Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents

Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon

“It is wonderful not to have to cower before a vengeful deity, who threatens us with eternal damnation if we do not abide by his rules.” —Karen Armstrong, A History of God

IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER we have seen how secular morality, while marching behind the banner of autonomy and self-fulfillment, can provide a cover for selfish and irresponsible behavior. Now it’s time to ask a deeper question: is unbelief itself driven by similar motives? To listen to prominent atheists, you get the idea that their sole cause for rejecting God is that He does not meet the requirements of reason. Philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he discovered, after death, that there is an afterlife. Russell pompously said he would tell God, “Sir, you did not give me enough evidence.” I have throughout this book taken the rational objections of Russell and others seriously, but it should be obvious by now that atheism is far fr o m t he only reasonable alt ern ative. Unbelief, especially when it comes in the belligerent tone of a Russell, Dawkins, or Hitchens, is not merely a function of following the evidence where it leads. Rather, unbelief of this sort requires a fuller psychological explanation.

Let’s remember that atheists frequently attempt to give psychological reasons for the religious commitment of believers. In his commentary on the works of Hegel, Karl Marx famously said that religion is the “opium of the people,” meaning that religion is a kind of escapism or mode of wish fulfillment. In Marx’s view, people imbibe religion as a drug, to numb themselves to the pain and grief around them and to give themselves the illusion that the injustices of this world will be corrected in the next one. Sigmund Freud saw religion as providing a cowardly refuge from the harsh realities of life and theinevitability of death. We console ourselves by thinking that there is another world insulated from the hardship, injustice, and confusion of this one. As French atheist Michel Onfray recently put it, “God is a fiction invented by men so as not to confront the reality of their condition.” Another explanation for the popularity of religion, recently expressed by James Haught in Free Inquiry, is in terms of the wish fulfillment of its self-serving leaders. In this view, which seems quite popular today, religion persists because “churches and holy men reap earnings and exalted status from the supernaturalism they administer to their followers.”