David Hart vs. The Atheists: Fire With Fire

I’m currently enjoying David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions.  He outsnarks Dawkins and Hitchens by a mile, and he certainly out-“smarts” them, as you’ll need your OED handy to read Hart.
Here are some gems:
As I write, Daniel Dennett’s latest attempt to wean a credulous humanity from its reliance on the preposterous fantasies of religion, Breaking the Spell, has arrived amid a clamor of indignant groans from the faithful and exultant bellowing from the godless.  The God Delusion, an energetic attack on all religious belief, has just been released by Richard Dawkins, the zoologist and tireless tractarian, who- despite his embarrassing incapacity for philosophical reasoning- never fails to entrance his eager readers with his rhetorical recklessness.  The journalist Christopher Hitchens, whose talent for intellectual caricature somewhat exceeds his mastery of consecutive logic, has just issued God Is Not Great, a book that raises the wild non sequitur almost to the level of a dialectical method.  Over the past few years Sam Harris’s extravagantly callow attack on all religious belief, The End of Faith, has enjoyed robust sales and the earnest praise of sympathetic reviewers.  Over a slightly greater span, Philip Pullman’s evangelically atheist (and rather overrated) fantasy trilogy for children, His Dark Materials, has sold millions of copies, has been lavishly praised by numerous critics, has been adapted for the stage, and has recived partial cinematic translation; its third volume, easily the weakest of the series, has even won the (formerly) respectable Whitbread Prize.  And on hardly need mention the extraordinary sales achieved by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, already a major film and surely the most lucrative novel ever written by a borderline illiterate.  I could go on. (3-4)
Of Sam Harris in particular, Hart writes:

And in a disastrous chapter, reminiscent of nothing so much as a recklessly ambitious undergraduate essay, he attempts to describe a “science of good and evil” that would discover the rational basis of moral self-sacrifice, apart from religious adherences: an argument composed almost entirely of logical lacunae.  In short, The End of Faith is not a serious- merely a self-important- book, and merits only cursory comment. (9)

Hart is surely as self-important as his foes, but this book is still great fun!
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About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the pastor of Christ Church in Lakeland, FL. He is also a founder and general editor of The Calvinist International. A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS), a full-time minister, and occasional classical school teacher, Steven lives in Lakeland, FL with his wife, son, and daughter.

6 thoughts on “David Hart vs. The Atheists: Fire With Fire

  1. I had one problem with the book, but it is the ending and I don’t want to spoil it for you. I loved the chapter on science and galileo.

  2. I have a few problems with the book, and I suspect I’ve located yours as well. Even with all of his tough talk, Hart is a prissy escapist in the end. Very disappointing.

  3. Right. Another thing that bothered me, though this is of less importance. It is the section on Julian the Apostate. Legend has it that on his deathbed Julian looked heavenward and said, “Thou hast conquered, Galilean!”

    Hart thought this was a mean and dirty move by later Christian hagiographers. I might be be shallow but I thought it was a funny move.

  4. Yes, he says that Christendom was an inherent defeat of the “Christian revolution” of piety, and that in our new “post-Christian age” we should renew the vision of the desert monastics, rather than attempt a new political interaction.

  5. Gotcha. Sometimes I think, though, that in order to be credible/ effective in the political sphere, the church ought to tactically retreat to the “desert.” Perhaps we lack the maturity at present to deal prudently with our enemy on the open field. There is a culture war and the lefties are winning. A reversal (which would essentially be a cultural revolution) can only be achieved out of the resources of a deep piety.

    BTW, loved your essay over at Basilica.

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