Monday, February 7, 2011

The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies

Jim ForestAtheist Delusions
by David Bentley Hart
Yale University Press, 272 pages, $17
Reviewed by Jim Forest

Get the book...

David Bentley Hart, an Orthodox theologian and classicist, outlines how Christianity transformed the ancient world in ways that are now taken for granted, forgotten, dismissed or misrepresented, conferring dignity on ordinary (generally poor) human beings and gradually ending or modifying for the better many of the harsher aspects of classical society while establishing compassionate care for others as the highest virtue.

Hart knows the classical world nearly as well as the world he actually lives in. The Glory that was Greece and the Splendor that was Rome was, Hart shows convincingly, astonishing cruel.

The book puts to rest many myths about the past. Contrary to popular opinion, Hart shows that Christians did not burn the Library of Alexandria, torture millions during the Inquisition, persecute Galileo for daring to propose the earth was in orbit around the sun, or wreak havoc across Europe during the Reformation. Rather Christianity gave the world hospitals, the foundations of modern science, and the moral framework to regard all life as worthy of life.

Hart goes on to demonstrate that what many like to think of as “The Age of Reason” was more accurately the beginning of the eclipse of reason’s authority as a cultural value. Finally he warns of the nightmarish consequences of the decline of Christendom as a culture force.

Christianity was, writes Hart, the only true revolution in history, changing everything from the bottom up:

“Stated in its most elementary form, my argument is, first of all, that among all the many great transitions that have marked the evolution of Western civilization, whether convulsive or gradual, political or philosophical, social or scientific, material or spiritual, there has been only one – the triumph of Christianity – that can be called, in the fullest sense, a 'revolution': a truly massive and epochal revision of humanity’s prevailing notion of reality."

Atheist Delusions is a tour de force. One might only wish it had a different title – The Christian Revolution – as it is less an attack on such popular atheist writers as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins than a book that polishes the glasses through which we see the past.

From the book on peacemaking, the Truce of God:

From the late tenth through the mid-eleventh centuries, various church synods in France had instituted the convention called the "Peace of God," which used the threat of excommunication to prevent private wars and attacks upon women, peasants, merchants, clergy, and other noncombatants, and which required every house, high and low, to pledge itself to preserving the peace. Other synods, over the course of the eleventh century, instituted the "Truce of God," which forbade armed aggression on so many days of the year --- penitential periods, feasts, fasts, from Wednesday evening to Monday morning, and so on -- that ultimately more than three-quarters of the calendar consisted in periods of mandatory tranquility; in the twelfth century, the Truce's prohibitions became fixed in civil law. The reason such conventions could actually serve (even partially) to limit aggression is that they proceeded from a spiritual authority that no baptized person, however powerful or rapacious, could entirely ignore.---Winter 2011 issue of In Communion (click)
--->Marcellino D'Ambrosio: He didn't say 'Blessed be the bland...' "Are [we] doing [our] job? Are [we] hot or lukewarm, spiritually alive, or comatose...?"

--->Serbia Holds Biggest Opposition Protest In Years. "This government was promising us milk and honey in 2008 and what do we have now? More hardship, and a dishonest and arrogant government which does not care about its own people," said Zdravka Stanojlovic, 44, a Belgrade waitress...

--->Deja Vu All Over Again? It all has a familiar ring to the Irish. First the economy is made to implode through devious practices or wild neglect---and then it is kept down one way or the other, engineered by the new 'owners'. The people are told future generations will likely not be able to afford higher education as they did in the post-war years. Standards of living must go down it is announced (IMF, World Bank, etc). More and more persons are thrown out of their homes as land is scooped up everywhere by monied interests. The future 'unlearned' are, many fear, being prepared to serve the new usurious plutocrats. A new diaspora is forced into being. Deracination makes room for the new 'Landlords'.

For centuries the Irish were made the slaves and / or victims of British capital-industrialism, the first modern "World Order". The Irish people were not relieved even during the great famine of the 19th century arguably because advocates of eugenics, ala Thomas Malthus, kept the workforce down to 'manageable' levels and impeded revolt. It was only residual Christian impulses in some of the English people which demanded improvements in the "conditions of the working classes," so pitiful had they become only a hundred years before my generation was born. Today those Christian impulses are being snuffed out, if it were possible, by corporate-controlled media which seeks to make the people hate their own Mother ---and sisters and daughters. No Christianity = no mercy. A new 'world economy' is being engineered for a New Man.

