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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
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...
Published on 29 Jun 2011 by Doctorludo

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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
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...
Published on 14 April 2011 by Mr. Bde Wall


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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
This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
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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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A follow up to "The Dawkins Delusion?", 22 Feb 2011
By 
rossuk (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
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). "When religious belief conspicuously and obstinately failed to disappear as a result of social and political change, he (Lenin) eventually put in place measures designed to eradicate it through the `protracted use of violence'." One wonders what comrade Dawkins would do if he had power?

Chap 4: Looks at Reason, the rationality of beliefs. Dawkins asserts that religious faith is simply and necessarily a revolt against reason and evidence. The reality is much more complex, and McGrath discuses this. World-views ultimately lie beyond final rational proof.

Chap 5: A question of proof: science. McGrath summarises the New Atheism world-view thus. "... science is about what can be proved to be true whereas religion is about running away from the facts and seeking consolation in outdated, discredited and immoral Bronze Age myths." He also looks at the flat earth argument beloved by atheists and shows that virtually every Christian scholar of the Middle Ages believed in the sphericity of the earth (p 81).

Chap 6: Where is the New Atheism Now? In a part of this discussion he has a paragraph heading "When reason fails: the New Atheist art of ridicule". I have noticed the use of ridicule in a Dawkins-Lennox debate and in videos that other atheists have kindly given me links to. The problem is that ridicule only alienates your audience; it is not a good way to win friends and influence people. Plus ridicule is a very poor argument, one would expect better arguments from the New Atheists.

Chap 7. God won't go away: beyond the New Atheism. In the 1960's it was thought that with education, "...they would live to see a world in which the infantile illusions of religion would be outgrown" (p 96), clearly this has not happened, even in the affluent/educated USA, which should be a good nurturing ground for atheism. Why is this? "There's something about human nature that makes us want to reach out beyond rational and empirical limits, questing for meaning and significance." (p 98)
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable contribution to thesim/atheism discussions, 1 Jun 2011
By 
S. Meadows (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
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.

In rough outline, McGrath states what he understands to be the characteristics of New Atheism and how it arose, before going on to look at 3 key assertions made by the movement, giving counter-arguments along the way before finally giving an appraisal of the state of New Atheism and where its potential future may lie.

The book is not without its flaws, though. McGrath does, at times, fall into the same trap that some of those he disagrees with have also done, by not being precise. In particular, the definition of New Atheism seems to be lacking. He references its beginnings as a term, and makes reference to its ideology and aims, but not once does he actually define what it is. Yet at the same time he is critical of these "New Atheists" for not being precise about the terms "religion" and "God."

The other downside for me, and this is true of some of McGrath's other apologetic writings, is that he states the case against one side, but does not do very well on positing the case FOR Christianity. To be fair to McGrath though, he does acknowledge this and points the reader to 3 books, including Simply Christian by Tom Wright and The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism by Tim Keller.

Overall, this is a valuable contribution to "God debate" and I think deserves careful consideration alongside the writings of Harris, Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens.
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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
This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
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. But I wasn't convinced that the New Athiest authors all believe this themselves; Mcgrath seems to cite New Athiest forum users more for this section, and for the following section on scientism (although Harris is addressed here too). From this point on, the case studies used by Mcgrath seem a little cherry-picked. The case of Baggini's and Kurtz's abuse and dismissal at the hands of more aggressive atheists are very interesting, but no mention is given to a debate between Dawkins/Grayling and Harries/Moore, on the topic 'is atheism the new fundamentalism?' of which the audience and online voters of the general public voted 'no' resoundingly at the end of the debate. It was disappointing to see Mcgrath presenting only the most incriminating evidence against the New Athiest movement and not balancing it with evidence that the public respect aspects of it more than he suggests.

Overall, I would say this book is a great place to go if you're looking to see a good account of the worst of the New Atheism. But if you're looking for an even-handed analysis of Dawkins, Hitchens and co, this isn't it. For example, It is just asserted that Hitchens and Dawkins have offered extremely weak arguments in debate against Haldane and Lennox respectively, based on a handful of various opinions Mcgrath draws upon.

