn’t be “What’s so Great About Christianity?” as much as it should be “What’s so Shitty About Atheism?”

    Here’s the text of the inside flap, courtesy Amazon:

    Is Christianity obsolete? Can an intelligent, educated person really believe the Bible? Or do the atheists have it right? Has Christianity been disproven by science, debunked as a force for good, and discredited as a guide to morality?
    Bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza (What’s So Great About America) looks at Christianity with a questioning eye, but treats atheists with equal skepticism. The result is a book that will challenge the assumptions of both believers and doubters and affirm that there really is, indeed, something great about Christianity. D’Souza reveals:

    *Why Christianity explains what modern science tells us about the universe and our origins–that matter was created out of nothing, that light preceded the sun–better than atheism does
    *How Christianity created the framework for modern science, so that Christianity and science are not irreconcilable, but science and atheism might be
    *Why the alleged sins of Christianity–the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Galileo affair (“an atheist’s fable”)–are vastly overblown
    *Why atheist regimes are responsible for the greatest mass murders of history
    *Why evolution does not threaten Christian belief, but actually supports the “argument from design”
    *Why atheists fear the Big Bang theory and the “anthropic principle” of the universe, which are keystones of modern astronomy and physics
    *How Christianity explains consciousness and free will, which atheists have to deny
    *Why ultimately you can’t have Western civilization–and all we value from it–without the Christianity that gave it birth.

    Provocative, enlightening, a twenty-first-century successor to C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity is the perfect book for the seeker, the skeptic, and the believer who wants to defend his faith.

    Funnily enough, it’s the name of the publisher that gives me the best clue to the level of elevated discourse and careful scholarship within:

    Publisher: Regnery Publishing

    Here’s just a sampling of their hits:

    * Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant
    * Icons of Evolution
    * In Defense of Internment
    * Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces
    * Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House
    * The Privileged Planet
    * The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America
    * UNFIT FOR COMMAND Swift Vets and POWs for Truth

  • http://www.brockli.com Brock

    @Jacob Dink -

    Pretty much, yeah. Perhaps I could have been clearer in the intro that I am anything but an expert in philosophy, theology, or the history of scientific inquiry. I took the low hanging fruit, and skipped the parts that were obviously over my head (see Chapter 15). I didn’t set out to provide an exhaustive response, I just wanted to point out inconsistent and heinous D’Souza can be.

  • Karen

    Frankly don’t know much about him at all. He’s another one of those fundamentalist apologists (like Ray Comfort), that as a Christian, I had never even heard of until I started hanging around atheists. I would guess that you guys probably pay way more attention to him than most of us do.

    I think most people would agree that Comfort is a fringe figure – a clown, basically. Nobody but his own accolytes (far-right fundies) pay him any attention. I never heard of him when I was a Christian myself. However, he spends nearly all his time atheist-baiting, and he does get a rise out of the atheist community occasionally. Probably far too often, in fact.

    But D’Souza is a much more mainstream figure in terms of participating in current debate on both politics and religion. If you watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report regularly, you’ve probably seen him on one (both?) hawking his books.

  • Maria

    And the reason I’m bringing it up right now is that people on this thread are in essence doing the same thing to Mike C. Go on, Mike C, repudiate Dinesh D’Souza here for all our benefit.

    When in fact, I have no question, no QUESTION in my mind that Mike C detests the level of discourse that D’Souza represents.

    Can we discuss D’Souza’s arguments rather than act like a bunch of politicians who just found out that Barack Obama’s ex-pastor’s cousin’s friend once said something bad about white people?

