The End of Christianity: Book Review

by Matt DeStefano on July 10, 2011

I recently received John Loftus’ The End of Christianity, an anthology of some of the most profound atheist writers that delivers a variety of convincing arguments for the abandonment of the Christian faith. In lieu of new content, I decided to go ahead and write up a detailed review for his book. There are 14 chapters, and while I want to avoid summarizing each and every one of them I’d like to call attention to what I feel are some of the more noteworthy arguments.

The first chapter is written by Dr. David Eller and titled Christianity Evolving: On the Origin of the Christian Species. It is an informative and compelling piece that focuses on the evolution of Christian theology. It shows that the view that Christianity has “stood the test of time” is completely debunked in virtue of Christianity’s ever-evolving body of beliefs. It includes an especially intriguing section titled The Invention of Traditions in which Eller explores the idea of building up theological tradition to deal with the acquisition of new evidence, even when the evidence conflicts with the tradition they are trying to assimilate with. Eller continues to argue that Christianity is not a singular term that refers to a stagnate and unified tradition, but instead is a multitude of targets that are constantly being realigned and reinterpreted by Christians who do not wish to see their faith inundated by newer evidence. It seems that Eller’s argument resounds with a theme that many atheist authors (myself included) have been continuing to insist upon, and that is the destruction of the religious landscape. That merely accumulating new evidence will not be the final blow to Christianity, that we will have to continue to vigilantly stamp out the religious apologists’ special pleading and ever-moving target for the debunking of their personal brand of religious faith.

In chapter 3, Loftus adds his own material in a chapter entitled Christianity is Wildly Improbable. He sets out a litany of claims derived from Christian creeds and argues that the more of these that Christians accept, the less tenable their faith becomes. Although it is only a minor and passing argument in the chapter, I found Loftus’ analysis of a spiritual being creating a material being intriguing. Essentially, Loftus is using the arguments leveled at Cartesian dualism and re-tooling them as an argument against the creation of a material universe by a spirtual God. Loftus questions “How does something that is spirit create something material, or interact with it, unless there is some point of contact between them that they both share?” This same reasoning was the beginning of the end for Cartesian dualism, and if this argument was to be expounded upon I think it’s consequences for theism could be equally devastating. Loftus also argues that scholars who are otherwise intelligent often look ridiculous when defending the faith, and analyzes arguments presented by major Christian scholars (Platinga, Craig, etc.) and points out their religious special pleading that often goes unnoticed.

In Chapter 6, Dr. Valerie Tarico examines the concept of emotions in relation to the Christian God. I haven’t read any of Dr. Tarico’s work before, but this was one of my favorite chapters in the book. In a likeable and humorous voice, Dr. Tarico examines God’s various emotional reactions through out the Old Testament, using modern psychological analysis in order to demonstrate how unbelievably human God is at regulating His own emotions. She examines the idea of anthropomorphism and asks engaging questions about how we can tell the difference between which concepts of God are “something outside of us” versus “projections of our psyches”. Drawing off of psychological and physiological research, Tarico argues that emotions are intricate and complex systems existing in our physical body, and then wonders how the authors of the Bible could possibly ascribe these attributes to an immaterial God.

In Chapter 8, Dr. Matt McCormick (a professor of mine, actually) argues against the historical case for the resurrection by using an analogous case of the Salem Witch Trials. After charitably summarizing the historical case for the resurrection (using Habermas, Wright, etc.), Dr. McCormick argues that we have more evidence (more quantity and better quality) of the Salem Witch Trials than we do for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This again reiterates the fallacy of special pleading. Unless Christians want to accept that there was indeed witchcraft in Salem (as one of his debate opponents has in the past), it seems that Christians ought to reject the resurrection for the same reasons they reject the Salem Witch Trials.

In chapter 13, Dr. Victor J. Stenger analyzes the evidence for life after death and especially examines the use of NDE (Near Death Experiences) in attempts to prove the existence of an immaterial soul, or consciousness existing after death. He uncovers the lack of objective historical data and makes a compelling case to dismiss anecdotal evidence in favor of controlled, recordable experiments. He also questions the consequences for believing in ‘cosmic justices’ and makes the case that those who do believe it in have less vested  interest in seeking justice here on Earth, and turns the table on many apologists who sing the praises of everyone “getting what they deserve” (in chapter 10, Dr. Keith Parsons provides an examination of Hell, which he calls “Christianity’s Most Damnable Doctrine”).

