April 29, 2009
The Delusions of Pseudo-Scholarship
Last weekend I picked up a copy of David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Yale University Press). I’d been seeing comments on this new book, and I was looking forward to getting my hands on it. Over half way into it, I’m not disappointed. It’s difficult to put it down.
This is surely one of the best books of the season. And it’s got some endorsements many an author or editor would die for. George Weigel calls it a “rousing good read,” names David Hart “one of America’s sharpest minds” and tells us “This is Hart in full, all guns firing and the band playing on the deck.” John Milbank says, “Surely Dawkins, Hitchens et al would never have dared put pen to paper had they know of the existence of David Bentley Hart. After this demolition job all that is left for them to do is repent and rejoice at the discreditation of their erstwhile selves.”
I’m tempted to run on about this book, but I fear my colleagues might scold me for promoting another publisher’s book on the IVP Academic website. Of course, I’d have to tell them that I am doing so in the broader interest of truth! And I suspect they’d go for that.
One of the burdens of Hart’s book is to correct the caricatures of history that are being promulgated by writers of the New Atheism, from the “rhetorical recklessness” of Christopher Hitchens to the “extravagantly callow attack” of Sam Harris to the “embarrassing incapacity for philosophical reasoning” of Richard Dawkins to the “borderline illiterate” (but wildly profitable) work of Dan Brown.
In attempting to correct the modern mythology of the Middle Ages, Hart lands on a point that has surely provoked many a serious scholar of history or religion:
Hart brings to light some of the work of these “academical drudges,” focusing his rhetorical powers on the intellectual darkness that masquerades as enlightenment in our culture today. It’s a sophisticated polemic and an absolute delight to read.