Friday, July 03, 2009

Quick notice

David Bentley Hart's Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies.

One word:


One of the most important books I have ever read. Utterly brilliant. Prophetic. Extremely lucid. Violently convincing.

And it is one of the most devastating critiques of anything, anywhere, never mind just the particular squabble it addresses. Daniel Dennett, for example, is absolutely shredded. My jaw was left on the flaw. But it is so much more than a simple critique of the silly New Atheist High Priests.

Please get this book. Seriously.


At 7/03/2009 4:58 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

The last time you enthusiastically endorsed a David Bentley Hart title, I was not disappointed! I will definitely be reading this one, too.

At 7/03/2009 9:41 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Not having read the book, I presume it produces no evidence for the Christian god.

And, of course, it has the utter nonsense of saying there is evidence that the disciples were willing to be tortured rather than deny they had seen a risen Christ.

Hasn't the author read Galatians 6:12 where Paul says that circumcision was the issue Christians were persecuted on, and that Christian leaders happily compromised their beliefs to avoid persecution for the cross (NB, not resurrection of Christ?

The Richard Dawkins site linked to an interview with the author.

Dawkins wrote 'Did ANYONE manage to listen to this all through without nodding off? Surely theology must be the ONLY academic subject in which such a stupefying bore, with such yawning chasms of intelligence-deficit, could rise to the top.'

By all means get the book.

But arming yourself with a pea-shooter against atheists is not going to worry us...

At 7/03/2009 10:37 AM, Anonymous James said...

You're so right Chris - it's an absolute dizzying gem of a book, in almost every respect. Magisterial, incisive and breath-takingly intelligent.

At 7/03/2009 11:30 AM, Anonymous Erlend said...

After Steve's comments I am definitely going to get the book.

Must be great a read if people who haven't even read it get so hot under the collar at the suggestion it might,just, perhaps, give some intellectual response to atheism!

At 7/03/2009 12:24 PM, Anonymous Bjørn Are said...

The book is a gem, yes.

Btw, anyone evaluating a writer by the way he talks in a radio interview, is so obviously blinded by prejudice that I have long stopped listening to any of their other "arguments".

At 7/03/2009 1:40 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Not one Christian ever came forward on the Richard Dawkins site to use any of the 'arguments' in the book.

At 7/03/2009 1:44 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Here is a favourable review of the book :-

'There is here no indication of entering into the arguments of the New Atheists on their own terms. There is no argument concerning the existence of God, theodicy or dismantling of the creation vs. evolution debate. While he claims that an undergrad halfway through a logic course could raze the argument of Richard Dawkins, he never actually goes about the task of doing such thing.'

Nothing there for atheists to worry about. Just another Christian who surrenders the intellectual debate by not entering into the arguments.

At 7/03/2009 1:49 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

An interview with the author

'So where was God in the tsunami?'

'Where was God? In and beyond all things, nearer to the essence of every creature than that creature itself, and infinitely outside the grasp of all finite things.'

No wonder theology is a non-subject in the eyes of atheists, when leading atheist attackers are reduced to gibberish, mistaking nonsense for profundity.

At 7/03/2009 2:45 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

Well Chris, you have led me to temptation and I've bought it! I shall let you know what I think!

At 7/03/2009 3:40 PM, Anonymous Adam said...

I just can't agree with the statement that "Daniel Dennet, for example, is absolutely shredded." I get to know Dennet's work and surely he has strong claims. Dennet kicks buts, man! I need to get the book, to have some fun times.

At 7/06/2009 8:35 PM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Speaking of WOW!

I received an email from Dr. Hart, author of ATHEIST DELUSIONS, because I was unsure where he was coming from. He responded...

"I certainly spend enough time in my book deploring the institutional church and the evils of the church-state alliance, and I certainly do not blame scientific method for the evils of the modern world. There are, moreover, no defenses of religion in the book. I am not a religious person, as it happens."

At 7/06/2009 10:13 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

'You seem a bit rattled by this. Just look at all of the adjectives, and the polemic tone, you have used .

(You actually come across like the person Chris met in Waterstones:'

I was trying only to say that Mr.Hart had gone one step beyond speaking tongues and was now writing in tongues.

