The Tool Kit by Thomas C. Reeves

The Tool Kit

What’s So Great About Christianity
by Dinesh D’Souza
Regnery Publishing, 2007
(348 pages, $27.95, hardcover)

reviewed by Thomas C. Reeves

After reading several new volumes on atheism that have stirred the media and hit the best-seller lists, the conservative scholar Dinesh D’Souza set out to make the case for Christianity, the “mere Christianity” practiced by most of the faithful in all churches. What’s So Great About Christianity is overtly polemical, designed to be “a kind of tool kit for Christians” and an invitation to all concerned to convert. “I hope,” the author writes, “you will read it as if your life depended on it, because, in a way, it might.”

Civilization’s Foundation

D’Souza makes a case for seven propositions: (1) That Christianity is the “main foundation” of Western Civilization and “the root of our most cherished values”; (2) that evidence from modern science supports the Christian claim that a divine being created the universe; (3) that Darwin’s theory of evolution strengthens the evidence for supernatural design; (4) that nothing in science makes miracles impossible; (5) that faith and reason are totally compatible; (6) that atheism, far more than religion, has produced mass murder; and (7) that atheism is motivated by “a kind of cowardly moral escapism.” No small task for only 316 pages of text.

The author’s examination of early Christian history, while absolving Christianity of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, notes that the faith brought into the world a high sense of personal morality; an elevation of the status of women, monogamous love, and the family; an exaltation of the common man (each person’s soul being of equal importance in the eyes of God, and each individual being a moral agent); and a powerful consideration of the needs of others. Later on, Christianity laid the groundwork for democracy, the anti-slavery movement, capitalism, and “all modern doctrines of human rights.”

But didn’t the Enlightenment and its free thinkers create our modern freedoms? No. “John Stuart Mill’s influential doctrine of liberty, which so many of us take for granted, is a direct inheritance from Christianity.” D’Souza writes:

It is no use responding that Mill was a product of the Enlightenment understanding of human freedom and equality. That notion was itself a product of Christianity. Where else do you think the Enlightenment thinkers got it?

Individual rights stem from the Christian premise “that all human lives have worth and that all lives count equally; this is not the teaching of all the world’s cultures and religions.” In the pre-Christian world, only Athens permitted its citizens a voice in the decisions of their own polity, and that was a society dependent on slavery.

The Christian view of freedom and equality is firmly rooted in Scripture (e.g., Galatians 3:28), which teaches that all of us are free moral agents, architects of our own lives. This was an awesome contribution to the history of humanity.

Christian Science

Thomas C. Reeves is a retired history professor who lives with his wife Kathleen in the Wisconsin countryside. Among his numerous books are biographies of John F. Kennedy and Fulton J. Sheen. His latest book is Distinguished Service: The Life and Times of Wisconsin Governor Walter J. Kohler, Jr. (Marquette University Press).

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