The weeping Peter and our response to him stand for the "Christian Revolution" of Hart's subtitle, a transformation of the moral imagination that allowed Christians to recognize the full humanity of every person. To become a Christian in ancient Rome was nothing less than an "act of cosmic rebellion" against an order in which religious piety was compatible with "pervasive, relentless, and polymorphous cruelty" and the Christian law of charity was an offense against good taste. Hart jousts with classicist Ramsey MacMullen about the extent to which Christianity really changed the Roman world, arguing that there was a radical difference between pagan aid to the needy and the Christian charity that made the church the "first large organized institution of public welfare in Western history."
soul and a great teacher. He became an William L. Portier ardent Tolstoyan Christian after discov- ering the master’s The Gospel in Brief in a little bookshop in Poland while on leave The Transfigured World during the war. The way of Jesus—hu- mility, renunciation, drawing close to put their faith in a tired Enlightenment God—was his answer to the horrors of Atheist Delusions view of history and a nihilistic under- his time. Being rich was intolerable, so The Christian Revolution and Its standing of human freedom. In what he he gave his share of the family money Fashionable Enemies describes as a “historical essay” focused to his siblings and to creative people, David Bentley Hart on the first four or five centuries of the Yale University Press, $28, 253 pp. including the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, early church, Hart relativizes this story the painter Oskar Kokoschka, and the with a counternarrative of Christian W architect Adolf Loos. hen St. Peter heard the cock revolution. Waugh’s nice phrase for the sight of crow early on the morning In part II, Hart addresses the “soothing, Wittgenstein at work—“the spectacle of of the first Good Friday, the self-righteous fantasy” of Christianity’s his thinking”—captures the drama of his synoptic Gospels tell us that he went history as “nothing but an interminable teaching. Wittgenstein’s Blue and Brown out and wept bitterly. “We are the heirs pageant of violence, tyranny, and sexual Notebooks—the record of his Cambridge of a culture that, in a sense, sprang from neurosis.” If students know nothing else lectures in the 1930s—“came to be re- Peter’s tears,” writes David Bentley Hart of church history, they can almost al- garded with the same reverence and in his new book, Atheist Delusions. The ways be counted on to know about the mystical fascination as the apocalypse pathos of this gospel scene would have Crusades, the Inquisition, and Galileo. gospels that passed surreptitiously under been invisible to the late antique moral Hart covers these and other familiar the togas of ancient Christians during sensibility. The weeping Peter and our episodes. His engaging account of the the period of Rome’s decline.” response to him stand for the “Christian emergence of modern science features a There were sorrows and scandals. Revolution” of Hart’s subtitle, a trans- memorable description of the Ptolemaic Wittgenstein admired the Soviet ex- formation of the moral imagination that system as “a magnificent achievement periment, wanted to be a laborer in Rus- allowed Christians to recognize the full of mathematical choreography” hav- sia, and has been associated with the humanity of every person. This book ing “precious little to do with anything infamous Cambridge spies. Waugh tells presents the moral world of late antiquity we would call ‘science.’” According to us that Ludwig had been in “close con- and the scandalized response of its pagan Hart’s account of the wars of religion, tact” with known agents. But whatever inhabitants to the “bizarre prodigality” of the “violence increased in proportion his real connection with this group was, the Christian belief in universal charity, to the degree of sovereignty claimed by Ludwig’s effort to transform philosophy which descended upon it “rather like a the state.” The most “pitilessly and self- partook of old Karl’s ambition and heroic meteor from a clear sky.” righteously violent regimes” explicitly single-mindedness. In the first of the book’s four parts, replaced a Christian vision with a more Alexander Waugh is the son of the Hart gestures dismissively in the direc- “human” one. Historians may already essayist and novelist Auberon and the tion of the “new atheists.” But Daniel know all of this, but someone who picks grandson of Evelyn. He has written a Denne
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