Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dinesh D'Souza Tries to Change History

Conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza apparently has the ability to change history like I change my daughter's dirty diapers.

He has a new book out extolling the virtues of Christianity while also taking ample time to dump on us hostile atheists. I'm going to pick apart this opinion piece from yesterday's USAToday (which is just an excerpt from his book):

We seem to be witnessing an aggressive attempt by leading atheists to portray religion in general, and Christianity in particular, as the bane of civilization.

There’s that word “aggressive” again…”aggressive”, “militant”, “vicious”…you’d think atheists are a pack of rabid dogs! Come on, everybody, say it with me now – the word is “outspoken”…”O-U-T-S-P-O-K-E-N”. That’s the word you’re looking for!

The proposed solution: a completely secular society, liberated from Christian symbols and beliefs.

Strawman alert! This is not possible, nor is it what most atheists want.

Christianity is responsible even for secular institutions such as democracy and science.

It doesn’t appear that Mr. D’Souza took 8th-grade history in this country. Because if he did, he would know that the Greeks are generally credited with the creation of Democracy (and that’s the Before Christ Greeks I’m talking about). And the word “democracy” comes from Greek to boot!

Because science is based on an assumption that is, at root, faith-based and theological. That is the assumption that the universe is rational and follows laws that are discoverable through human reason.

Maybe someone can explain to me how this assumption is “faith-based and theological”. I’m drawing a blank.

There's no particular reason the laws of nature that we find on Earth should also govern a star billions of light years away.

Well, maybe except for the fact that, as D’Souza stated in the previous paragraph – “That is the assumption that the universe is rational and follows laws…”

No wonder also that the greatest scientists of the West - Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo…were priests.

Remember Galileo? Right – he was the one who was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life because he dared state that the Earth revolved around the Sun. The Bible said otherwise! Nice to know Christians hold him in such high esteem now.

If modern science has Christian roots, so do our most basic political institutions and values. Consider Thomas Jefferson's famous assertion in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal." He claimed this was "self-evident," but one only has to look to history and to other cultures to see that it is not evident at all. Everywhere we see dramatic evidence of human inequality. Jefferson's point, however, was that human beings are moral equals. Every life has a worth no greater and no less than any other.

First of all, when Thomas Jefferson asserted that “all men are created equal”, we all know that he meant all white men. Slavery would continue well into the 1870’s, and women didn’t even get the right to vote until the 1920’s. Jefferson may have been a role model for his time, but why are Christians so obsessed with the founding fathers and using them to somehow prove we are a Christian nation because of them?

And secondly, I’m sure that the poor and disenfranchised in America and all over the world are so happy to know that they are “moral” equals with everyone else. Every life has an equal worth? Really? Then how many Iraqi civilians do you think equal one American civilian? The sad thing is, it is very much possible to calculate that value based on economics.

Christianity initially tolerated slavery- a universal institution at the time - but gradually mobilized the moral and political resources to end it.

Cop-out alert! D’Souza justifies Christianity’s initial tolerance of slavery by saying the institution was universal. Hey Dinesh – here’s my favorite parental quote: “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” I guess it’s kind of hard to be against slavery when the Bible promotes it.

From the beginning, Christianity discouraged the enslavement of fellow Christians. Slavery, the foundation of Greek and Roman civilization, withered and largely disappeared throughout medieval Christendom in the Middle Ages.

“…discouraged the enslavement of fellow Christians.” Great, but go ahead and enslave everyone else who doesn’t submit to Jesus! This statement from D’Souza is laughable. And let’s not forget that slavery was a big part of the foundation for American civilization as well.

Consider finally modern notions of human rights - the right to freedom of conscience, or to property, or to marry and form a family, or to be treated equally before the law - as enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The universalism of this declaration is based on the particular teachings of Christianity. The premise is that all human lives have equal dignity and worth, but this is not the teaching of all the world's cultures and religions.

Aside from the fact that human rights are a common-sense issue (who needs a god to tell you that killing someone is wrong?), I wonder if Mr. D’Souza knows that the United Nations Human Rights Commission – the keeper of the UDHR –says homosexuals are protected under the declaration. How does your Christian conscience feel about that?

One reason the atheist philosopher Nietzsche hated democracy is because he understood its religious foundation.

It seems only fitting to end with Nietzsche. I’ll let you in on a little secret, Dinesh – Nietzsche was crazy, and he hated everyone and everything. I think you may have something in common with him.

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