In this very short text, Lewis declares that nothing good has come from religion which has only hindered progress. He makes no bones about his belief that, were it not for religion, and Christianity in particular, we would be living close to a utopic ideal. He cites the numerous scientific advancements and discoveries made following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, going so far as to suggest that we should no longer number our eras with BC/AD (or BC/BCE) but from that significant American moment.
Ummmm . . . yeah. This sort of inflammatory rhetoric that typically turns people off before they even start listening is not likely going to convert many. Then again, I doubt that many believers would bother reading a book with this title, no matter how brief it may be. At best, it serves as a sort of affirmation for those who are already atheists and could prove a pivotal conversion point for an agnostic.
I do not begrudge Lewis his rhetoric. I do, however, take exception to some of the sweeping claims he makes. Mind you, I don’t necessarily disagree with them. Unfortunately, the scope of this argument is so narrow that there isn’t room for him to support his contentions. And if I don’t necessarily disagree I also can’t quite say that I fully agree. For instance, I can see how he would come to the conclusion that the Grand Experiment that is our government system here in the United States opened doors for inquiry. However, to suggest that the reason knowledge seems to have made strides above and beyond anything the preceded it is being a bit blinded by a particular viewpoint. Nobody is arguing that research and knowledge is growing by leaps and bounds but hasn’t the doubling of information become more immediate over the millennia until now we see it narrowing down to such an extent that soon by the time we know something it will already be old news.
Is that even possible?
Anyway, because Lewis makes such aggressively sweeping statements and doesn’t really back up anything he says, he sort of begs the question: has religion wrought any good thing? And because he generalizes his attacks (being specific only when he is defending his argument), I can see how a believer would easily dismiss what he is saying, even when what he is saying is fundamentally true. It may be a matter of this being such a short text that he did not have the necessary room to develop his arguments. I can appreciate that but it doesn’t help me appreciate this book. It’s a quick read (I read it in less than an hour with interruptions) and is a foundation from which other writers could likely build stronger and more fully realized arguments. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
This book is the first of many free on kindle books I'll be reviewing. So if you're inclined to read this book for yourself, you can easily find it for free. Woohoo!