Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Christian Delusion (A Review)

I just finished reading "The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails" and found it to be very valuable. I recommend it to all who read this blog. Here's a review.

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (TCD) is a necessary source-book for anyone who values the individual liberty found in questioning superstition for the sake of critical thought. It exposes the fallacy that Christianity's divine command authority is necessary for individual betterment or societal progress. It identifies Evangelical Christianity's superiority claims in the areas of personal transformation, theological/scriptural veracity, and ethics for the superstitious group think they are. It arms truth-seekers with intelligent answers rooted in sound scholarship that can defend them from pseudo-intellectual-Christian-apologetic-razzle-dazzle.

A truth-seeker must face a culture dripping with Christianity when assessing Evangelical "truth-claims". These "truth-claims" operate like intellectual pollution compromising healthy reason and mutating it towards emotion-laden-group-thought, devoid of logic, intellectual honesty or material ethics. American Christian Culture is aimed at end-times exceptionalism where the highest understanding of morality is obedience to whomever the masses deem the absolute authority.

The elevation of superstition to a divine commander stands in the way of individual freedom and honest scientific exploration. We see these threats realized today when Evangelical Christians deny constitutional freedoms to homosexuals and obscure useful science in the name of their divine commander, dressing up creationism as Intelligent Design. We are facing crucial times where Biblical Inerrantists, Christian Reconstructionists, and Dominionists in the state of Texas are looking to over-throw the aims to Liberty offered by the Enlightenment in favor of the Calvinist Doctrine of Total Depravity. America is in a struggle between reason and faith and too often the side of faith is given credence as good while reason is demonized. Presuppositions to invisible kingdoms indicate a healthy humility but genuine curiosity as to why reality is the way it is with an aim towards progress is considered arrogance.

This is the context in which TCD has been born and it lives up to its necessary birthright by defending enlightened thought with well-researched argument. It also does this in a way to invite the reader into a non-threatening conversation prior to exposing Christianity for the collection of neurotic lies it is.

Loftus has done an exceptional job of gathering a cross-reference of experts who strategically dismantle the Christian heuristic and show the reader how the religion's revelations are both artificial and banal.

The genius of the book is in its structure so kudos to Mr. Loftus for his editorial guidance.

We are taken on a narrative which first shows us that the "born again" experience is not unique to Christianity and can be easily explained without an appeal to the supernatural. This is a wise choice in addressing the Christian Delusion because so often Christians claim their religion true due to anecdotal evidence that over-values life-transformation as proof of an in-dwelt Holy Spirit. Essays in cognitive science and perception help expose Christianity as a constructed choice in alleviating cognitive dissonance and therefore no better than any cognitive bias that allows emotional comfort in the face of randomness.

We then see how using the Bible as a transcendent document ignores its inefficaciousness in explaining reality or providing a clear understanding of the human condition. The former is evidenced in the objective description of the pre-scientific (and wrong) cosmology attested to in scripture and the latter is shown by the exposition of the sectarian Christain wars that have haunted human history.

We then make a turn and the book's tone goes from invitational to confrontaional. This shift in perspective is exciting to readers (like this critic) who have had to endure the propaganda and lies Jesus-followers dress up as scholarship. You see how Yahweh is a moral monster, how Christians have only childish answers to the inevitable suffering animals endure, how the Jesus legend is not unique, why the Resurrection is unbelievable, and how Jesus operated within a tradition of failed apocalyptic prophecy. All of these arguments use the Bible as reference, allowing the text to expose Christianity's ad hoc fallacies.

Finally we get arguments which bring us back to the thesis of this critique. The ultimate value of TCD is its ability to arm the reader with knowledge and insight to counter claims that Christianity is essential for morality and progress. This reader was delighted to be armed with retorts to each of the dog-eared Christian assertions that morality depends on religion, Hitler's atheism (rather than his Catholic Christianity) caused the Holocaust, and Science depends on Christian presuppositions.

We've seen explosive progress within modern civilization over the last 250 years which one can reasonably claim was caused by people who chose to offer empirical proof rather than divine revelation as the final arbitor of truth. The American Christian Church threatens to over-throw this progress for the sake of the safety superstitions seem to offer. They want to replace the hard work of thinking with the easy comfort of faith. TCD helps one see how this type of drive as both fallacious and dangerous. It offers intelligent argument in the face of ignorant righteousness.

2 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks so much Chuck!

kateherself said...

I don't have enough coffee in me to understand this.