Review: Christianity Is Not Great: Foreword

In the foreword Hector Avalos summarizes the book:

Christianity Is Not Great swiftly demolishes one of the greatest and subtlest myths promoted by believers. The demolished myth is that Christianity, even if it cannot be proved to be true, has at least been good for the world. It has supposedly freed slaves and fostered science.

On the contrary, Christianity Is Not Great shows that Christianity has been bad for the world precisely because its ungrounded beliefs interfere with a realistic view of our world. Unrealistic views of the world cause unnecessary pain and suffering, and those views should be rejected. Furthermore, it is simply not true that Christianity deserves credit for freeing slaves, fostering science, and other positive developments that believers usually ascribe to this religion.

His [John Loftus] past anthologies have addressed the problems and flaws in Christianity’s arguments. This volume, while not neglecting those problems and flaws, concentrates on how Christianity harms some of our basic human institutions, such as politics, science, and our moral system.

It will be interesting to see if the authors can be even-handed. The term Christianity covers billions of people with many different beliefs. It may be possible, for example, for one form of Christianity to foster science and another form of Christianity to hinder science. Will the authors note this? Will they admit that Christianity has done at least some good? As with any large collection of human beings, there are good apples and bad apples within Christianity. Will the authors only focus on the bad apples or will they mention the good apples too?

What is Christianity being compared against? Atheism? Islam? In The Christian Delusion Avalos wrote: “As an atheist, I don’t deny that I am a moral relativist.”1 If moral relativism is true then there is nothing objectively bad about slavery and there is nothing objectively good about science. In other words, it is simply not possible to show that Christianity is objectively good or bad for the world because there is no such thing as objective goodness or badness.

Also in the foreword, Avalos writes:

The anthologies John Loftus organizes show the vitality and comprehensive intellectual approach to atheism as a way of life. That comprehensive critique of religion, and defense of the atheist worldview, is one of the hallmarks of what is called the New Atheism.

One cannot help noting the contradiction between Avalos’s moral relativism and the purpose of the book he is writing the foreword to. His “atheism as a way of life” seems to involve endorsing a book that, on his “atheist worldview”, cannot possibly succeed in its aims. This is not a consistent way of life; it is an incoherent way of life.

To be fair, it should be noted that not all atheists are moral relativists nor do I know how many contributors to Christianity Is Not Great would describe themselves as moral relativists. My problem is with a moral relativist telling me something is good or bad. If you don’t believe in objective good and bad then don’t pretend otherwise.

  1. p. 232 

One thought on “Review: Christianity Is Not Great: Foreword

  1. I would argue that no human, atheist or theist, can be, in any meaningful sense, a mind independent moral realist without first admitting to Platonic Realism. This is a very difficult position to hold and argue for, imho. Objective morality is bandied about with wild abandon without anyone really describing how it can possibly make sense.

    At best, theists are subjectivists with morality being subjectively accessed from that based in the mind of God. As experience machines, human conceptual minds merely hope to align with that other moral mind.

    As Michael Huemer states in Ethical Intuitionism:

    “We often hear warnings to the effect that the decline of religious belief undermines morality. There is more than one way of interpreting this concern, but here I shall focus on the suggestion that there could be no moral truths if God did not exist — as Dostoyevsky says, if there is no God, everything is permitted. The Divine Command Theory of ethics holds that an action is morally right if and only if it is of a kind that God commands (or approves of, or wants us to perform). The version of the theory I want to discuss holds a similar view about all other evaluative properties, including goodness, justice, and so on — that is, that all of these properties depend on God in such a way that nothing could have any evaluative property if God did not exist; however, in the following, I shall focus on the property of rightness. Since it takes rightness to be reducible and dependent on the attitudes of an observer (God), the Divine Command Theory is a form of subjectivism. This is worth pointing out, since the theory is often seen as the arch-nemesis of cultural relativism, whereas in fact the two are variants on the same basic metaethical approach.”

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