So in conclusion, I found this to be an unbalanced work - fascinating in content, but cherry picked with its case against the New Atheists - something he has (often rightly) accused the New Athiests of doing all the time with their engagement with religion. Those with Dawkinsian leanings will find this book really irritating, but those with Christian leanings are likely to find it encouraging. For a non-religious (but not anti-religious) person like myself, it's a great read but should be balanced by an awareness of the debate and issues surrounding both sides of the debate.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit too short and a rather misleading title, 19 April 2011
By 
Wilson Rice (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
I am a Christian, so I have as my starting point a tendancy to agree with most of the points McGrath makes in this volume.

I have read "The God Delusion" and "The Dawkins Delusion?"

I do think this book would be more accurately titled "Why the New Atheists Should Go Away" as it is more a critical examination of their worst excesses and most embarrassing own goals than a defence of theism's robustness in the light of attacks on it.

Only in the last 15-20 pages does McGrath finally get round to the subject matter hinted at in the book's title. And here he is too brief for me (though stimulating and thoughtful) referring the reader in the footnotes to other volumes for a fuller exploration.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but misleading title, 25 July 2013
This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
Alister McGrath takes on the New Atheists, i.e. Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens.

In Part 1 of the book McGrath gives a potted history of the New Atheism; in Part 2 he discusses three key themes of the New Atheism: religion promotes violence, religion is irrational and religion is anti-science. Part 3 discusses the possible future of the New Atheism.

McGrath argues that New Atheism has never defined the blanket term "religion" that it is attacking (this enables Hitchens to claim that the Soviet Union was a religious state and that Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King were not Christians), is not as rational or scientific as its proposers maintain; that it distorts facts in order to make its case, that it has not been successful in gaining recruits or making converts from religious people and that it is frankly insulting towards religious people.

One telling point McGrath makes in response to Dawkins claim that "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction" is that the human beings who created this God must have been pretty unpleasant themselves. This dents Dawkins' assumption that human beings would be naturally good without religion.

I did enjoy the anecdote on pages 98/99. A young man told McGrath that he had read "The God Delusion" and thought it was so unfair and one-sided that he needed to hear the other side. He started going to church and realised that Dawkins had offered a parody of the real thing. So he converted to Christianity. Should he thank God for Richard Dawkins?

This is all very well but the book is a critique of, rather than engagement with, the New Atheism (and McGrath certainly makes the New Atheism seem unattractive). Nor does McGrath present a case for Christianity to set against atheism (almost at the end of the book he says this was not his intention). The title is therefore misleading - McGrath does not give us any reason why God won't go away.

It's a pity McGrath wastes his time on these short books (both this and his "The Dawkins Delusion" are less than a hundred pages). Why doesn't he take the time to write a weighty book that is more analytical of atheism and religion and presents a positive case for Christianity?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New Atheism abandoned, 14 May 2013
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This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful overview, 13 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
This is a brief book. In 99 pages, Prof. McGrath provides an overview of the new atheism, and supplies some general descriptions of its traits, showing how it differs from the more nuanced alternatives.

I came to it, after having read Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology. Now, that is a different kind of book, and, I suspect, intended for a very different kind of audience. This offering, the subject of my review, is quite clearly intended to provide more of a strategic overview of the subject - if you're looking for a more detailed analysis of the writings of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett, you will not find it here. Notwithstanding, there are extensive citations within the text, and therefore 'Why God won't go away' does actually provide a very useful stepping stone to further research for those who wish to read more widely across modern atheist genre.

That does not mean, however, as one or two reviewers have suggested, the Prof. McGrath is misrepresenting the arguments of the new atheists - indeed, he is clearly extremely familiar with them, and he also cites the perspectives of other atheistic writers to put things in context.