It was just boring and unintelligeble.

At 7/06/2009 11:00 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Carr: your language rhetoric to keep something at safe distance before you can attack it with bias. Before jumping on me with cries of "ad hominem", why not ask yourself why you cannot give a book like this a fair listen.

Edward, to find out about Hart's faith, have a read of his brilliant "Beauty of the Infinite" - then you'll discover more about what he meant in his e-mail :-)

At 7/06/2009 11:04 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

A fair listen?

Stick an argument from it in front of me to listen to.

But a book which claims the disciples would not deny their experience of the risen Christ even under torture is not a book which is going to trouble atheists.

At 7/06/2009 11:15 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Your rhetoric has once again proved my point. Can't you see that?

At 7/06/2009 11:18 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

An excerpt from 'Beholding the Infinite'

'From this vantage a rhetoric of peace is, by definition, duplicity; subjected to a thorough critique,genealogy, or deconstruction, evangelical rhetoric can undoubtedly be shown to conceal within itself the most insatiable appetite for control;the gesture by which the church offers Christ to the world, and bears witness to God's love for creation, is in reality an aggression, the ingratiating embassy of an omnivorous power.'

Such a sentence makes one long for Vogon poetry.

But the next 'sentence' is worse :-

'Of course, if power's pathos were indeed the hidden wellspring of every act of persuasion, Christianity, as it conceives of itself, would be an impossible prescence within history: the church as the earnest of the 'peacable kingdom' could never communicate itself in a way that would not contradict its own evangel, and the 'city of peace' that the church tries (or at any rate claims) to be could never actually take shape, except mendaciously, as a dissimulation of power's arcane operations behind an apparent renunciation of power (such , at least, is Nietsche's accusation in The Genealogy of Morals.)'

This is the sort of writing that G.A.Wells wrote lovely essays about.

Doesn't Mr.Hart believe in sentence breaks, organised thought patterns, or using language to convey meaning?

At 7/06/2009 11:24 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

I checked the FOG index on that last sentence of Hart's and it was over 26....

At 7/06/2009 11:29 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

"Doesn't Mr.Hart believe in sentence breaks, organised thought patterns, or using language to convey meaning?"


I won't try and defend his writing style, but simply say that I enjoyed it. Hart does not write simply like Darwin, but at least he is not as obscure as Newton!

To fully appreciate the book you cite from, one needs to be conversant with at least some modern continental philosophy.

And that strand of philosophy can be a bit tricky (for example, have a stab at Derrida or Badiou. Not easy until you learn their "language" and ways of argumentation).

Beyond style, Hart's thought certainly is organised.

At 7/07/2009 1:11 AM, Anonymous steph said...

Esteban the Fantastical's review is utterly brilliant, extremely lucid and violently convincing. I might borrow his copy one day if I bother reading the Dawkins' and the Dennetts first but I don't find either side particularly helpful or interesting. Esteban's views, on the other hand, are always always always good value. Good for stalking... ;-)

At 7/10/2009 7:22 PM, Anonymous Drew Tatusko said...

just got it in the mail yesterday and looking forward to it.

Steven Carr: "I presume it produces no evidence for the Christian god"

Hart does not presume to offer evidence to satisfy what someone like Dennett or Dawkins needs in order for whatever this or that is to be considered "evidence." If they are looking to find God in a petri dish, they will not find it. Hart's argument goes much deeper by getting rid of the assumed logical positivist re-posturing of those he holds with high suspicion. The assertions of the Four Horsemen are re-plays of very outdated late 19th century/early 20th century logical positivist assertions that have been since done away with. Particle physics cannot accept these positions since it reveals a highly illogical world of substances.

I find the consistent rambling about Hart's prose to be useless. He is quite romantic to be sure, but writes extraordinarily well. I mourn the loss of the aesthetic value of language in your case and in those who find nothing else to critique but this regarding Hart's work. Rather anemic position to take since it focuses on the medium alone. Perhaps it simply requires more attention to detail, or a lesson in reading a difficult text - which I assure you, Atheist Delusions really is not that difficult to understand if you have read, as Tilling suggests, anything in continental philosophy which is usually Hart's conversation partner.

