David Bentley Hart on Atheist Delusions
Date: February 23rd, 2014

A regular listener to the show recently requested we talk with David Bentley Hart about his book Atheist Delusions and we have so complied.  Dr. Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian and prolific writer, joins us to talk about how the book came about as well as his counter-critiques to the critiques of Christianity that are often made by the “new atheists” (as well as some of the older atheists) with a wee bit of churlishness here and there.

Our discussion begins with how this award-winning book came about.  We discover that he did not originally intend on writing such a book but was approached by an acquisitions editor from a publishing house with the general idea for this book in mind.  This conversation reveals some of the  fascinating “inside baseball” of the academic publishing business.

Following this discussion, we set out to define who the “new atheists” are, why they have appeared when they did, and what impact Dr. Hart thinks these folks have had on the general culture.  Tony further inquires as to why they are “fashionable,” as per the title of Dr. Hart’s book, and a pithy response is provided. We compare them to the “old atheists,” who David argues had more substantive critiques of religion.

We then dive into David’s substantive responses to various claims made by atheists — new and old — regarding the deleterious effect that religion, specifically Christianity, has had on human history and progress.  Prof. Hart explodes the myth that Christianity plunged Western civilization into a “dark age of knowledge,” by burning down libraries and tamping down scientific inquiry.  He provides some interesting detail into how the trope of “library burning” came about, tracing it back to a short sentence based upon some historical hearsay in the work of 18th century historian Edward Gibbon.  (That is “18th century” in the sense that Gibbon lived in the 1700s, not that he was a historian examining that era.)  This sets off a conversation about how such myths are perpetuated in the populary imagery.  Hart claims that no serious historian or other scholar accepts such reasoning, although the popular classes are easily fooled.  We then touch upon the infamous Galileo incident.  While popular imagery has it that the Vatican was acting to squash a heliocentric view of the universe and repress scienfitic inquiry, the reality was that this was a clash of personalities with the scientist not giving due respect to the powerful religious figures at the time.  Portraying Church leaders as “simpletons” in one’s academic writing is not the best way to endear one to the religious officials who help fund one’s research.  The topics of witch hunts and religiously-induced violence are also reviewed.

We then take up the question of whether or not the “Age of Reason” brought humanity out of these dark ages.  This brings us to a discussion on the difference between modernity and Christianity and how modern society retains the echoes of the Christian revolution but is really drifting towards a soulless destiny likely devoid of true faith.  We end on this cheery note.  Recorded: February 21, 2014.

NOTE: I have done the best with the audio quality that I can without distorting any of the sound quality.


 Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, by David Bentley Hart.

The Experience of God, by David Bentley Hart.

The Devil and Pierre Garnet: Stories, by David Bentley Hart.

The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?, by David Bentley Hart.

The Story of Christianity, by David Bentley Hart.


Rodney Stark on the Triumph of Christianity, Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Philip Jenkins on Global Christianity.


3 Responses to “David Bentley Hart on Atheist Delusions”

  1. Rover Serton says:

    No Critique of religion is necessary. I am an atheist because I see no evidence of any god. That gods are man made is obvious when you see the global distribution of different gods. If there were one ‘true’ god, he would be global, not regional.

    All of this is subject to change, with evidence.

  2. John Strong says:

    I couldn’t understand the person interviewed. I do have serious hearing problems, and no doubt my lousy hearing is partly to blame, but I usually don’t have any difficulty understanding podcast interviews.

    • tonygill says:

      My apologies here. The audio was poor and was in part due to the guest not speaking directly into his phone, despite requests to that effect. I attempted to boost the volume, but it tended to distort and blare the sound.

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