Overall, I found this a very helpful contribution. After working through a more detailed treatment which focuses on the real detail in the literature, it is actually a very helpful exercise to pan back out and look again at the bigger picture. I suspect that one of the strategies of the new atheists is to keep us focused on minute specifics, and thereby ignore the metanarrative playing out behind the scenes.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good as far as it goes, 20 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
Written from a fairly pro-theist perspective, 'Why God Won't Go Away' centres its case on the main New Atheist arguments and seeks to address and counter them in turn. McGrath openly states his intentions and the scope of his piece early on and it's clear that if you are looking for, say, a creationist/evolutionary/intelligent design debate you won't find it here. To be fair McGrath makes it clear that this is not the aim of the book and some of his arguments are compelling, but having (competently) pointed out some of the shortfalls in NA views he focuses on some points that have little to do with the issue. For example, highlighting the flagging membership of NA groups is all very well but this does not undermine any inherent validity in their position. It should be noted that this is not a critique of atheism as such, more a counter to the ASSERTION by New Atheist that God/religion is nonexistent and inherently bad; an assertion which he argues is difficult to sustain on the basis of empirical science alone.

This book does have an agenda but for all that, it's wryly written and the direct arguments are coherently constructed. A somewhat niche read within this overall debate, but a worthwhile one nonetheless.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gracious, incisive examination of the 'New' atheism., 23 Mar 2011
By 
Stephen F. Hayes (Botley, Hampshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism (Paperback)
This book really cheered me up. Its just under 100 pages bar the index, but McGrath writes so well and with such insight and clarity that I felt I'd read a much longer book. I'll re-read it before putting it in the church library. His customary very broad background study has taken in a lot of time on the New Atheist blogs. He must have needed a few showers after that-he quotes examples of the routine use of abuse and shouting as a substitute for argument which is so characteristic of these places where like minded people meet to affirm each other's beliefs by expressing anger and hatred against Christianity.

Always the scholar, the author has studied the works of Harris, Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Dawkins and their admirers carefully so others don't have to. Despite the personal abuse he has encountered, he remains objective and gracious, stressing that most atheists he knows are far more tolerant and reasonable then the ones this book is about.

Some of the quotes are disturbing. I knew that C Hitchens disliked Mother Theresa but hadn't realised he said he wished there was a hell for 'the b***h' to go to. Nor had I realised that Sam Harris has written in his book 'The End of Faith' that some beliefs were so dangerous it might be ethical to kill people for holding them. Harris has just written a book 'The Moral Landscape' to tell us why we don't need God to be good.

Detailed examination of the arguments and tactics of the subjects of the book exposes their lack of balance and intellectual rigour. Also there are interesting snippets of information, such as the very low turnout (average about 14) at the meetings of the London 'Brights' as some new atheists tried to title themselves. The attempt to re-brand the negative term 'atheist' as the positive 'Bright' has apparently fizzled out. Goings on at Richard Dawkins web site are considered, guaranteed to raise a smile. I won't spoil it for readers.

On the last page he mentions a young man who asked him to sign one of his theology books after a lecture. McGrath asked what had led him to study theology. He had been sailing through life completely uninterested in God, but after reading Dawkins 'The God Delusion' was so struck by its unfairness and lack of balance that he had started going to church to hear the other side, and, like former atheist Alister McGrath, found the reality so much more interesting than the parody that he became a Christian.

McGrath notes that the Dawkinists have punched above their weight by tactical use of the worldwide web, something I had noticed, but numerically they are still dwarfed by Christians, with (for example) Rick Warren's devotional book 'The Purpose Driven Life' outselling 'The God Delusion' by thirty to one.

'Why God won't go away' is well worth a read by anyone, Christian or not, who is fed up with the self-satisfied hectoring of the anti-God brigade and would like to see their claims to own the freehold on logic, reason and science critically examined. This is accomplished here by a powerful intellect who is as well qualified a scientist as Dawkins and has also seriously studied philosophy and Christianity.

McGrath is shaping up as a worthy successor to that other Oxford don who responded with informed and reasoned argument to the Christian-baiters of his day, C S Lewis. Like McGrath, Lewis was a former athiest and a well-read scholar with a brilliant mind, who became convinced by the evidence that Christianity was not merely the best way to live, but was actually true and indeed was supported by the best available evidence. Of course, people are not always persuaded by evidence, however good, and this is the sort of argument McGrath considers and gently but firmly turns against the Dawkinists.

This is not a book of Christian apologetics (see Lee Strobel for that) but a critical examination of the arguments and tactics of the New Atheists to expose their weaknesses. Job done.
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Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism
Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism by Alister McGrath (Paperback - 18 Feb 2011)
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