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Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism [Paperback]

Alister McGrath
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Feb 2011
The recent rise of the New Atheism has aroused great general interest, thrown up questions of fundamental importance, and started a fascinating conversation. Why God Won't Go Away invites us to join in. The volume opens with a survey of the main ideas of the New Atheism, as expressed in the works of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. We then examine the core views of the movement closely, making due reference to its 'virtual community' of websites and blogs. Subjects explored include: whether religion is delusional and evil, the belief that human beings are fundamentally good, whether we should have faith only in what can be proved through reason and science, the idea that the best hope for humanity is a 'New Enlightenment' The result is a lively and highly thought-provoking volume that poses a number of interesting questions. Why is religion experiencing a resurgence in the twenty-first century, when we are meant to have grown out of such a primitive fixation? Has the New Atheism's fascination with rationality led to a fatal underestimation of the longing of the human heart to adore? And if, as Christopher Hitchens writes in exasperation, religion is 'ineradicable', doesn't this tiresome fact suggest that dismissing belief in God as irrational and unscientific might just be a waste of time?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK Publishing; 1st Thus edition (18 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281063877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281063871
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Why God Won't Go Away simply demolishes New Atheism in all departments and in every respect . . . There's no way back for it from this. And to think that mild-mannered Alister McGrath delivered the fatal blow. Priceless. --Steve Morris, The Church of England Newspaper

Armed with McGrath, the message is clear - it's time for Christians to embrace science and philosophy without fear, and defend Christianity from the misleading rhetoric of the militant atheists. --Christianity

About the Author

Alister McGrath is Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education, Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture at King's College, London and a prolific author. His three most recent books for SPCK are Mere Theology (April 2010), Heresy (Nov 2009), and Christianity's Dangerous Idea (2007).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A follow up to "The Dawkins Delusion?" 22 Feb 2011
By rossuk
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book looks at the books/arguments by the four horsemen of the New Atheism (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens). The book is only slightly longer than "The Dawkins Delusion?", so it is a summary/refutation of their arguments and he writes with great clarity as he condenses the various arguments. He tries to engage with the New Atheism, rather than throw stones. He understands the New Atheism well, as he has debated them and inhabited their websites and discussion boards. Those who liked "The Dawkins Delusion" will also like this book; those who hated it will also hate this book, especially as he shines the light of truth and exposes their arguments as the sham they actually are. I only gave it four stars as it could be a bit longer, but as with most of McGrath's books it is highly readable. It is a case of quality over quantity.

Chap 1: The New Atheism: how it started. He looks at the four horsemen of the New Atheism and their books/arguments, which was fascinating.

Chap 2: Looks at what's `New' about the New Atheism, which is characterised "by its anti-theism - an intense anger against religion which is held to poison everything". It ignores any good done by theists as well as any bad done by atheists. Hitchens even slammed Mother Teresa, which is an excellent way of alienating your audience, which is one of the features of the New Atheism, it just polarises the issue, making rational dialogue impossible.

Chap 3: Looks at when religion goes wrong: violence. Of particular interest to me was his description of the Soviet Union as the first officially atheist state, which included the propaganda of atheism (p 50).
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A much needed contribution to the debate 29 Jun 2011
Much more accessible than The Dawkins Delusion, written with clarity, brevity and academic rigour, this book is, as the subtitle states, an engagement with "new atheism". McGrath has, in parts, sacrificed detail for the sake of readibility, but generally strikes the balance well. In particular, he takes apart some of the false assumptions and academic/logical errors that can be found in the works of Dennett, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens.

As others have pointed out, this is not a proof for the existence of God - the subtitle is a better description of the text. It is, however, clear, gracious, well written and well researched. Whilst he does take an occasional swipe at his opponents, the general tone is one of courtesy.

