I have been making my way through Dsouza’s book, What’s So Great About Christianity, and thoroughly enjoying his kind of defense of the Christian faith and worldview. Essentially, he (and others as well) argues that the Christian worldview is the necessary intellectual underpinning for the values and institutions we believe advance the human condition. In clear opposition to this view is the “new atheist” line that, as Hitchens puts it, “religion poisons everything.”
In a recent column, Dsouza remarks on a recent debate he had with Hitchens. He says that at one point in the Q&A, an enlightening question came from the crowd:
One of the most interesting questions in the debate was posed to Hitchens by a man from Tonga. Before the Christians came to Tonga, he said, the place was a mess. Even cannibalism was widespread. The Christians stopped this practice and brought to Tonga the notion that each person has a soul and God loves everyone equally. The man from Tonga asked Hitchens, "So what do you have to offer us?" Hitchens was taken aback, and responded with a learned disquisition on cannibalism in various cultures. But he clearly missed the intellectual and moral force of the man's question. The man was asking why the Tongans, who had gained so much from Christianity, should reject it in favor of atheism.
I think this is a powerful confluence of events. Dsouza is defending the humanizing worldview and intellectual rigor of the Christian faith, Hitchens is taking the opposite view, and a clear example of Dsouza’s position appears in person from the developing world. In his book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Phillip Jenkins takes a sociological survey of the spread of Christianity and concludes that contrary to what we tend to hear “on the street,” Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds beyond the growth of other world religions. And, to add insult to injury, the forms of Christianity most popular around the world are of the charismatic/supernaturalist sort.
As Jenkins notes specifically, and as came out implicitly in the Dsouza debate, there is a powerful ethno-centrism among western liberal atheists. Hitchens and others clearly believe they are more intellectually and culturally advanced than religious believers, not to mention religious believers in backwards nations.
That ethno-centrism has lead to a serious information gap: the new atheists are totally unaware of how the Christian faith and worldview is advancing the cause of humanity across the globe. They apparently do not want to recognize the lifting effects of Christianity, either in another culture or in our own.