The End of Christianity: Book Review

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The End of Christianity: Book Review

The End of Christianity: Book Review

by Matt DeStefano on July 10, 2011

I recently received John Loftus’ The End of Christianity, an anthology of some of the most profound atheist writers that delivers a variety of convincing arguments for the abandonment of the Christian faith. In lieu of new content, I decided to go ahead and write up a detailed review for his book. There are 14 chapters, and while I want to avoid summarizing each and every one of them I’d like to call attention to what I feel are some of the more noteworthy arguments.

The first chapter is written by Dr. David Eller and titled Christianity Evolving: On the Origin of the Christian Species. It is an informative and compelling piece that focuses on the evolution of Christian theology. It shows that the view that Christianity has “stood the test of time” is completely debunked in virtue of Christianity’s ever-evolving body of beliefs. It includes an especially intriguing section titled The Invention of Traditions in which Eller explores the idea of building up theological tradition to deal with the acquisition of new evidence, even when the evidence conflicts with the tradition they are trying to assimilate with. Eller continues to argue that Christianity is not a singular term that refers to a stagnate and unified tradition, but instead is a multitude of targets that are constantly being realigned and reinterpreted by Christians who do not wish to see their faith inundated by newer evidence. It seems that Eller’s argument resounds with a theme that many atheist authors (myself included) have been continuing to insist upon, and that is the destruction of the religious landscape. That merely accumulating new evidence will not be the final blow to Christianity, that we will have to continue to vigilantly stamp out the religious apologists’ special pleading and ever-moving target for the debunking of their personal brand of religious faith.

In chapter 3, Loftus adds his own material in a chapter entitled Christianity is Wildly Improbable. He sets out a litany of claims derived from Christian creeds and argues that the more of these that Christians accept, the less tenable their faith becomes. Although it is only a minor and passing argument in the chapter, I found Loftus’ analysis of a spiritual being creating a material being intriguing. Essentially, Loftus is using the arguments leveled at Cartesian dualism and re-tooling them as an argument against the creation of a material universe by a spirtual God. Loftus questions “How does something that is spirit create something material, or interact with it, unless there is some point of contact between them that they both share?” This same reasoning was the beginning of the end for Cartesian dualism, and if this argument was to be expounded upon I think it’s consequences for theism could be equally devastating. Loftus also argues that scholars who are otherwise intelligent often look ridiculous when defending the faith, and analyzes arguments presented by major Christian scholars (Platinga, Craig, etc.) and points out their religious special pleading that often goes unnoticed.

In Chapter 6, Dr. Valerie Tarico examines the concept of emotions in relation to the Christian God. I haven’t read any of Dr. Tarico’s work before, but this was one of my favorite chapters in the book. In a likeable and humorous voice, Dr. Tarico examines God’s various emotional reactions through out the Old Testament, using modern psychological analysis in order to demonstrate how unbelievably human God is at regulating His own emotions. She examines the idea of anthropomorphism and asks engaging questions about how we can tell the difference between which concepts of God are “something outside of us” versus “projections of our psyches”. Drawing off of psychological and physiological research, Tarico argues that emotions are intricate and complex systems existing in our physical body, and then wonders how the authors of the Bible could possibly ascribe these attributes to an immaterial God.

In Chapter 8, Dr. Matt McCormick (a professor of mine, actually) argues against the historical case for the resurrection by using an analogous case of the Salem Witch Trials. After charitably summarizing the historical case for the resurrection (using Habermas, Wright, etc.), Dr. McCormick argues that we have more evidence (more quantity and better quality) of the Salem Witch Trials than we do for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This again reiterates the fallacy of special pleading. Unless Christians want to accept that there was indeed witchcraft in Salem (as one of his debate opponents has in the past), it seems that Christians ought to reject the resurrection for the same reasons they reject the Salem Witch Trials.

In chapter 13, Dr. Victor J. Stenger analyzes the evidence for life after death and especially examines the use of NDE (Near Death Experiences) in attempts to prove the existence of an immaterial soul, or consciousness existing after death. He uncovers the lack of objective historical data and makes a compelling case to dismiss anecdotal evidence in favor of controlled, recordable experiments. He also questions the consequences for believing in ‘cosmic justices’ and makes the case that those who do believe it in have less vested  interest in seeking justice here on Earth, and turns the table on many apologists who sing the praises of everyone “getting what they deserve” (in chapter 10, Dr. Keith Parsons provides an examination of Hell, which he calls “Christianity’s Most Damnable Doctrine&rdquoEye-wink.

This book is an absolutely fascinating read and well worth your money to pick up a copy.  I didn’t include many of the brilliant articles in the book written by other thinkers like Dr. Hector Avalas, Dr. Richard Carrier, and Dr. Jaco Gericke. If you are a believer, this book contains many questions that ought to give you considerable pause, and if you are an atheist or skeptic, this book is likely to put the nail in Christianity’s coffin.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whip cream."--Frank Zappa Books on atheism