Quote Of The Day

” If we look at the history of Western civilization, we find that Christianity has illuminated the greatest achievements of the culture. Read the new atheist books and make a list of the institutions and values that Hitchens and Dawkins and the others cherish the most. They value the idea of the individual, and the right to dissent, and science as an autonomous enterprise, and representative democracy, and human rights, and equal rights for women and racial minorities, and the movement to end slavery, and compassion as a social virtue. But when you examine history you find that all of these values came into the world because of Christianity. If Christianity did not exist, these values would not exist in the form they do now. So there is indeed something great about Christianity, and the honest atheist should be willing to admit this.” –Dinesh D’Souza, author of What’s So Great About Christianity, writing about his recent debate with Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great

14 Responses to “Quote Of The Day”


  • I don’t know, HP. This is a complex argument, and I’m not saying I’m informed enough to make these kinds of judgments, but from what I can see it seems more like a mixed bag.

    Sure, some Christians worked to end slavery. But that’s because everyone in the US was Christian at the time. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed for the very purpose of promoting slavery, which is clearly supported in the Bible. Americans from the South new this very well, and defended slavery scripturally. And this Christian nation ended slavery in the most brutal way possible, whereas slavery ended peacefully throughout the rest of Europe.

    Take a look at the middle ages and notice how advanced Muslim nations were as compared to Christian nations. Muslim nations were far more prosperous, and promoted values that we all prefer. Does this make Islam great? For centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire no nation attained the heights of greatness that had been attained by pagan Rome (which fell soon after becoming Christian). Would you have preferred to be a Roman citizen 2000 years ago? Wasn’t that the height of humanity at the time? Does that prove anything?

    Equal rights for women and racial minorities? These are Christian concepts? In parts of the Bible maybe, but not so in other parts. D’Sousa points to some Christians that supported these things while ignoring the masses of Christians that opposed them and thinks this shows the greatness of Christianity. This doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  • To Jon’s excellent comment I would only add that those who would disagree with these arguements from D’Souza are not just the atheists, but all of the world’s non-Christians.

    To illustrate: Are we really to believe that roughly three billion non-Christian Asians do not currently practice slavery because of Christian principles of which they know nothing? Is every act of compassion by an individual in China who has never heard of the Bible somehow the result of the establishment of Christianity?

    Sorry – I’m not buying it.

  • I just noticed that I forgot to add the link to the article I quoted from. I added it now for completion.

    I have not read D’Souza’s recent book on the topic, so I don’t know how he would answer the questions you both pose, but after watching the end of his debate with Hitchens on C-Span, I suspect he would do so convincingly. I have read his book, What Is So Great About America and consider it one of the best on the topic (I also plan to eventually read his book, The End Of Racism, as I have heard many good things about it).

    There is one point I do feel more qualified to answer though – specifically the slavery charge. Sure, Christians supported slavery, but so did atheists and Muslims. As Thomas Sowell showed in his recent book, Black Rednecks And White Liberals, slavery was a part of every continent and religion. What separates Christianity (and the west more generally) from other religions is not that Christians practiced slavery, it is that Christians lead the charge to end slavery. Whether it is the Quakers, or MLK with Jim Crow laws, the movement to end slavery was primarily a Christian (and Western, via the British) lead movement. It was also not a coincidently Christian movement, on the contrary, Quakers, MLK and other instrumental figures to end slavery and Jim Crow laws claimed it was precisely because of their Christian faith that they saw slavery as evil.

    I don’t know how D’Souza would back up his other claims – specifically, “the idea of the individual, and the right to dissent, and science as an autonomous enterprise, and representative democracy, and human rights, and equal rights for women and racial minorities, and the movement to end slavery, and compassion as a social virtue”, but I suspect it would be along the same lines. Definitely a book worth looking into.

  • HP,
    I don’t think the (Western) slavery issue is as black and white as you see it. Christians were on both sides of the slavery issue. For every Christian who opposed it on Biblical grounds there was another who supported it on Biblical grounds.

    And I’m looking forward to the explanation about how Christianity ended the slavery practiced by Buddhists (Did that religion endorse slavery? How and when did it end? In what way was Chrisianity responsible?)