At 7/11/2009 3:29 AM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Re: Greeks & scientific method. I don't intend to answer here so much as suggest someone who writes about that often, James Hannam over at Quodlibeta. He actually has a forthcoming book (slated for release this fall, I think) on the subject. His "long story short" answer would be that science didn't really take off until we left behind their methodogies and picked up our own. I haven't read the book (obviously, as it's unreleased) so don't know how convincing his case will be.

Take care & God bless

At 7/13/2009 5:06 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

Coming to this a bit late but to respond to Steven Carr's comment:

"Not one Christian ever came forward on the Richard Dawkins site to use any of the 'arguments' in the book"

That's likely because sane, rational, sensible Christians don't stay on there for very long because it is nigh on impossible to have a sensible conversation on there.

Very few of Dawkin's disciples are interested in discussing things, they tend to throw around insults or spout Dawkins quotes unthinkingly.

As a result sensible people who are open to debate (whether atheist or Christian) don't hang around leaving only the crazies and/or those who like arguing for the sake of an argument (on both sides)!

At 7/18/2009 7:50 PM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

I just got my copy and am devouring it. Steven Carr's criticisms of Hart's writing style leave me wondering: Can he not find anything truly substantive to respond to? or is it just that he can't follow the sentences? They are full of meaning, and I rather enjoy mentally parsing Hart's use of English. The rewards of doing so are rich!

Of course, if one is motivated not to understand Hart, it is an easy thing to find refuge in somebody's "fog index".

At 7/18/2009 9:06 PM, Anonymous Bryan Cox said...

I've been in the same online circles with Steven Carr for years. He's probably a nice guy, but has a real issue with religion and Christianity in general. Flowery adjectival rhetoric is one of his fortes. But such adjectives aren't answers to such strong challenges against atheism.

I have not had the opportunity to read this book yet, but I will certainly be doing so. I hope that it deals with what I see as probably the most major issue with atheism, a lack of a common moral base. Atheists have always been quick to jump on people of religion, especially Christians, when they feel a Christian has violated Christian standards of morality. However, atheists do not have an obvious, common standard or tradition by which others may judge them. How convenient. ;-)

At 7/18/2009 9:48 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

'or is it just that he can't follow the sentences?'

I can't follow the sentences.

'Where was God? In and beyond all things, nearer to the essence of every creature than that creature itself, and infinitely outside the grasp of all finite things.'

Nope. Didn't get a word of that.

At 7/19/2009 1:43 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...


Well then, let me help you. Hart is merely restating, in his typical eloquent and elegant style, the well-understood dual concepts of immanence and transcendence. If you want to read a physicist, you will need to understand basic physics. If you want to read a theologian, you'll need at least an inkling of theology.

But did that quote came from book in question? I've only read the first three or four chapters (I just got the book), but what I've read so far would require no theology to understand. Maybe a little history. His style is polemical and, I might add, quite entertaining.

At 7/19/2009 11:48 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

The concepts of immanence and transcendence are not well understood.

No more than it is well understood how Harry Potter's invisibility cloak works.

At 7/19/2009 4:37 PM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

Immanence and transcendence, considered independently, are well understood constructs. True enough, the merging of the two involves mystery and paradox, and of course that is precisely Hart's point. God is mysterious, to be sure. We should not expect our finite minds to wrap themselves around God. But that is a poor reason to reject the notion.

String Theory, and its requisite multidimensionality, remains a profound and baffling mystery to physicists. But they accept the mystery, work within it, and keep moving forward. Theology is also necessarily mysterious.

But to say you don't understand theology concepts that other folks deal in all the time, and then reject a book about history and culture is a leap. I'm still asking the same question: Do you have an actual response to the plain contentions in Atheist Delusions or will you just hide behind what you consider some of Hart's confusing (to you) theology ideas?

At 7/19/2009 4:44 PM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...


I checked out all your Hart quotes. None of them come from the book Chris is endorsing and we are discussing. You're like thy guy who rejects Obama's health plan because you don't understand his Middle East policy.


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