The End of Christianity by John Loftus (not to be confused with William Dembski’s The End of Christianity) is a collection of counter-apologetic essays which follows his previous collection, The Christian Delusion and his autobiography Why I Became an Atheist.
Return of the Atheists
Loftus considers these three works to be connected, and he opens this latest installment with the statement, “I honestly think that with this book (and certainly the series) Christianity has been debunked.”
No one has ever accused Loftus of being timid. But like a lot of final installments in a trilogy, The End of Christianity could have been a heavily padded afterthought. By this point Loftus can only muster a three paragraph introduction before launching into his “signature argument,” the Outsiders Test of Faith, which will be familiar to anyone who’s read his blog.
The book and a lot of familiar material and plenty of familiar faces. Hector Avalos summarizes his book, The End of Biblical Studies. Robert Price is always worth reading, but his two essays won’t surprise anyone who listens to his podcast. Richard Carrier, who Loftus credits with doing the actual editing of the book, provides a summary of Not the Impossible Faith, which is available free online.
What saves the book is the strength and variety of the essays. While the book is basically a handbook for the atheists in the online trenches, it doesn’t get bogged down or harp on any one line of argument. As a result, the old material fits in and leaves the book feeling balanced rather than padded.
Old Conversations, but Worth HavingIn “Christianity Evolving,” Dr. David Eller provides a thumbnail sketch of Christian history, along with some discussion of how Christianity is continuing to adapt and spread around the world. Given the normal focus on white American evangelicals, the consideration of world Christianity is a nice change.
Dr. Jaco Gericke follows that by looking at how much our idea of God has changed, and Dr. Valerie Tarico looks at what it means for God to have emotions. Tarico turns that into an interesting discussion of human projection. Victor Stenger responds to Dinesh D’Souza’s arguments for the afterlife, putting D’Souza’s poor arguments to good use as he considered the logical implications.
Dr. Keith Parsons looks more specifically at the moral problems that arise from the doctrine of Hell, and the late Ken Pulliam contemplates “The Absurdity of the Atonement,” one of his favorite blog topics before his death. All told, there are fourteen strong articles here, plus Loftus’ OTF in the introduction and a brief closing from Robert Price. It’s a solid collection of essays that work well together.
That’s not to say that the book wouldn’t have been stronger with a little more variety. I’m fond of Richard Carrier’s writing, but having three of his lengthy essays – about ⅕ of the book – seems a bit much. One of the advantages of these collections is always the chance to hear new voices, and that gets lost when you turn it over to the usual suspects.
On balance, the book is a solid addition to the atheist library, and it makes an excellent companion to The Christian Delusion. But if Loftus et. al. wants to publish another book, it may be time to develop the field a little more and bring in some new blood.