Book Notice: Dominion by Tom Holland

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Tom Holland, agnostic and popular award-winning historian, has changed his mind about Christianity. In his own words:

As an agnostic in terms of his religious commitments, Holland nevertheless describes the way that the birth of Christianity has shaped much of what we value in Western society in terms of human rights, culture and rule of law.

Recently releasing the book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, Holland reveals in depth how Christianity

Writing an article for the New Statesman titled “Why I Was Wrong About Christianity” Holland said that he had come to realize he was wrong to think that Western values such as human rights, ethics, rule of law, etc. where the result of Greek and Roman culture but where actually birthed from Christianity:

It took me a long time to realise my morals are not Greek or Roman, but thoroughly, and proudly, Christian.

Tom Holland, an award-winning historian, biographer and broadcaster, has authored numerous books on antiquity such as Rubicon and Dynasty (Roman history), and Persian Fire (Greek history). He has also written about the history of Christianity in Millennium and Islamic history with In the Shadow of the Sword.

Having translated Herodotus and writing a biography of Æthelstan, the first King of England, Holland has received the Classical Association prize for the individual who has done most to promote the study of the language, literature and civilisation of Ancient Greece and Rome.

He recently appeared on the Unbelievable radio show and podcast in a lively debate with atheist A. C. Grayling discussing the question: Did Christianity give us our human values? Holland arguing in the affirmative and Grayling in the negative:

Tom Holland is affirming what I have previously written about the positive impact that Christianity has had on science,and democracy. Tim O’Neill has written an extensive review of Holland’s book on his website History for Atheists. O’Neill, himself an atheist, states:

Tom Holland is the best kind of popular history writer. He is a good researcher who knows what can be stated with emphasis and what needs to be judiciously hedged. He is a fine story-teller, who can weave bare facts into a smooth and engaging narrative. He is provocative and startling enough to keep the reader on their toes and turning pages. And he is quietly and wryly funny. He displays all of these qualities in this fine new book, but it is his role as wily provocateur that will cause it to ruffle feathers in certain quarters.

O’Neill goes on to note:

Tom Holland is an unbeliever and also someone who was raised a Christian. And he too is someone who abandoned that belief early in life: he blames a fascination with dinosaurs – a gateway drug for many a budding young historian and religious sceptic. But in his latest book he turns his attention to Christianity’s impact on western thinking and to what will be, to many, an uncomfortable thesis. He argues that most of the things that we consider to be intrinsic and instinctive human values are actually nothing of the sort; they are primarily and fundamentally the product of Christianity and would not exist without the last 2000 years of Christian dominance on our culture.

This is not the first book to delve into the influence that Christianity has had on culture, but given that the author is agnostic and was influenced by the evidence to change his mind, it is one of the more interesting ones.

Other books on Topic:

How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt

The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi

What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us? How it Shaped the Modern World by Jonathan Hill

The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods