Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Saving Western Civilization—Soul #5

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Saving Western Civilization—Soul #5 January 5, 2024

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Partial, Edited Transcript

Hey everyone! This is John Gravino. Welcome to another edition of SOUL SCIENCE. And  today, we’re continuing our discussion of the conversion of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the famous New Atheist. This is part two, as I said. And if you didn’t see the first episode, basically— Ayaan Hirsi Ali  is currently a columnist for the journal Unherd. And she penned an essay there in which she announced her conversion to Christianity. Her conversion seems to boil down to two major points, which I have up on the screen here. 

Ayaan’s Conversion in a Nutshell

The first point is that Ayaan credits the Judeo-Christian tradition with the building of Western civilization. And she points out that she read Tom Holland’s very excellent book Dominion, and that’s where she, you know, that’s where she derived that thesis. That’s the argument that Tom Holland makes. He’s not the only one that makes that argument. I’ve got another book here by the Catholic  historian Thomas Woods. I mentioned this one in  episode one. And it’s called How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.

Defend Christianity to Defend the West!

It’s very much  the same  thesis of Tom Holland’s book. And so this was one of the things that  inspired her conversion. The value that she sees in Western civilization. The need to preserve it. And she’s thinking, quite logically, that, if Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethic is what built Western civilization and we hope to conserve that, then perhaps we ought to conserve the very institution that created it in the first place. It’s a a logical thesis. It makes a lot of sense.

Her second major reason for her conversion, she explains, is a personal crisis in her life. An experience of emptiness and a sense of meaninglessness and hopelessness. She went to therapy to help her deal with with these issues. And she explains how, in the course of that therapy, the discussion turned to spiritual matters. And this also helped  bring her to a realization that perhaps she needed greater spiritual nourishment in her life.

This is Part 2 of 3

So I originally thought that this was going to just be two parts. But now that I’ve actually worked it out… I realized I’m going to need a part three as well. So today we’re going to focus on the first point on the role that Christianity has played in the development of Western civilization. And we’re going to save her second major point—her experience of of crisis in her life. We’re going to save that for yet  a third installment.

The “How” Question Remains Unanswered

So today we’re going to focus on her first point. HOW did Christianity  manage to accomplish such a great feat as the building of Western civilization? And, so the question I want to raise here is whether science has an explanation. Okay, science, you know, seemingly can explain everything, so I thought, well, maybe they have an explanation for that.  And the point I would make here is actually that several of the New Atheists are scientists themselves. Richard Dawkins. Sam Harris is

a neuroscientist. Jerry Coyne is also a scientist and counted among the New Atheists. Steven Pinker, as well, is a psychologist. And so it would seem, you know, that maybe we could rely on the New Atheists for some scientific perspective on the question. But when you consider that they accept the thesis of Christopher Hitchens—not a scientist— that religion poisons everything. And Christianity is no better than every other religion. So, therefore, by extension, Christianity also poisons everything. 

If we take that to be their thesis, then we have to admit that that’s not a very good explanation for how Christianity could have possibly built Western civilization. Because even the New Atheists are in love with Western Civilization. So even they would acknowledge that the idea that Christianity could build Western

civilization—could be responsible for such a great contribution to the world—that that thesis has got to be incompatible with the idea that it poisons everything. [SEE THE PODCAST FOR THE FULL SHOW!]

About John Gravino
John Gravino is the author of The Immoral Landscape of the New Atheism, which was the topic of a health and spirituality seminar at Duke Medical School. He continues to explore the intersection of health and religion and the other big questions of life right here at Patheos. You can read more about the author here.
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