Book Review: What’s so Great about Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza

Much like “More Christianity,” this book is also written in homage to “Mere Christianity.” (Reading this so close to the other two was a coincidence.) It’s primary focus to responding to the wave of aggressive atheism that seeks to belittle Christianity and drive it from the public square. (It shouldn’t escape notice that these “brave” atheists focus on Christianity, a religion of peace, rather than Islam, which leads some of its followers to behead those who attack Islam.)

Most of the attacks of the New Atheists focus on denying the goodness of Christianity through ad hominem or inaccurate statements, and D’Souza shows the error of these claims. He begins by exposing that it’s not Christianity that is dying out, but rather atheism. The societies that are growing and expanding are theistic societies, while it’s the atheistic West that is failing to reproduce. This claim exposes the narrow and limited viewpoint that is so typical self-appointed cultural elites: a failure to look at what the “little people” are actually doing, instead of what the elite takes them to be doing. He also exposes the attempts of the elite to foist their world view on the young by denying the rights of parents to educate their children.

The second part of the book deals with the history of the West, showing how separation of Church and state, plus the concept of limited government are essentially Christian ideas, how Christianity is the belief that understands and accounts for human frailty and fallibility, while also acknowledging the innate dignity of all humans. Despite the claims of atheists that their ideal society would be the most peaceful and tranquil, D’Souza shows that jettisoning Christianity would remove the necessary underpinning that atheists unknowingly rely upon. From there he moves to Christianity showing that Christianity, in fact, was responsible for much of the scientific development throughout history, and how much of recent scientific study affirms Christian teaching. (He also shows that those opposing scientific discoveries that supported Christianity, such as the Big Bang, were acting against science and denying evidence, acting more out of “faith” than those they accused of rejecting science.)

He then takes on the world of philosophy, with a special focus on Immanuel Kant as Kant has put forward the most successful and influential arguments against the existence of God. D’Souza, though, shows how, by Kant’s own standards and practices, Kant’s argument fails. he then shows that miracles are indeed possible and why Pascal’s Wager makes sense.

He also explores the question of suffering pointing out that Christianity uniquely among world religion religions and philosophies is able to provide a meaning to suffering and making anything other than something negative. While on the topic, he shows that the atheistic societies and governments have killed far more people than even the most wildly exaggerated accusations against Christians would claim. He further goes on to show that the mere existence of the questions of morality points to something greater than a merely human and natural universe. After all, if we’re merely a product of evolution seeking to pass on our own genetic materials, why would any of us be willing to give our lives for a stranger? Why would Catholic priests, nuns and brothers take vows of celibacy? The materialist mindset has no answer for these issues as they are so antithetical to the Evolutionism “theology.”

He concludes with a section on why, having shown the logic, rationality and public benefits of Christianity, each of us should accept it for ourselves.

One thing that jumped out at me during this book was the weakness of many of the atheist arguments. I know there are very intelligent people on the other side of this topic, but it shows how even smart people can accept extremely flawed and shallow arguments in support of a position. (I try to avoid that, although I’m sure I’m far from perfect on that count.)

I think the best quote about this book comes from the Advance Praise section:

As an unbeliever, I passionately disagree with Dinesh D’Souza on some of his positions. But he is a first-rate scholar whom I feel absolutely compelled to read. His thorough research and elegant prose have elevated him into the top ranks of those who champion liberty and individual responsibility. Now he adds Christianity to his formula for the good society, and although non-Christians and non-theists may disagree with some of his arguments, we ignore him at our own peril. D’Souza’s book takes the debate to a new level. Read It.

-Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine

I’ve had much the same experience with D’Souza’s work. Even when I go in The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11expecting to disagree with him, I find myself bowing to his logic and research. He belongs on anyone’s list of must-read authors, agree or disagree with him.

Book Review: More Christianity by Dwight Longenecker

I had picked this book up while on a retreat last November and read it after finishing “Mere Christianity,” as I thought it would make a good companion piece, as the author intended. Longenecker, a convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism via Anglicanism and since ordained a Catholic priest, wrote this book to show the inadequacies of Lewis’ “mere Christianity” (as Lewis himself acknowledged) and to show that a true understanding of what “more” there is to Christianity will lead people to Catholicism, as it did Longenecker himself.

One common theme of Father Longenecker’s writing (here and elsewhere) is that come the day of his particular Judgment, he’d rather tell God he believed too much than not enough. For example, he’d rather believe that God does allow the communion of Christians and our ability to intercede for each other to extend beyond the grave than to deny the possibility. He’d rather be guilty of overestimating God’s goodness and love than underestimating it and this attitude helped bring him home to Rome.

He deals with a number of topics including Mary, the saints, the Eucharist, and the Papacy, among others, showing how those beliefs are present in the Bible, were held by the early Christians and also make logical sense.

It’s a quick read that’s worth the effort showing the limitations and failings of a “mere Christianity” and showing the path to the “more Christianity” God wishes us to have.

