"The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." – Genesis 17:8
The follow-up to Dinesh D’Souza’s 2008 bestseller, What’s So Great About Christianity, is a book that deals with the same broad issue but tackles it in a completely different way. Life After Death: The Evidence attempts to establish a scientific, moral, and philosophic basis for the immortal soul and the afterlife. D’Souza does his best to argue from a general theistic vantage-point, not advocating for Christianity specifically until the very last chapter. Overall, he does an admirable job at building his case and if nothing else, he gives the atheist, agnostic, and apathetic a number of well-thought-out and well-reasoned arguments to mull over. For the believer, the choir-preaching makes for a pleasant experience that reinforces much of the faith he already holds dear.
D’Souza writes well. He has a vast amount of knowledge about a variety of subjects and he nimbly moves from nineteenth-century German philosophy to twentieth-century scientific discoveries in quantum physics to the Biblical text without breaking a sweat. And through it all, he breaks the information down in such a way that most chapters are lucid and easy to read, even for the layperson who doesn’t know his Hegel from his Heidegger.
The first three chapters lay the foundation for the rest of the book by arguing that the afterlife is an issue that needs to be considered. Near the beginning of the book, he tells a story about a friend who simply doesn’t care one way or another whether there even is an afterlife. “Why should I?” the man asks D’Souza incredulously. This seems to be the question that D’Souza wants to answer with this book. It’s written to fence-sitters and agnostics: people who haven’t made up their mind about the issue and don’t seem to want to. And D’Souza does his best to pique the interest of just this sort of person.
Since D’Souza puts his Christianity in a box throughout most of the book, it could potentially be enjoyed by people of various religious stripes. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and others will find areas of agreement with D’Souza and he quotes from various sources and traditions including all of the above religions. For the Christian who comes to this book merely looking for 235 pages of reinforcement, it could be disappointing. Young earth creationists and other biblical literalists may disagree with his chapter on evolution and various other comments sprinkled throughout. In fact, when chapter nine ends he seems to point to the idea that the Buddhist and Hindu religious ideas of the afterlife could be correct and he doesn’t get around to even talking about Jesus in any meaningful way until the very last chapter where he gives an unfortunately abbreviated gospel message.
Nevertheless, I believe D’Souza’s purpose in writing this book was to encourage nonbelievers to rethink some of the foundational ideas that they hold and with that goal in mind, I believe he does well. Even if the book doesn’t convert anyone, it will hopefully get them thinking. On the other hand, I believe he misses a out on a great opportunity. The fact is, although most every religion has some idea of an afterlife in mind, they are widely different. By trying to write objectively, he lumps every religious view into the ‘afterlife’ category and pits it against the ‘secular-materialist’ category. But, as his other book’s title implies, Christianity is great. In fact, as a Christian, I believe (and I’m sure D’Souza would agree with me on this point) it is the greatest religion and worldview there is. It’s not merely one among a variety of theistic views. It is the embodiment of Truth himself. That’s my only real issue with the book. A Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim could pick this up, read all but the last chapter, walk away, and never have been challenged about his beliefs. In fact, there are some places where he might nod in agreement while the Christian shakes his head.
The chapter exploring NDEs is interesting as is the chapter that covers many of the discoveries in modern physics. Chapters ten and eleven are especially good in how they pull the curtain back on materialism’s shaky foundations (although almost every chapter has quality arguments and ideas in it with only chapter nine maybe being a little too obtuse for the average reader). This is one of the things that makes the book so enjoyable, every chapter approaches the topic from a completely different angle so it never gets boring. Something new and interesting is always just around the corner. As a whole, Life After Death is definitely worth a read no matter your theological beliefs (or lack thereof). I just wish D’Souza would’ve used the opportunity to advocate more clearly for the gospel.