About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Currently reading: What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza

In my current quest to catch up on a whole lot of recent works of Christian apologetics, I've finally broached D'Souza's book. I'm about a quarter or a third through it, so it's fairly early days, but I've got to say in all honesty that the book is much better than I expected it to be (judged, for example, on D'Souza's style in oral debates).

The thing about D'Souza is that he can actually write - he presents his case in clear, crisp prose, and he seems to have a good grasp of the philosophical arguments (much better than I expected from his debates with Hitchens, where he is histrionic and rather shallow ... and then there's the fact that he does not have a background as a professional philosopher). So, credit where it's due.

That said, he makes claims that are, in their content, far more outrageous than anything you'll find in, say, Haught or Reitan. Unlike them, D'Souza is not a liberal in any sense: theologically, politically, or probably in any other way. He tends to see conspiracies by evil atheists. So far, however, he's doing a better job than others of saying these things without sounding angry, pathetically hurt, or uncivil. Maybe that will change - as Alister McGrath's The Twilight of Atheism seemed to lose the plot halfway through - but at this stage, D'Souza is, at the very least, a good exemplar of style. It'd be worth your while to have a look at how he does it. He manages to take some pretty cheap shots without obviously appearing to, and that is quite a rhetorical accomplishment.

Anyway, I have a long way to go. I'll report more when I'm further advanced.


Spencer Troxell said...

It's commendable that you're doing this (and possibly a little masochistic).

C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Philip Yancey were my touchstones when I was a christian. Make sure you take a look at them.

I recommend:

Orthodoxy by Chesterton, Reaching for the invisible god by Yancey, and The Great Divorce, A Grief Observed, and The Abolition of Man by Lewis.

'A Grief Observed' and 'The Great Divorce' are great and sympathetic books even if you're not a believer.

Russell Blackford said...

I read most of the C.S. Lewis stuff when I was younger, but you're probably right that I should broach it again. At the moment I'm trying to get a sense of what claims/myths about atheists are really out there in this body of current apologetics literature.

There will be limits, but I'm going to read (and read quite carefully)_ a good sample across a range of theological positions.

Rick Graham said...

I commend you as well. I really enjoy your blog. I found you via WEIT. I too would like to venture to the other side, briefly, and see the best arguments made for God. Would you please list (in order from strongest to weakest) the authors you think pose the 'serious' and 'sophisticated' arguments for the existence of God. I mean, what *are* we supposed to be reading in order to be educated atheist.

What about Terry Eagleton's recommendations for "Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope”.

Augustine? Lewis?

What are the must reads? I would be grateful.