Showing posts with label Dinesh D'Souza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dinesh D'Souza. Show all posts

My Opening Statement With Dinesh D'Souza, by John Loftus

My 15 minute opening statement: "Does the Christian God Exist?"

I’m going to offer several arguments based on facts we should all agree on that show the Christian God does not exist. My claim is that these facts will force Dinesh into arguing over and over for what I’ll call the Dumb and Dumber Defense, based on the movie with that title starring Jim Carrey. In every single case Dinesh’s response will be pretty much the same. Rather than admit his faith is improbable, he will be forced to claim that what he’s defending is still possible despite these facts. But remember, it’s possible that Jim Carrey could’ve gotten the girl of his dreams in the movie too. The girl said he had a “one in a million” chance at doing so.

DC Book Club: Reviewing Dinesh D'Souza's "What's So Great About Christianity."


Dinesh D'Souza's book What's So Great About Christianity? just arrived today, and I'm planning to evaluate it to see how good it is, since several important people are saying it's an important book. I plan on reviewing it in several Blog entries. Let's call this the first ever DC Book Club Selection. I got it delivered in just a few days, so if you want to buy it and read along, I recommend that you do so. Together let's see what he has to offer. [FYI: I really don't care if you disgaree with anything else he's written prior to this book, because his other views are basically irrelevant to his case here].

Here are my first impressions:

You can see for yourself in the table of contents that he covers a lot of ground, including whether Christianity will survive in the future, how it affects the western world, its relationship to science, its intelligent design hypothesis, its defense of the miraculous, the morality of the Inquisition vs the morality of atheists, and who has the best foundation for morality. He's obviously well-read too, which means I will probably learn a few things, which is always a goal of mine.

Lacking in his book is a discussion of Biblical criticism, any detailed argument on behalf of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or for the inspiration of the Bible, and he only deals with the design argument for God's existence. Well, I suppose he can't cover everything. He's entitled to assume some of these things, I suppose, since it seems his book is attempting to answer the arguments of Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens, who themselves don't offer any detailed arguments in these other areas. Fair enough. Although, I should point out that even if he's correct about most everything else in his book, and I very much doubt it, unless it can be shown that we can trust the Bible as the inspired word of God, and unless we can be sure Jesus actually arose from the dead, his whole case falls to the ground.

Okay so far?

Now just a brief note about "A Note On the Interpretation of Scripture." (pp. xi-xii)

D'Souza distinguishes between a "crude literalism" reading of the Bible from a "cafeteria" style reading where we reject the parts we find objectionable and embrace the parts we like. Since the Bible operates on a multitude of levels, like metaphor and parable, we shouldn't approach it in a crudely literal way. And on this point he's absolutely correct. However, few people, if any, embrace such a crudely literal approach to the Bible. Even if Origen did castrate himself based upon a crudely literal reading of Matt. 19:12, who else reads it this way today? Maybe snake handlers do in some sense, but even they don't do so consistently since they live and breathe in the 21 century like the rest of us. Moreover, he seems blithely unaware that all Christians pick and choose the parts of the Bible they like from the parts they don't like, and they have been doing so from the beginning. The only difference between Christians on this is how much they do so, much like on a continuum, and the question left unanswered is why they do so in some areas but don't do so in other areas.

The other extreme, which he rejects, "says the Bible should be read through the lens of contemporary secular assumptions." Now here I see trouble ahead, for I don't think we can objectively read the Bible, or any historical document, without using our present assumptions. We are, after all, children of our times, and as children of are times we are not likely to be able to rise about them, as Voltaire pointed out. The question for us is which set of assumptions should we use to interpret the Bible, and I don't see why we should assume that Christianity is true, or that supernaturalism is the case, in order to read the Bible properly. If, for instance, we begin reading the Bible from Christian assumptions, then the question I want to have answered is where does the Christian gain those assumptions in the first place if they don't get them from the Bible? To me this whole approach is circular reasoning.

He claims to hold a middle ground between these extremes. He wants to read the Bible not literally, nor liberally, but rather contextually. He writes, "Only by examining the text in relation to the whole can we figure out how a particular line or passage is best understood." Then he suggests "whether you regard the Bible as inspired or not, read the text in context for what it is actually trying to say." He says this will be clearer as he proceeds.

This reveals more trouble ahead, I think. Even though his approach sounds on the surface to be true, and is partially true, I question where this will take us. His approach is partially true since we must read every passage in the Bible according to its context in order to understand it. Since the basic meaning resides in the sentence (not the word), then in order to understand any sentence we must also understand the context for that sentence in the paragraph, and onward up to the purpose of any book in the Bible itself. But there is more. For any book in the Bible there is a wider context. There is the cultural milieu of each book in the life of the initial readers which must be understood. But that wider context is difficult to understand and also debated today. And there is the whole problem of knowing what purposes the last editor/author of each of the books in the Bible were, since even conservative scholars admit the gospels, for instance, were compiled by editors (or redactors). This means we need to also adequately date these books, know where they were written from, and even who the final authors were. Furthermore, there were pseudonymous additions to the texts long after it left the hands of the final editor/author, along with copyists who made their changes, sometimes for theological reasons, along with the whole process of canonization which affirmed which books belong in the Bible.

On one level we might be able to understand a Biblical passage given only the texts themselves, but that’s a different thing entirely from trying to truly understand what the Biblical editor/authors meant in their day and time. Furthermore, just understanding what they wrote isn't enough, for we must go on to evaluate whether or not what they said was true. So not only do I fear D'Souza is skipping a few contextual steps, but even when I have understood what they wrote I can still question what they said. This is the subject of his book. We'll see how it goes.