Saturday, January 09, 2010

atheist delusions. part 2. assessing Christian impact

Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies calls attention to peculiar and radical nature of Christian faith in first four or five centuries, the liberation it offered and dignity it gave the human person. Christianity was, in the truest sense of the word, a revolution (xi), the like of which has never been seen before or since in the history of the West. By implication, this becomes a rejection of modernity’s myth of progress and the triumph of reason over faith.

Hart is not concerned to advocacy, (“there are numerous forms of Christian belief and practice for which I would be hard pressed to muster a kind word” (x)), merely for accuracy.

Myth: the intolerance of Christianity

  1. The Roman empire accepted a diversity of cults, but not a diversity of religions. “It was tolerant, that is to say, of what it found tolerable.” (118).
  2. Pagan cultures marked by disease, poverty, starvation, homelessness, gladiatorial spectacle, crucifixion, depravity and cruelty.
  3. Gnostics were “marginal, eccentric, and novel.” (135)

Why did Christianity spread across the empire and through social classes?

  1. Christianity welcomed both sexes and all classes. “This was, in many ways, the most radical novelty of their community: that it transcended and so, in an ultimate sense, annulled “natural” human divisions.” (158)
  2. Women found Christianity immensely attractive. Christianity forbade killing female babies and offered care to widows. It demanded loyalty from Christian husbands.
  3. Legal reforms instituted by Christian emperors included greater rights for women in divorce (Theodosius), for slaves (Justinian).
  4. Pagan critics were astonished at Christianity. “[O]ne finds nothing in pagan society remotely comparable in magnitude to the Christian willingness to provide continuously for persons in need, male and female, young and old, free and bound alike.” (163)
  5. Christian theology gave hope in a world of love, over against capricious fatalism. It gave human body dignity, a life here as well as eternal hope.

Part 1 the myths of new atheism here

Posted by steve at 04:36 PM

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