    Folks, let’s discuss D’Souza, and the content of his arguments. Hell, I’d rather when we discussed Dawkins, we ALSO discussed the content of his arguments (we never seem to get to that point

    I agree. I admire the authors (Dawkins et. al), but I don’t agree with everything they say. And I’ve noticed that lately it seems some people go crazy if you criticze any of the authors (you’re an appeaser if you don’t agree with everything they all say) but it’s definitely okay to criticze Mike C for everything, no matter what he says or how he says it, he’s a theist so he’s automatically bad and let’s pour over him with a fine toothed comb and bring him up when he’s not even relevant! hmm, sounds like some churches I’ve been to.

    as for D’souza, he seems to get scarier everytime he opens his mouth. a few weeks ago he wrote an article talking about Pascal’s wager and gay people. I’m not even sure what one has to do with the other.

  • Jacob Dink

    Pretty much, yeah. Perhaps I could have been clearer in the intro that I am anything but an expert in philosophy, theology, or the history of scientific inquiry. I took the low hanging fruit, and skipped the parts that were obviously over my head (see Chapter 15). I didn’t set out to provide an exhaustive response, I just wanted to point out inconsistent and heinous D’Souza can be.

    Fair enough. Perhaps I was a bit harsh. I would, however, suggest a bit more elevated literature on the subject, now that you’ve gotten through the more popular books. I suggest Richard Carrier’s “Sense and Goodness without God.” It’s long and tangential, but it gives the issue of naturalism vs. theism the thorough treatment it deserves.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    But D’Souza is a much more mainstream figure in terms of participating in current debate on both politics and religion. If you watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report regularly, you’ve probably seen him on one (both?) hawking his books.

    Can’t say that I have, but I’ll take your word for it. The first time I ever heard of him, as far as I recall, was last year here on this blog after he apparently said some stupid/offensive things about atheists following the Virginia Tech shooting. From your description and Siamang’s it sounds like he’s a politico as much as a religion writer. If that’s the case then it’s no wonder I haven’t heard of him before. I do follow politics, but I try to avoid all those dumb-ass pundits and spin-doctors as much as possible.

  • http://uillinois.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2252245006 Citizen Steve

    I enjoyed the reference to the “drunk-glasses” from DARE in the notes in chapter 11. I agree.

  • http://www.SecularDignity.net Secular Dignity

    WARNING: Comment involves race

    Sometimes I get the feeling Dinesh D’Souza is just sucking up to white conservatives in this country.

  • http://www.SecularDignity.net Secular Dignity

    Disclaimer: I have not read the book. I saw D’Souza on TV a few times, and all he does is shout. I was not impressed with his logic at all.

    Another thing: If atheists are sex-crazed, why haven’t I met any hot atheist women who want to get down and dirty with me? (Indian and Filipino women who run marathons may cut to the front of the line.)

    I have also noticed that the people who yack the loudest that people need religion for morality are usually people who have a history (and sometimes a present) of alcoholism, drug addiction and promiscuity. I think they are projecting.

    So what if we are just higher, evolved animals? We can still choose logic, rationality and morality. Just as Christians say that sinful people can choose good. Why is it wrong to say we are animals but okay to say we are sinful?

    I think that people will use religion to justify whatever they want.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    why haven’t I met any hot atheist women who want to get down and dirty with me?

    Tough luck I guess. I’m marrying mine, though she’s more of an apatheist/agnostic, but I suppose that’s “on the spectrum”. I’m sorry, was that more fodder for D’Souza and the like?

    Theists (oh who am I kidding — we know I mean Evangelical Christians) always make the sex argument to me because I started having sex before I started questioning my beliefs. Thus far I haven’t been able to formulate an argument that even at the very least shuts them up for a while. Apparently explaining the post hoc fallacy is too sophisticated for some people.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity

    That the editors even put Dinesh D’Souza and C.S. Lewis in the same league is appalling, but it is the kind of name-dropping you expect from these types. Lewis did not subscribe to the brand of fundamentalism that most of us find so offensive:

    “We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Theists (oh who am I kidding — we know I mean Evangelical Christians)

    Thanks for making the clarification Derek. Given your background I know you understand the difference, though sadly I’m finding that many others aren’t able to make these distinctions among Christians

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    Thanks for making the clarification Derek.

    No problem Mike :) It’s just a little too easy to fall into the vernacular sometimes.


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