This is the second installment of my commentary on Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza’s book, What’s so Great about Christianity? Check out the first part if you missed it. It covered the introduction.
Chapter one is modestly titled “The Twilight of Atheism: The Global Triumph of Christianity.” It is a parade of half-truths and not-so-cleverly worded lies.
God has come back to life. The world is witnessing a huge explosion of religious conversion and growth, and Christianity is growing faster than any other religion. Nietzsche’s proclamation “God is dead” is now proven false. Nietzsche is dead. The ranks of the unbelievers are shrinking as a proportion of the world’s population. Secularism has lost its identification with progress and modernity, and consequently it has lost the main source of its appeal. God is very much alive, and His future prospects look to be excellent. This is the biggest comeback story of the twenty-first century.
D’Souza is correct in that some religious groups are growing. It would be hard to defend his second statement however. A huge explosion? This statement only works if you include Mormonism, which I doubt the majority of D’Souza’s fan club would honestly include. Mormons have more families with three or more children by nearly double any other religious group. They also have a fairly rigorous conversion campaign. So they are out-breeding and out proselytizing all other American groups. America aside, the fastest growing religion is Islam. Although there are several that aren’t far behind, including the nones. D’Souza is right about Christianity’s growth in South America and Africa, but what he fails to mention is that in those places, especially in Africa, Christianity is just a relabeling of what they already believed. West Africans are practicing a highly syncretic version of Christianity and their own tribal beliefs, probably Yoruba or another form of ancestor worship. And while it is successful the results can be terrifying.
The American forms of Christianity that are growing are doing so because our culture and our Constitution have created an environment that is extremely habitable to them. Evangelical Christianity thrives on consumerism and our competitive religious marketplace has helped it evolve into a money machine. American televangelists and superdome mega-church clerics pedal a slick combination of fear and hope and walk away billionaires. They write, or have written for them, hundreds of books a year. The kinds of books New York Times contributing author Ross Douthat wrote about in Bad Religion. Douthat derides Osteen for being “promiscuous in his get-rich-quick anecdotes” and taking advantage of the lowest point in the recession to feed on people’s fears and financial instability (209). This is the Christianity that is growing, a predatory, feverish, consumer-driven, exploitative religion that selectively forgets Jesus’s many explicit warnings against worshiping money and possession.
D’Souza claims that Secularism has lost it’s “identification with progress and modernity.” This is an odd statement. I doubt that most people could define secularism correctly, much less comprehend its impact on our lives. The growing trend away from identifying with any religious group is not a trend toward identifying as a “secularist.” It represents a decline in the appeal of what religious groups offer. People are more connected then ever before and no longer require a local group of family or friends in order to support their social well-being. Those are great things, and it is good to have close friends to spend real time with. But what churches offer can be provided by simple groups of like-minded people finding each other online and meeting for coffee every once in awhile.
The religions that D’Souza claims are making a huge explosion in humanity are doing so for reasons he glosses over or fails to mention entirely. Greed, fear, and high birth-rates are the only thing holding these groups afloat. The non-believers may soon be the third largest religious demographic in the world, trailing only behind the many facets of Christianity and Islam. Covering the rest of the chapter would be a waste of my time and yours. D’Souza can’t defend what he writes against the most cursory of google searches or even a little common sense.