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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is atheism always 'hard' atheism?, 26 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Twilight Of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (Paperback)
This book is a clear and structured work, and will keep the reader interested throughout. but there is a fair bit to be critical of in the latter stages of the book, where Mcgrath brings us to mid-late 20th century atheism. Mcgrath only addresses 'hard' or 'affirming' atheism, not the sort of atheism that is just an absence of belief in God, but a firm rejection of God's existence. Also, his understanding of 'postmodern' and post-structuralist challenges to theism is poor, and, in trying to defend theism from its challenges, he claims that atheism is more unsettled by it. But that only applies to 'hard' atheism! Mcgrath also devotes a lot of time to activists such as Madalyn Murray O'Hair, yet influential thinkers such as Russell, Satre and Mackie get no significant attention at all.

So, in conclusion, its interesting, well worth a read, but the last few chapters should have been better.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Jun 2012 22:19:43 BDT
Sorry, Mr Wall - I don't get it.

What need is there to "deal with" moderate atheists? The case against "hard" atheism, as you call it, is not that it's adherents choose to ignore the concept/existence of God (everyone has a right to their own opinion on that score) but on the militant attacks on believers, though such attacks frequently constitute nothing but ignorant rants.

Perhaps this explains why McGrath doesn't waste time criticizing people like Russell, Sartre and Mackie (who are in any case given lengthy consideration elsewhere). Compared to people who suggest that maybe we should start executing people just for --> thinking <-- in ways we don't approve of (though interestingly Harris doesn't look too closely at who is going to make the decisions about whose thoughts are unexceptable), even Russell is relatively mild-mannered, interesting and intelligent.

Posted on 26 Jun 2012 16:42:18 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jun 2012 17:02:12 BDT
Mr. Bde Wall says:
Kriss Mascard,

" The case against "hard" atheism, as you call it, is not that it's adherents choose to ignore the concept/existence of God"

I don't see why this is relevant to my review.. as I don't say it is?

"but on the militant attacks on believers, though such attacks frequently constitute nothing but ignorant rants."

Again, not relevant my review. I never say McGrath shouldn't focus on 'militant atheism' in the 20th/21st century - just that he shouldn't ignore the other forms that atheism has taken too. The postmodern/existentialist/Foucauldian atheists and others are all a part of the history of atheism too.

"Perhaps this explains why McGrath doesn't waste time criticizing people like Russell, Sartre and Mackie (who are in any case given lengthy consideration elsewhere)."

So what if they're given lengthy consideration elsewhere, this book is supposed to give an overview of the supposed rise and fall of disbelief. Why are thinkers so significant to that in the 20th century such as Mackie, Russell and Satre not discussed yet 14 pages are devoted to O'Hair?? It's not an even handed account of atheism, its setting up an account of athiesm which is easier to shoot down and show as being in decline. Why would it be a waste of time addressing them, anymore than addressing Nietzche, Schopenhouer etc who he does address in earlier chapters? What's your reason?

"Compared to people who suggest that maybe we should start executing people just for --> thinking <-- in ways we don't approve of (though interestingly Harris doesn't look too closely at who is going to make the decisions about whose thoughts are unexceptable), even Russell is relatively mild-mannered, interesting and intelligent."

All the more reason for including a decent account of Russell's views, as my review suggested.

Your post seems to be a rant about how awful you feel the New Atheism are which is not in any way an engagement with the content of my review. An even handed reflection on 20th century atheism would include Satre, Mackie and Russell in my view. They're too influential to be ignored. His account of postmodernism really does only criticise 'hard athiesm' and makes no attempt to engage with the disbelief of those postmodern thinkers themselves. I don't see that you've said anything which challenges anything I actually say in my review.
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