Tim O’Neill is an honest atheist…

…who runs a website called “History for Atheists” wherein he struggles to cut through the jungle of simple-minded claptrap about the Christian tradition that is the bread-and-butter of Internet Atheism.

Tom Holland is likewise an unbeliever who has written one helluva good book called DOMINION: HOW THE CHRISTIAN REVOLUTION REMADE THE WORLD. His thesis is that Christianity is, without any possible comparison, the most revolutionary force in history and is so successful that it is impossible even for its critics to critique it without embracing–often unconsciously–some of its most fundamental assumptions. He presents an overwhelmingly powerful case for that in his book and, along the way, takes us on a fascinating ride through the past 2500 years in cracklingly readable prose.

For those driven by a compulsive, reflexive need to ceaselessly attack the Christian tradition at every possible turn, relax. Neither Holland or O’Neill are, obviously, driven by any apologetic needs and are quite as capable of finding fault with the tradition as of praising it. At the same time, they also are secure enough not to feel threatened by the fact that they understand the enormous debt our civilization owes the Christian tradition.

Earlier this year, O’Neill interviewed Holland (not to be confused with Spiderman) and it was a fascinating conversation. Check it out:

O’Neill’s review of DOMINION can be found here.


17 Responses

  1. Mark, if you have the time, and haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend watching the interview with both Tom Holland and N.T. Wright. It mostly deals with Paul and I highly recommend it.

    1. I’d also like to Remark that I vastly prefer the approach of a Tom Holland over that of let’s say Jordan Peterson. While Peterson has interesting stuff to say, there is always more than a lingering suspicion that he thinks of the (Catholic) faith as ”bollocks, but psychologically useful for society”. I would not recommend that idea to Christians, for, I hope, obvious reasons. Tom Holland just gives historical and civilisational credit where credit is due.

  2. Tom Holland appears to be currently inhabiting the lucrative market niche of “Christians’ favorite atheist.” I wish him well in it.

    Tim O’Neill, on the other hand, appears to be a good historian who insists on accuracy in his statements about Christianity. His blog includes this:

    “The real impetus that led to the great expansion of voyages of exploration in the following centuries were not some lofty newfound individualism gained by reading the letters of Cicero or any casting off of “countless bonds” checking progress. They were mainly (i) new maritime technology and (ii) plain old greed.”

    He clearly neither loves nor hates Christianity – I’ve been reading his blog with interest.

    – joel

      1. Obviously hasn’t read Holland.
        Mark, thank you for your honest treatment here. Both of these men are giants and I’m proud that it was they who led me into atheism and not the irrational hatred that leads so many.

      2. I don’t particularly see either of them “leading people into” atheism. Neither of them seem to be atheist evangelists and Holland, in particular, seems to find atheist evangelists faintly ridiculous in his very English way. Holland appears to me not have any ax to grind except to get the story straight and let the chips fall where they may.

      3. Mike, if you think anything Tom Holland has written was written with the purpose of “leading” you anywhere, then not alone should you not be proud of it, but you should in fact read it again.

  3. You might be surprised how many people are atheists not because “someone led us into it“, but simply because there is no reason to believe because the evidence is lacking, or because the picture painted by the True Believers was so massively unattractive, or because the True Believers failed to make a case.

    1. “No reason to believe” Reeeeeeeeally? None at all? None whatsoever? Believers are really just that stoopid? Reeeeeeally? We believe for *no* reason?


  4. Really, Mark!?!?!?!?!?

    Will you EVER stop putting words into my mouth to satisfy your own needs, to prove to yourself beyond a shadow of a doubt that atheists are everything you think we are? It really as a case of the vestment calling the cassock black, doncha think?

    I didn’t use the word “stoopid” YOU did. I have never use the word stupid in this context. Nor would I. I would say, though, that putting words into the mouths of supportive atheists such as myself is fairly…what was the word?…UNATTRACTIVE.

    As I have said over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, frequently on These Very Pages, I really don’t care what you believe, but i care very much about what you do with it. Most of the atheists I know also think this. You are entitled to your beliefs, but if you haven’t made a convincing case as to why anyone else should believe them…

    ….Certainly not to the 2/3 of the world that believe in any one of the gods of men…

    ….let alone to atheists…

    Then that isn’t on us. That’s on you.

    1. Dude. I *quoted* you. “No reason to believe” are your words. If that’s not what you meant to say, then find different words. You listed three standard gripes. What you did not do is really make the case that there is “no reason to believe”. And yes, the implication of your words is that those of us who think there are reasons to believe are either liars, stupid, or irrational. It isn’t *just* believers who can steal bases and make bad arguments.

    2. There is a gulf the size of the Grand Canyon between saying there is *no* reason to believe, and saying that you do not think the case made to believe is convincing. To say there is literally no reason at all to believe (apart from being patently wrong) is, as Mark says, simply a baseless slur against people who believe that they are incapable of thought or analysis, or mindlessly believe anything they are told just because, and they are lying or insane when they actually give reasons for concluding as they do.

      1. @. Iain

        Or, it’s not any such “slur” whatsoever. Great! You all believe. I got that. You think you have sufficient reason to believe. I understand that. I have stated repeatedly I don’t care what your beliefs are. What you do with them matters.

        You haven’t convinced me, or indeed, any atheist. You haven’t convinced 2/3 of the world that believes something different. You (generically) Christians haven’t even convinced each other, if the comments on this and other religious blogs i read are any indication.

        I really don’t care whether you convince anyone of anything,

        So why am I the bad guy here? My question is, why is anyone determined to put the words in my mouth that I don’t say. One time only on this blog did I somewhat say what you say I have said, and even that one time, it wasn’t really what I was saying.

        To you, the bible is the evidence. To me, the bible is the claim to be proved. But here’s the thing. You don’t need to prove it to yourselves. You have no need to “prove” the bible is true, That’s what faith is for. That IS your proof. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” You already believe it.

        And i simply have no problem with that. Please stop insisting that I do, or that I think you’re stupid for believing it. My question is really, “what do YOU think about people who don’t share your beliefs?”

  5. @ iain

    As I said….

    “ but simply because there is no reason to believe because the evidence is lacking…or because the True Believers failed to make a case.

    The rest of what you wrote is all your interpretation of what I did say, same as Mark.

  6. I see: I am guessing what you meant to say was that there was insufficient reason to believe because the evidence was insufficient, but what you actually came across as saying (to me as well as Mark) was that there was no reason to believe at all because there was a complete lack of evidence (something that gets said a lot).
    I probably should have realised it was simply a poor turn of phrase, because you haven’t in the past come across as that sort of “fundy” atheist before. Sorry.

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