Book Review: The Christian Delusion

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, Edited by John W Loftus

The Christian Delusion is the answer to most of those little holes left over after The God Delusion. Red Herring topics that frequently come up in debates, like the claim that Hitler was an atheist, or that Christianity is the basis of our morals (both false, by the way) are answered firmly and confidently. Instead of writing the whole book himself, Loftus chose to make The Christian Delusion a compilation of essays, each covering a specific subject. This was a very intelligent decision for two reasons: first, it allows for an A-list authors that would sell out any Atheist convention, including: Richard Carrier, David Eller, Robert M. Price, Hector Avalos, Edward Babinski, Paul Tobin, Valerie Tarico, Jason Long, and, of course, John Loftus (there is also a forward by FFrF’s Dan Barker). Second, the mutli-author technique allows each contributor to stay focused in their specific field of interest. The common apologist defense of questioning the qualification of any critical writer is thereby diffused. And credentials really are a moot point with this book; of  the 10 authors, 6 of them have PhDs in their field and several of them are former Christians that turned to atheism after years of study.

The book is divided into 5 sections, each containing 2-4 articles. Some of the writing does get a bit dry at times (they are, after all, tackling some pretty challenging subjects), but the layout of the book easily allows the reader the opportunity to take one subject at a time.

1. Why Faith Fails – This section is probably one of the most needed in the world of Atheist/Christian dialogue. Instead of just pointing out perceived flaws in religious belief, these articles seek to understand and explain religious experiences through the social sciences. The articles explain how religion mixes into (and often gets confused with) the culture around it, how cognitive experiences, like a Transcendence hallucination, can easily can get confused with a supernatural experience (often called a “born again” experience), and how the human mind itself is wired to trick us and that without an emotionally detached method of looking at the world, like science, we would all be nothing but bias machines.

2. Why the Bible is Not God’s Word – Critique of the Christian Bible occasionally takes too much of a center stage in Atheist writing. Responsible analysis of any ancient document takes a lot of patience and the discipline, not surprisingly, tends to to lose some people (either Christian or Atheist). I enjoy it, personally, but only because I genuinely find the subject matter interesting. I wouldn’t actually use Biblical Criticism to argue an Atheist standpoint. Conversations that focus on Biblical critique can get messy and lead down alley ways that would require a find their way out. Loftus, though, cleverly keeps the focus of the 3 articles in this section very focused and to the point. Instead of pointing out every possible contradiction or mistranslation, the writers stay on task and make it quite clear that the Bible could not possibly be a reliable source of knowledge about a supreme being. I believe that this section would prove very beneficial to any Christian that believes the Bible to be “revealed knowledge”.

3. Why the Christian God is Not Perfectly Good – Hector Avalos kicks off this section by refuting a past article by Paul Copan called “Is Yaheh a Moral Monster?” Hector concludes that he is. He does this by showing that Hebrew law code was not superior to that of the surrounding tribes and that biblical morals are unclear at best. John Loftus finishes it up with an article that points out how animal suffering in the world cannot be part of an omniscient god’s plan.

4. Why Jesus is Not the Risen Son of God – Robert M Price examines (and refutes) Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd’s apologetic book, The Jesus Legend, which attempts to argue for an historical Jesus. Then Richard Carrier tells us Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable with enough clarity to make anyone ashamed to have ever bought into the idea in the first place (this is the article that, IMO, would most benefit a believing Christian). John Loftus then gives a best case scenario for who a man named Jesus at the center of a 1st century religious movement could have been. Hint, the answer has more to do with social rebellion than it does saving souls.

5. Why Society Does Not Depend on Christian Faith – The topic of this section is a big one lately, when every religious zealot with a television camera pointed at them makes astounding claims that Christianity is glue that holds society together. Aside from this being a bigoted and xenophobic viewpoint to make, it’s also false. David Eller shows that not only is Christianity not a necessary basis for morality, but, no religion is. In Atheism was Not The Cause of the Holocaust, Hector Avalos shows that not only was Hitler not an atheist, but that he had expressed that he expected to be rewarded in heaven! This will be a very handy article to pass on the persistent trolls that still like to claim, despite loads of contradictory (and  easily available) evidence, that Hitler was an atheist. Richard Carrier then closes the book by completely blowing apart the bogus assumption that Christianity was (somehow?!) responsible for modern science.

The Christian Delusion is, all in all, a very well thought out book. It covers most of the arguments one might run up against when dealing with apologists that aren’t covered by the more broad The God Delusion. While none of the articles will be the final word (the subject of each article, after all, could very easily fill a book of their own), all the authors  have meticulously sourced  their articles to make any further research easy. And, let’s face it, at this point, anyone still adhering to any form of literal Christianity just isn’t paying attention.

Highly Recommended

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