Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents
Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon
“Good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things, but for good people to do bad things—that takes religion.” —Steven Weinberg, Facing Up
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS have sought to answer the intellectual arguments against Christianity as articulated by the best atheist minds of our day. In the next several chapters we turn to their moral arguments and consider the charge that Christianity is worse than irrational—it is evil. For centuries it was God who judged man and Christian clerics who issued charges of heresy and immorality. Now man has perched himself in the judge’s seat and points the finger of accusation at God, and Christianity must answer the charge of fostering evil and threatening civil peace. In this chapter I will investigate whether religion is the source of most of the conflict and death in the world, and if so, whether the world would be better off without it.
Prominent atheists have been very successful in convincing millions of people—even religious people—that religion has been the bane of history. In The End of Faith, Sam Harris calls it “the most potent source of human conflict, past and present.” Steven Pinker writes that “religions have given us stonings, witch-burnings, crusades, inquisitions, jihads, fatwas, suicide bombers, and abortion clinic gunmen.” In another book Pinker adds further offenses that he attributes to religion; he says humans believe God has commanded them to “massacre Midianites, stone prostitutes, execute homosexuals, slay heretics and infidels, throw Protestants out of windows, withhold medicine from dying children, and crash airplanes into skyscrapers.”Christianity is typically the focus of the atheist moral critique. In his book Why I Am Not a Christian, philosopher Bertrand Russell argues that “the whole contention that Christianity has had an elevating moral influence can only be maintained by wholesale ignoring or falsification of the historical evidence.” Columnist Robert Kuttner spells out the case against Christianity: “The Crusades slaughtered millions in the name of Jesus. The Inquisition brought the torture and murder of millions more. After Martin Luther, Christians did bloody battle with other Christians for another three centuries.”
Nor have the dangers posed by religion faded with time. Richard Dawkins surveys the Middle East, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, India, and Sri Lanka and contends that “most, if not all, of the violent enmities in the world today” are due to the “divisive force of religion.” So parlous is the contemporary influence of religion, notably Islamic extremism and Christian fundamentalism, that Daniel Dennett fears “a toxic religious mania could end human civilization overnight.”
The problem with this critique is that it greatly exaggerates the crimes that have been committed by religious fanatics while neglecting or rationalizing the vastly greater crimes committed by secular and atheist fanatics. This is the topic of the next two chapters, in which we examine more closely the historical evidence the critics invoke. I intend to show that the widely held view that religion is the primary source of the great killings and conflicts of history is simply wrong—indeed that it can only be held by those who insist on ignoring or falsifying the evidence.
Let’s begin with the Crusades, which are vividly described by James Carroll as “a set of world historical crimes” whose “trail of violence scars the earth and human memory even to this day.” A Catholic, Carroll is an example of how many liberal Christians have absorbed the secular allegation that the Crusades illustrate the horrors of religion. Moreover, in fairly standard fashion, Carroll reserves his harshest language for the role of Christians in the Crusades. About the horrors perpetrated by the Muslim side, he is notably reticent. Here we have the familiar doctrine: religion is bad but Christianity is worse.