I learned about Dinesh D’ Souza’s 2007 book What’s So Great About Christianity a few years ago when it came up as on Amazon as of those “Customer Who Bought This Item Also Bought This” recommendations. Not long afterwards I encountered one of his essays in the anthology Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boomer Conservatives Chronicle Their Political Journeys. While his particular essay ended up being my least favorite in Why I Turned Right, nevertheless I still wanted to read his 2007 defense of Christianity. Therefore, when I came across a copy of D’ Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity at my local public library I quickly grabbed it. Written chiefly in response to the “New Atheist” writers such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, D’ Souza’s book might be the best written and intelligently presented defense of Christianity I’ve recently encountered. While I might not be a fan of D’ Souza’s conservative views, I was impressed with his ability to present a readable and intelligent defense of Christianity while also delivering a fairly adept critique of the atheism espoused by the above mentioned writers.
Much to my surprise, as an Evangelical Christian D’ Souza enthusiastically embraces such fundamentals of modern science as the theories of evolution and the Big Bang. While he prefers to credit God as the prime mover behind both these natural processes, I was encouraged by D’ Souza’s willingness to incorporate some aspects of modern science into his particular Christian worldview, although some critics might dismiss his particular beliefs as “Intelligent Design” masquerading as true science.
Moving from science to history, D’ Souza addresses the claim made by many atheists that religion is responsible for the lion’s share of organized killing throughout the ages. According to D’ Souza, the worst mass murders in history were the officially atheist Communist dictators of Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao in addition to the anti-Christian racist Hitler. In taking this position, D’ Souza joins other writers who have weighed in on this argument, (Keith Ward shares D’ Souza’s sentiments while Sam Harris takes a contrary position, with James Carrol asserting that Hitler never officially rejected the Catholicism of his youth while eventually dying a confirmed Catholic).
But it’s his interpretation of history that in my opinion causes D’ Souza to come up a bit short. Defending Christianity’s darker history of the Crusades, the Galileo affair and especially the Inquisition, I felt he presented a somewhat white-washed interpretation of the historical record. Something tells me most professional historians would not buy his arguments.
I’m also wondering how many scientists would buy his arguments regarding science’s inability to conclusively disprove the existence of God, not to mention D’ Souza’s Intelligent Design-ish beliefs. Likewise, some academics versed in philosophy might disagree with D’Souza’s philosophical attempts to prove the existence of God. As persuasive as D’ Souza might be, I suspect he might be employing the straw man rhetorical fallacy in order to make some of his points.
But taking everything in D’ Souza’s book into account, I thought the sum was greater than its parts. Like I stated above, What’s So Great About Christianity is the best response to the New Atheists I’ve encountered. While I’m not a fan of his politics, I do respect and admire what he set out to do with this book.