Sunday, December 25, 2011

An atheist reviews The End of Christianity

Here's how it begins:

2.0 out of 5 stars Presupposing materialismDecember 24, 2011
This review is from: The End of Christianity (Paperback)
"The End of Christianity" is a compilation of hard-line, atheist-materialist polemics against - guess what - Christianity, brought to us by the indefatigable John W. Loftus, a recovering fundamentalist minister. Apparently, its part of Loftus' very own space trilogy, the other titles being "The Christian Delusion" and "Why I became an atheist". (I haven't read those, yet.)

Being neither a Christian nor a materialist, I'm of course eminently suited to give this book a fair hearing and perfectly objective review... And then, maybe not. :D

Frankly, "The End of Christianity" is a very mixed bag, but it veers strongly towards the "bad" end of the bag spectrum. For instance, John Loftus' Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) is obviously rigged so only atheist-materialists can pass it. Richard Carrier's moral philosophy is zany, to say the least, and other articles work only if you accept the exact theological notions being debunked. Thus, those who don't accept the particular version of the atonement attacked by Ken Pulliam will consider his article a shot in the dark. Likewise, only cessationists will be stung by Matt McCormick's article about the Salem witch trials. The undertone of the entire book is that science (or perhaps Science) can solve all problems, including those pertaining to morality, the meaning of life, etc. Some of the authors have an obsession with a certain kind of formal logic, as if that could prove anything (on this point, they share the pew with some Christian apologists). As somebody pointed out long ago: you can't use formal logic to prove the existence of whales.

Another weak argument goes like this: The empty grave doesn't prove that Jesus was resurrected, since a phony story about a resurrection will - by definition - include a story of an empty grave. You can't use one part of a legend to "prove" the other part (there's even a funny comic to drive home this point). True, I suppose. But then, a true story about a resurrection would also include a story about an empty tomb, wouldn't it? In fact, I think I can prove that using formal logic! Thus, the argument of "Jesus and Mo" only works if materialism is presupposed from the outset.

And that, I think, is the main reason why I find this book so frustrating (a bit like Lee Strobel in reverse). The narrow materialism-positivism-scientism of the contributors is never really argued for, it's there from the outset. (The OTF is just the most glaring example.) Nothing "wrong" with that, I suppose, expect that it gives the book the quality of a monologue.

No comments:

Post a Comment