Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents
Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon
“Christianity and nothing else is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source.” —Jurgen Habermas, “A Time of Transition”
THE EFFORT TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN hostility to religion, and specifically to Christianity, is especially strange considering that Western civilization was built by Christianity. The problem is not that our young people know too much about Christianity, but that they know too little. In America we do not have the problem of the Muslim madrassas, where only the Koran is studied. Rather, we live in a religiously illiterate society in which the Bible is rarely taught. Consequently many people in America and the West cannot name five of the Ten Commandments or recognize Genesis as the first book of the Bible. There’s no point in even asking about the meaning of the Trinity. One in ten Americans apparently believes that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Ignorance of this kind has made many Westerners aliens in their own civilization, as they no longer know the literature, history, and philosophy that made the West the civilization it is today.
There is also a second type of person, in a way more dangerous than the first, that I seem to run into more often. This is the person who thinks he knows the foundations of Western civilization but doesn’t. Such people are usually the products of self-education, or cursory reading, or tidbits they have picked up over the years. They have not read Edward Gibbon, but they have somehow absorbed his anti-Christian prejudice. Thus they confidently assert that Greece and Rome represented the high point of ancient civilization. The classical world, they sigh, was then destroyed by Christian barbarians who plunged the world into the Dark Ages. Fortunately, they go on, civilization was saved by the Renaissance, which was a return to classical learning. Then came the Enlightenment, which opened our eyes to the wonders of modern science, the market system of creating wealth, and modern democracy.
Even the names—”Middle Ages,” “Dark Ages”—guide such a person in his prejudices. Terms like “Renaissance” and “Enlightenment” are uncritically interpreted as literal descriptions of the spirit of the age. We should remember that the people who lived during the Renaissance did not consider themselves Renaissance figures. The term is anineteenth-century one that has been retroactively applied.
To the two groups I have mentioned—the ignorant and the half educated—we must add a third: those who know the West has Christian roots but want to leave them behind. When the drafters of the European Union’s constitution excluded any mention of Christianity from their account of Europe’s identity, they did so because they wanted to emphasize the degree to which Europe had broken with its Christian past. As George Weigel writes in The Cube and the Cathedral, secularism is now one of the banners behind which modern European man wishes to march.
In this and the next few chapters I intend to dispel some modern prejudices and show that Christianity is the very root and foundation of Western civilization. I will also argue that Christianity is responsible for many of the values and institutions secular people cherish most. Consequently, the desire to repudiate the Christian roots of Western culture is not only an act of historical denial, but it also imperils the secular person’s moral priorities.