17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Gracious, incisive examination of the 'New' atheism.
, 23 Mar. 2011
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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