This, I think, is probably the best book I’ve ever read against something. In “Atheist Delusions”, Academic and Christian, David Bentley Hart, attacks the intellectually bankrupt and incoherent ideas of the New Atheists. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Church and cultural History, Bentley-Hart attacks the premises and ideas of Atheism at the most fundamental level. His basic thesis is that (As the subtitle alludes) Christianity provides the only genuine revolution in human history – not least because its revolutionary central ideas stick – and its modern opponents are less the (self styled) four horsemen of the Apocalypse but instead the latest in a long line of fashionable enemies of the Christian revolution. An interesting book, then!
I would suggest approaching this book with an open mind. Interwoven amongst the polemic against the New Atheists is a whistle stop cultural history of the world, and a fascinating idea. The idea that is the closing thesis of this book – that Christianity is the only revolution worth living for – is a compelling one, that implies a particular reading of history. As a motif and method for thinking through the whole of history, and relating the impact of Christianity to it, it is an excellent idea. If only Christians truly understood the revolution that we pay lip service to.
The tone of the book is relatively splenetic – one gets the sense that Bentley-Hart is an academic, who, upon reading The God Delusion/Letter to a Christian Nation/God is Not Great, spluttered into his Port and called for a scribe to denounce these delinquent upstarts. This makes it quite a fun book to read, as the dense, intense prose and argument is peppered with hilarious insults, like calling Dan Brown a “borderline illiterate”. This could be seen as rude – but this is the popular face of a serious academic engaging with what amounts to little more than a popular set of shouty people.
Bentley-Hart accurately and carefully charts the course of Christian History, aware of the failings and yet powerfully setting the record straight throughout. I think this is one of the better books in the conversation about the place and truth of religion in the modern world. It is a refreshing anecdote to the often philosophically and theologically bankrupt writings of the New Atheists – though this particular volume is arguably not a scholarly work, it does draw on the authors scholarship. This is a book that I would recommend sceptics read, those involved in apologetics read, and those studying theology. It uses a fair bit of technical language, but is very worthwhile. Highly Recommended.