Dinesh D'Souza and Modesty

Dinesh D'Souza reports that Michael Shermer recommended his book What's So Great About Christianity, using these words: "Whatever your beliefs, you should read Dinesh's book...It is the best defense of Christianity that has ever been published."

Hmmm. Isn't that interesting? I wonder what the criteria was for Shermer to say that, since there have been some historically great defenses of Christianity down through the ages?

Anyway, D'Souza is trying to maintain some modesty, and he wrote about this struggle here.

In reporting on how most people thought he won his debate with Christopher Hitchens, D'Souza wrote:
Atheists like to think of themselves as akin to champions of the round earth, confronted by religious ignoramuses who keep insisting that the earth is flat. But is it even conceivable that a round-earth advocate should lose a debate to a flat-earth advocate? To put the question differently, if atheists are truly the party of reason, and believers like me are truly the party of "blind faith," how come reason keeps getting its butt kicked?
So, in order to help D'Souza maintain some modesty let me make a few comments about this.

For one thing, D'Souza hasn't debated people like Hector Avalos, John Beversluis, Keith Parsons, or me yet ;-)! D'Souza is planning on debating some of the top skeptics and saving them in an archive for future prosperity, so maybe he will! Besides, as far as I know people didn't conclude D'Souza decisively won his debates with Michael Shermer.

Debates do not decide the truth anyway. Few people are convinced because of watching a debate one way or another. They are entertaining and educational. They are a sparring match between two people, and that's it. Someone on one side can legitimately say the debater on the other side won the debate and still think his position is wrong for other reasons not stated by the person representing his side.

Anyway, I've read D'Souza's book and I must say it's premised to a very large extent on one big non-sequitur, and it's very interesting if he doesn't see it. He argues that Christianity has been good for western society; that it is growing in numbers in today's world; that it produced modern science; ended things like slavery; and was the foundation of limited government. He argues that atheism has been bad for society and that the Christian past isn't as bad as the atheist past.

Little of D'Souza's argument defends the claims of the Christian faith over against the claims of atheism, although he does argue that the supposed design in the world points to a creator.

The fact is that even if I grant him that Christianity has been good for western society in contrast to atheism (and I don't, not by a long shot), it does not follow from what he says that Christianity is true. Maybe true ideas produce bad results? Maybe delusionary beliefs produce good results? His is largely a pragmatic argument which first demands a defense of the Pragmatic theory of truth, and with it a denial of the Correspondence and Coherence theories of truth, something I think that as a Christian he wouldn't want to do, but of this I don't know.

I have challenged him to debate me. Maybe he won't do it. If not, I'd understand, after all, why would he risk losing a debate now? ;-)

Hi Dinesh!

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