    Expound please.

    And by the way, the attempts to introduce atheism into the discussion are tiresome. D’Souza is quite explicit in that he is not making these claims in support of all religions – only Christianity. So what does atheism have to do with any of this?

  • My point is that all religions and non-religions in the case of atheism supported slavery. In that we are in clear agreement. Christians included.

    What makes Christianity (and the West in particular) unique is not in supporting slavery – again every religions followers did – it is in leading the charge in abolishing it. It was only after a Christian (via the Quakers) lead movement that Britain turned against slavery, and in doing so, paved the way to the end of slavery around the world. Sowell expands more on this here and here.

  • Quick question HP. First of all, I would certainly give credit to the Quakers or any other Christian denomination that worked to end slavery. But here’s my problem with using this as an argument to show that Christianity is great.

    When a skeptic points to something like the Inquisitions or the horrible actions of Christians during the Crusades, the Christian is quick to say “Hey, don’t focus on the supposed followers of Christ. We are all sinners, and some of these people just didn’t follow the teachings of the Bible. Insofar as they were wicked they aren’t following the Bible. These people aren’t true Christians.”

    So on the one hand you say don’t look at the followers. Look at the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. But here suddenly you change your tune. Don’t look at the Bible. Look at a small segment of Christians that opposed slavery in the teeth of biblical teaching. The bible is very clear. Slavery is perfectly fine. As just one example of the laws regarding slavery check Exodus 21. If you were lucky enough to be a Hebrew slave you could go free after 7 years. Not surprisingly the bible has a racist policy where if you’re not Hebrew, you’re a slave for life, as are your kids. But suppose you are a Hebrew and you were given a wife during the time of slavery. Well then, you’re screwed just like a typical foreigner. You can’t take them with you. If you are an unloving jerk you can just walk. But suppose you make the mistake of loving your wife and family and you wish to stay with them. For that unfortunate error you get to have a hole bored in your ear and you are a slave for life.

    So how do we decide if Christianity is great? Do we look to the followers or the teachings? In the case of slavery you look to one group of followers (while ignoring other groups like the Southern Baptists) and not the teachings, but in the case of the Inquisitions and Crusades you look to the teachings not the followers. Which should we look at?

  • I am not here declaring that Christianity is great, that is D’Souza’s argument, not mine.

    My only point here is that it was Christianity – again, if one takes the words of the Quakers and others seriously – that played a significant part in ending slavery. Christianity also had a negative part in slavery, yes, but so did every other continent and religion…however, Christianity, and primarily only Christianity, had a part in ending it. So one can make an argument that what makes Christianity unique in its relation to slavery was not in promoting it or practicing it, but in ending it.

    Whether that makes Christianity as a whole great is a leap I am not willing to take. But it would make for an interesting topic to read further about, and one that makes me put D’Souza’s book on my future reading list.

  • Even that point I’m not sure I’d grant. It could be, but I’m not sure. I suspect slavery ended more for economic reasons than anything else. The racist white north opposed it because of protectionist economic policies. Whites didn’t want to have to compete with cheap black labor. Lincoln ran on a protectionist platform and wanted to ship blacks back to Africa to protect white jobs. He did free slaves as a war move. He freed only slaves under Confederate control, not Northern control, hoping that uprisings at the plantations with the men off to war would demoralize the men in combat. Slaves in states under Northern control remained in slavery while Lincoln was alive.

    Slavery ended throughout the world about the same time. Advances in technology meant that if a worker didn’t have a self interest in working hard and working efficiently, then their efforts didn’t even cover the costs of providing housing and food.

    So apparently Christianity motivated a small minority of Christians to oppose slavery, and as far as I can tell this didn’t have much impact in actually ending slavery, but Christianity motivated large numbers of Christians to support slavery, and this did have a real impact for decades. I don’t see how this helps D’Souza. His Bible supports slavery. Christians for centuries supported slavery. How is this in any way a feather in his cap? And I’m not saying atheists or Muslims were better. But I’m not claiming any kind of superiority for atheists on the issue of slavery as D’Souza is doing for Christianity.