Marx---that other devious slave master---is no answer. Marxism only submerges the people into the meaningless collective, the brutal Any Colony run by a blank faced oligarchy as in Red China. The individual is reduced to zero, an automaton. Only a return to our Catholic-Christian roots can keep the next generations from being crushed, made the tools of a new tyranny in new dress; only Christianity sees the intrinsic worth of human beings so that compassion can prevail and human rights be demanded in the name of true justice, beyond all whim and domination. Surely it is time to read the Church's social encyclicals again. (See also label below on Distributism)

The media, which is 'programming' all to think as the multinational engineers wish, must at all costs be seen for what it is doing---conditioning people to reflexively volunteer for servitude, and if possible, come to "love it" in the words of Huxley.

--->Divvying Up the World? Hunger and food security: Is Africa selling the farm? Foreign investors see Africa as a breadbasket... "The anger was about food. Mr. Ravalomanana reportedly had leased 3.2 million acres – nearly half the island nation's arable land – to a South Korean conglomerate, Daewoo, for 99 years."

Previously the former head of the World Bank Larry Summers reportedly proposed turning "underdeveloped" countries in Africa into a landfill; as witness the leaked memo...

--->The Independent, UK: American Football: Under-age sex trade booming at Super Bowl...

--->Catholic Social Encyclicals...

--->FCC: Presidential emergency alerts to be tested...

--->Times of India: Bush fears arrest, scraps Swiss visit...Human rights groups in the country have been calling for the Swiss government to arrest Bush over allegations he had ordered the torture of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay...

--->Why for Non-violent Peace Activists? Sept. 28: "Terror" watch now includes: Catholic Worker groups, anti-war activists, anti-drilling activists, environmentalists, animal-rights groups...

--->Apropos - Archdiocese of Baltimore: Catholic Worker groups part of faulty FBI probe, says report...

--->This is fair? Proposal Would Punish Parents of 'Sexting' Teens...[As if teens do it in view of their parents! Madness. "Currently, teens engaged in 'sexting' can be charged with possessing or trafficking in child pornography". That is not enough?]...Read on

--->Positive: President Obama says Corporate Profits "Have To Be Shared By American Workers..."

===>Bloggers up in arms over Huffington Post takeover by AOL conglomerate...

---More Neo-modernist Complaints About English Missal Reform; AMERICA MAGAZINE: An Open Letter to the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the Forthcoming Missal. Consider this sad tripe; 'The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church'...

Note: This is reason to write the Vatican to give thanks for these changes being readied for Advent this year.

--->Catholic Herald Welcomes New English Missal Translation...

--->Jeffrey Tucker / New Liturgical Movement - The Musical Hope of the New Missal: "For the first time since 1969, all priests in the English-speaking world will have in front of them a Missal with chants of the Mass clearly given as part of the liturgical structure, presented not as an add-on but rather as an integral part of the liturgy. The music is of good quality, an excellent attempt to capture with spirit the Gregorian tradition... I find it very persuasive"...; See also Benedict XVI on Liturgy and Sacred Music...

"Liturgical Disintegration"

Benedict XVI: "I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council ---Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (SF, CA: Ignatius), p. 149."

--->Benedict to the English Bishops: " is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free." (emphasis added)


  1. Perhaps I misunderstand, but I believe the songs of parish Mass should be of and by laypeople, not of and by the monks. Those who push for more chant should go attend a Greek Orthodox service to see what it's really like. 1-3 cantors for a solid half-hour, then some cantoring, then the candles while someone chants, then more candles, then... it's 2.5 hrs. worth of non-Haugen and non-Haas. It also turns one's tongue gray, as it is ex-clusive of 99% of His folks who've come to worship/celebrate. David made up his own songs. If the Lord wants only somberly reverent music, He has got the birds, whales, rain, and baby laughter.

  2. Yes, you are mistaken. See Pope Benedict XVI on Sacred Music here