By Peter Lockhart
David Bentley Hart sets the tone of his book “Atheist delusions: The Christians Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies” from the outset. He names his bias and intent – there is no mistaking his position: he will be ardent in his defence of the faith.
Hart also suffers from no illusion that any survey of history is anything but subjective and I appreciated this candid approach – history is always an act of interpretation.
As his key antagonists, Hart names, in his first chapter, activists atheists such as Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris but also mentions Dan Brown and Phillip Pullman as other targets of his work.
In his engagement he notes that his asperity is driven not by unbelief, per se, “But atheism that consists entirely in vacuous arguments afloat on oceans of historical ignorance, made turbulent by storms of strident self-righteousness, [which] is as contemptible as any other dreary form of fundamentalism.” (P4)
There is an air of academic superiority in Hart’s tone but rather than finding this annoying I found it refreshing as he staked his claim on the issues at hand: enlarging a vision and understanding of the past with honesty and openness. As one who has felt frustrated by the poor logic and tired arguments that are trotted out to refute belief in the Christain God, Hart’s addressing of the clichés was helpful.
As someone who has not read too much of the “new atheism” I cannot say precisely how well and specifically Hart addresses some of the points made by his opponents but certainly his arguments and vigour provided insights as to how to deal with some of the common aspersions thrown my way as a minister about Christianity.
The book was a jaunt through Christian history, particular early christians history, and the dvelopment of Christian thought which contained correctives not only for atheists but for those who are more fundamentalist in their faith and also those who find themselves in the more progressive group.
Regardless of your thoughts about the topic of athiesm the book introduces readers to many interesting aspects of Christian history.
In a world in which Christianity is being marginalised books like this one serve as a helpful tool and reminder about who we are as the church and to whom we should be listening. For any who are finding the avalanche of anti-Christian sentiment in the culture depressing this is a vital read and whilst it does not contain all the answers provides a good foil to the naysayers of our day.