  • HP,

    Que paso amigo, tu alambique en escuela? I am pero will finish up this next year. Hey, que sucedio DD? Her site has been down a while.

    Luego compadre,

    W.NM.

  • So apparently Christianity motivated a small minority of Christians to oppose slavery, and as far as I can tell this didn’t have much impact in actually ending slavery, but Christianity motivated large numbers of Christians to support slavery, and this did have a real impact for decades.

    The Quakers had a huge impact in ending slavery, maybe even a decisive impact. Sowell puts it this way:

    The dozen men who formed the world’s first anti-slavery movement saw their task as getting their fellow Englishmen to think about slavery — about the brutal facts and about the moral implications of those facts.

    Their conviction that this would be enough to turn the British public, and ultimately the British Empire, against slavery might seem naive, except that this is precisely what happened. It did not happen quickly and it did not happen without encountering bitter opposition, for the British were at the time the world’s biggest slave traders and this created wealthy and politically powerful special interests defending slavery.

    The anti-slavery movement nevertheless persisted through decades of struggles and defeats in Parliament until eventually they secured a ban on the international slave trade, and ultimately a ban on slavery itself throughout the British Empire.

    Even more remarkable, Britain took it upon itself, as the leading naval power of the world, to police the ban on slave trading against other nations. Intercepting and boarding other countries’ ships on the high seas to look for slaves, the British became and remained for more than a century the world’s policeman when it came to stopping the slave trade.

    To say that the Quakers were minor in ending slavery is like saying that Martin Luther King Jr was minor in ending Jim Crow laws – sure, economics and other factors may have played a role, but the origins and primary force seem to be traced to Christians themselves. And when you factor in that slavery existed long before Christianity did and in many parts of the world where Christianity did not exist, you start to see Christianities unique role is in ending it, not promoting it.

    W.NM.,

    Qvo amigo, long time no talk. Si, todavia estoy en la escuela. Slow but steady. DD esta mas en los forums que en blogging. I think her site is down permanently, pero you can still find her on Soy and HispanicBusiness forums. I don’t visit there as much anymore. Congrats on almost finishing!

  • To say that the Quakers were minor in ending slavery is like saying that Martin Luther King Jr was minor in ending Jim Crow laws

    To say that Christianity looks good in light of its reaction to slavery is like saying the Democratic party looks good in light of it’s reaction to race relations. The democratic party was the party of slavery, the party that opposed the Civil Rights Act, and the party that today supports affirmative action. But the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed with some democratic support. Does this mean the democratic party should be proud of its response to race relations? Can they point to their “unique role” in ending segregationist policies?

    Christians supported slavery throughout their entire history. The foundational document for Christians is clearly pro-slavery. Christians defended and extended the existence of slavery in this country on a biblical basis. Yet a few Christians did oppose slavery. Good for them, but Christianity doesn’t look good in light of the slave issue.

    You keep pointing out that slavery existed independently of Christianity. I don’t deny that. I’m not arguing that Christianity is historically worse than other ancient cultures with regards to slavery. I just don’t see why Christianity can justify a claim to a moral high ground on the issue.

  • I’m not arguing that Christianity is historically worse than other ancient cultures with regards to slavery. I just don’t see why Christianity can justify a claim to a moral high ground on the issue.

    Because the support, practice, and spreading of slavery via Christianity is roughly equal to all other religions and non-religions…what Christianity can claim as unique, is its overwhelming influence in ending the practice.

  • W.NM

    Hello!

    My site is not down permanently. I have been studying and fighting on http://www.politico.com My handle is GOP Latina. ;) Feel free to look me up over at politico.com It’s so addicting to me. I have been so busy debating liberals there that I have neglected http://www.latinorepublican.com I have been thinking of a new look for my site, but get side tracked by arguing with politco and multi-tasking with lots of other things.

    Feel free to email me.

    Sorry about not working on my website…I have simply neglected it and need to make a final decision on the new image I want for it. I suppose I can make a short goal term by getting it up and running by New Years Day. :)

  • For those interested, D’Souza expands on his claim that Christianity helped end slavery, see here.

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