The award-winning author of Rubicon and a historian of antiquity shows how the Christian Revolution forged the Western imagination and transformed the world, from Babylon to the Beatles, Saint Michael to #MeToo.
What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holland’s an all-absorbing story ... It takes a master storyteller to translate the development of a philosophical notion into a captivating story, and Holland proves to be one ... He doesn’t claim groundbreaking archival discoveries or archaeological revelations. Instead, Holland offers a remarkably nuanced and balanced account of two millennia of Christian history – intellectual, cultural, artistic, social and political. The book’s scope is breathtaking ... The impact of Christianity on the way we live, think and speak has been extraordinarily pervasive, and not only in the West, Holland concludes ... The humblest, the utterly insignificant, serves only to mask the extraordinary. Holland is fascinated by this. Indeed, he is so taken by it that he seems to have based his method of storytelling on it.
Holland is a supremely gifted writer ... Holland organizes this expansive and impressive book around a series of episodes that outline the emergence of Christianity, its growth, and the acceptance of its core values ... This is not a straightforward history of Christianity. Indeed, some of the most prominent events that would be central to such a volume, such as the Crusades and the Reformation, appear only in passing ... Importantly, Holland does not whitewash the extent to which Christianity has often veered far from the course its values should have demanded ... Holland’s book is extraordinarily wide ranging, and he writes with grace and verve. He blends an array of information and insights into a narrative that slowly but relentlessly builds his case that Christianity has shaped our thinking and standards in ways that we may not even recognize ... Dominion is an answer to the seemingly dispiriting times that we live in today. Though we are bombarded daily by news reports of suffering, hatred, intolerance, and violence, Holland’s view on the influence of Christianity is a hopeful and optimistic reminder.
Holland focuses on the story of Jesus’s crucifixion, which by showing God in the form of a broken and tormented human being upended the pagan worship of vitality and beauty. But if anything, this may understate the moral revolution that Christianity accomplished ... Holland is less illuminating on the relationship between Jesus and the religion he is supposed to have founded. 'Nothing was remotely as uncanny as the character of Jesus himself,' he writes. But how does he know Jesus was so unusual? ... Holland comes into his own when he shows how Christianity created the values of the modern Western world ... Dominion presents a rich and compelling history of Christendom. What makes the book riveting, though, is the devastating demolition job it does on the sacred history of secular humanism.