Thursday, March 08, 2012

Open-minded atheist writes history book

The newest issue of Books and Culture reviews Niall Ferguson's Civilization: the West and the Rest, which gives a fittingly adulatory treatment of Western civilization. Reviewer Timothy Larson says Ferguson "offers six factors which explain why the West became the greatest civilization in the history of the world: competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic."

My first response was why religion was not one of these. Being an atheist, maybe Ferguson sticks to the atheist party line and thinks religion is only a scourge on history.

Not so, says Larson.
Moreover, although Ferguson is a lifelong atheist married to an atheist activist (to whom this book is dedicated), his to-hell-with-political-correctness attitude means that he ends up repeatedly lauding religion, more particularly Christianity, more specifically Protestantism, and decidedly including Protestant missionaries to the Majority World: "The level of Protestant missionary activity has also proved to be a very good predictor of post-independence economic performance and political stability."
It's not like Catholics didn't contribute here, but, hey, we're thankful for small things these days. And then there's this:

If that were not enough for Books & Culture readers, Ferguson goes on to reflect that a civilization is essentially the texts its reads and values: "But what are the foundational texts of Western civilization, that can bolster our belief in the almost boundless power of the free individual human being?" His own answer to this question begins: "I would suggest the King James Bible …."

Read the rest of the review here.

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