This book is an absolutely fascinating read and well worth your money to pick up a copy.  I didn’t include many of the brilliant articles in the book written by other thinkers like Dr. Hector Avalas, Dr. Richard Carrier, and Dr. Jaco Gericke. If you are a believer, this book contains many questions that ought to give you considerable pause, and if you are an atheist or skeptic, this book is likely to put the nail in Christianity’s coffin.

  • http://oldtimeatheism.blogspot.ca/ Andyman409

    You are SOOOO lucky to have McCormick as a professor. Whats he like? Anyways, I remember the debate between Parsons and WLC. when Parsons mentions the Salem trails, Craig just acted smarmy and uttered that the evidence is different, and that they are not comparable. No real argument. Just a baffled look on his face!

  • http://www.soulsprawl.com Matt DeStefano

    He’s a great professor… and he built a fully functioning robot R2-D2, which is awesome.  I’ve had him for Philosophy of Mind, and have him in a seminar on the Problem of Evil this upcoming semester. I’m glad I took the course with him, because he oriented toward empirical data and studies rather than focusing on Descartes for weeks on end like I was anticipating. 

    I never watched the Parsons/Craig debate, but I’m definitely going to YouTube it. I always enjoying Craig being baffled.

  • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

    Thanks Matt, why not put this on Amazon?

    • http://www.soulsprawl.com Matt DeStefano

      I actually put it on last night, but it hasn’t shown up yet! I tried putting it under a different account this morning. I don’t use Amazon much, do they usually delay the reviews?

      EDIT: It’s up now, it just took a bit.

  • http://thewarfareismental.wordpress.com cl

     Loftus questions “How does something that is spirit create something material, or interact with it, unless there is some point of contact between them that they both share?” 

    You know, because you seem like a pretty reasonable guy, it really discourages me to see this sort of drivel persuading you. I’ve only reviewed one chapter of this book, here, and of course, like everything else I’ve seen with Loftus’ name on it, that chapter fails to make the case IMHO. If I can get my hands on a used copy, I might dissect the rest, but there’s no way in Hell I’m going to support the John Loftus Arrogant New Atheist ministry…

    • Gregg Braddoch

      Thank you. Loftus is decidedly anti-religious, and hardly looking at things from a logical or rational perspective. His anti-religious bias regularly causes him to post critical articles and propaganda against religion (primarily based on correlation studies) on his personal blog and facebook page. Who really wants to read another biased opinion? Especially one that is supposed to be logical and unbiased?

      Loftus pictures himself as better than people like Dawkins, because he feels he has better arguments, but really it all just comes down to selling books, and lots of them, and from Loftus especially, books that are repeat information.

      We get it, you’re an atheist, so am I – but stop making all of us look stupid.

      • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

        Gregg is the same person as KC James on Amazon. He’s been stalking me for years because he fears me.
        Just today on Facebook I caught him. He starts new accounts on Facebook
        and Amazon with different email addresses. But I can usually tell his
        MO. As soon as I caught him on Facebook and blocked him he went on a
        commenting rampage. He usually claims he’s an atheist to make him sound
        more reasonable. Just ask him if he denies the Holy Spirit, rejects the
        gospel, and renounces God. He won’t do that.

        • Gregg Braddoch

          Nice Job John, but my name is not KC James, and I have no affiliation with him/her/it. If anything it is your terrible body of work that speaks for itself, and I’m tired of you making stuff up to protect your image in the “freethinker” community – You are the antithesis of a free thinker, and you treat “free thinking” like religious apologetics.

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            Sheesh, Internet trolls. *try to ignore them*

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Again, this shows your intellectual quality – someone comments on couple reviews of your writings and is dissatisfied with the quality of your arguments, and then you bring out the “troll card” – classy, I think I’m done here.

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