This book has been needed for a long time.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It has to be noted, the book is quite short, so it cannot cover all the ground that may be considered necessary as a response to New Atheism. Instead, what we have is a book that pulls at some of the loose threads in modern atheistic writing and thinking, going someway (but not all the way) to unravelling the most popular arguments against God and religion. The book is one-sided, but then again so are the books which McGrath critiques. He doesn't really get onto the reasons "why God won't go away" until the last 5 pages of the book. So while the main title may be misleading, the sub-title of engaging with the New Atheism better denotes what the book does. McGrath takes on some of the challenges that are levelled at religious belief and practice. His key tactic is to undermine the basis on which the argument is made, often by holding up a mirror to atheism itself and hoping, like a lumberjack, that once its base has been hacked away somewhat, that the argument will fall under its own weight.

In his overview of each of the 4 main figureheads of New Atheism, McGrath does give credit where it is due and is not at all dismissive of the critiques of religion given. His analysis is both concise and insightful, showing up areas of lax thinking on the part of those concerned.

Personally, I found the critiques insightful, powerful and effective. However, I can easily imagine that not all readers would concur with me on this front. To that end, I think this book deserves a serious and considered response.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, but slightly misleading at times 14 April 2011
Mcgrath is an excellent writer, and this short book (99 pages plus notes) is another good example of this. The book's title is a little misleading - Mcgrath doesn't actually say why belief in God hasn't disappeared, except to say in the closing passages that human beings may be 'hard-wired' to believe in God in some way. Instead, the sub-title, 'engaging with the New Atheism' is the actual theme of the book.

The book begins by contextualising the New Atheism, explaining its relation to 9/11 before outlining the themes present in each of the core New Atheist texts, which Mcgrath identifies as Harris' 'End of Faith' (2004), Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' (2006), Dennett's 'Breaking the Spell' (2006) and Hitchens' 'God is not Great' (2007).

The book then addresses three core ideas underlying much New Atheist thought; religion has a close link with violence, religion is opposed to science, and science is the only means of obtaining knowledge.

Now, for the first of these three arguments, Mcgrath seems to present a valid case regarding the selective readings of the New Atheist authors mentioned earlier. Religion can do violence, but then so can almost any ideology with a huge following. He challenges the portrayal of religion as only being a force for evil and never good, and makes light work of Hitchens' perculiar claim that Martin Luther King didn't believe in God, amongst other odd claims.

I also agree with Mcgrath's perspective on reason. 'Pure Reason' is a fabrication, there are modes of reasoning and thinking things through sensibly, but there's little to suggest that one, absolute principle of Reason, independent of contextual constraints exists and is possessed by the New Atheists but ignored by everyone else.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book from Mcgrath
Good book from Mcgrath .. I wish it was longer though , but he deals with all the stupidity of atheism and as usual, sets out to systematically debunk them point by point . Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Saw Alister McGrath on
The Big Question and bought this straight away. ,
A very thought provoking and well written hook.
Published 4 months ago by toffle
5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent read
I'm a God sceptic simply because I see no evidence of His existence in this world. But I enjoy an intelligent debate. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Julian Wilde
4.0 out of 5 stars I was a New Atheist, now...
I became an atheist shortly after reading the God Delusion. While not having read the other books that form the core of the 'New Atheist' movement, I have read Hitchen's and love... Read more
Published 9 months ago by thepope
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarity
McGrath is scathing but not vicious, as I have found Dawkins and others to be. He shows how Christians (I'm particularly concerned about their position, but it applies to other... Read more
Published 11 months ago by J. P. Clarke
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but misleading title
Alister McGrath takes on the New Atheists, i.e. Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mr. J. Hastings
3.0 out of 5 stars New Atheism abandoned
Not what I expected but an interesting essay on where some folks minds go. But the problem he addresses was not really my main interest.
Published 17 months ago by David Warner
5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent book
If you're looking for a book that discusses religion and the rise of the so-called new atheists (who worship science as their god) then this is the book to read. Read more
Published 18 months ago by The Book Nut
1.0 out of 5 stars god not going away? or never having been there in the first place?
In this book McGrath tries to take to task some of the more prominent New Atheists - among them Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Read more
Published 19 months ago by danny regan
3.0 out of 5 stars Why God won't go away
I went to a lecture by Alistair McGrath.This book challenges Richard Dawson's book 'Why God'
I enjoyed his lecture very much,Alistiar Mc grath is highly intellectual and his... Read more
Published 20 months ago by jane morgan
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