Quote-a-palooza

“The Constitution… is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” – Thomas Jefferson

“All hail the imperial court. In a bitterly divided 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in Boumediene v. Bush that alien enemy prisoners, waging a jihad against the American people and captured by our military in a war authorized by Congress, have a right- under our Constitution- to petition our courts for their release. So doing, the Court invalidated laws it had only recently implored Congress to enact, laws that provided these prisoners with generous protections never previously extended to enemy operatives in American history. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer, dictates that Americans must regard enemies as if they were mere criminal defendants, entitled to an exacting legal process- access to discovery, witnesses, counsel, etc.- that will, as a practical matter, make it impossible to detain them without shutting down interrogations prematurely and informing the enemy of our national-defense secrets. There can be no justification for this stunning conclusion… The runaway justices say that foreign al-Qaeda killers detained in Cuba can march right into the federal district courts and demand what, suddenly, are their constitutional rights. In those courts, judges- without guidance and emboldened by the high court’s usurpation of war powers- will be encouraged to make it up as they go along: More access to classified information? Subpoenas commanding the testimony (and cross-examination) of our soldiers regarding the circumstances of capture? Miranda warnings? Prompt access to counsel, which is certain to halt any questioning- and thus any revelation of lifesaving intelligence- before it can even start? Full-blown trials in the criminal-justice system with the same presumptions of innocence, privacy, and other privileges vested in American citizens? And who will adjudicate the resulting mess? Our imperial court, of course.” – National Review

“Now that the Supreme Court has seen fit to affirm a variety of rights of terror suspects held at Guantanamo, a new book is out exposing the harsh realities of Gitmo- the diet on which detainees have gained weight- the soccer fields and basketball courts- the letters home about mild weather and beautiful sunsets- and the detainees who don’t want to leave.” – James Robbins Break

“Once upon another time, namely Franklin Roosevelt’s, most of a group of German saboteurs that had infiltrated this country were caught, tried by a military tribunal that was convened by executive order for that purpose, promptly convicted and then executed- all within seven weeks. Can anyone imagine that kind of swift and effective justice from this court?” – Paul Greenberg

“Yet another U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, had charges dropped Tuesday in the so-called Haditha massacre- bringing the total number of Marines who’ve been cleared or won case dismissals in the Iraq war incident to seven. ‘Undue command influence’ on the prosecution led to the outcome in Chessani’s case. Bottom line: That’s zero for seven for military prosecutors, with one trial left to go.” – Michelle Malkin

“We now are down to two presidential candidates. One went to the Ivy League and Harvard Law School as a young man. The other spent years of his youth in a Vietnam Prisoner of War camp and suffered lifelong injuries. Guess which one whines more about his hardships? Barack Obama is many things- a senator, a gifted orator, and a charismatic figure. But he’s also a whiner.” – Peter Schweizer

“McCain is OK at making his case with a teleprompter, but when he’s on his own, all he does is slogans. He says that Obama is a tax and spend liberal as in the ’60s and ’70s. I wouldn’t really bring up ’60s and ’70s, because nobody under 50 remembers the ’60s. In fact, there are a lot of people over 50 who don’t remember the ’60s either for other reasons.” – Charles Krauthammer

Jay Leno: Congressman Anthony Wiener of New York has introduced a bill that will grant immigrant status, immigrant visas, to supermodels that want to come here. Well, I have never been prouder to be an American. … Hey, have you hear this story that Barack Obama and [actress] Scarlett Johansson are apparently e-mail buddies? Scarlett Johansson is quoted as saying, ‘My heart belongs to Barack Obama.’ How about that, huh? Barack’s not even president yet, still doing way better than Bill Clinton ever did. … Not to be outdone today, John McCain admitted he had been exchanging flirty emails with Angela Lansbury. … Hillary Clinton’s camp says she is not actively seeking the vice presidential nomination. Passive-aggressively seeking it, yes. … Barack Obama took some time out from campaigning recently to go on a date with his wife. And when Hillary Clinton heard about that, she said to Bill, ‘Why can’t you do something like that?’ So, today, Bill asked Barack Obama’s wife out on a date.

Personal Policies

There’s a personal policies meme over The Lair of the Catholic Cavemen:

Here are the official guidelines:

“I think it would be safe to say that we all have personal rules that we live by. Surely it’s not just ME. I’m not talking about moral rules, like “Do not kill.” I’m talking about the silly policies we impose on ourselves, like “Never eat anything you can’t identify,” or “Don’t step on sidewalk cracks.” For some reason, I started mentally listing the quirky rules I follow and got curious about other people’s personal rules. Hey, why not start a meme?”

* Courses of a meal are to eaten in a specific order. Salad comes before the main course, not during or after.

* Shoes and other articles of clothing (such as baseball caps) are to be rotated through so they wear evenly.

* Ditto for eating and drinking utensils.

* No talking or eye contact in public men’s rooms.

* No pop-ins. Call or email before visiting.

* Never base your entire meal on something you’ve never eaten before in case you don’t like and have to go hungry.

* Clocks have to be correct.

Do I really look like Dwight?

So, last week during the Italian Festival, I was talking to one of our altar servers as she walked by my house on the way back from the Festival. She told me I looked like Dwight. Having forgotten this conversation, she was staring at me before Mass on Sunday, which creeped me out a little. After Mass, she again told me that I look like Dwight, which I just don’t see.

Me:

Dwight:

I just don’t see it. I told her that most people think I look Like Drew Carey:

That one I can actually understand, but she didn’t seem to see it.

I guess I should just be glad no one thinks I look like Kevin from The Office:

Of course, I have been mistaken for a caveman before, too:

cavemanprogramming.jpg

Quote of the Day

“[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

— James Madison (speech in the House of Representatives, 10 January 1794)

Reference: Elliot’s Debates,