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The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World Hardcover – 4 Nov 2004

3.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 4 Nov 2004
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Rider & Co (4 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844135748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844135745
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A sympathetic and interesting guide to the intellectural and social landscape of the past 200 years or so. -- Church Times

Alister McGrath invariably combines enormous scholarship with an accessible and engaging style. -- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Gripping...impressive intellectual range -- The New York Times

Highly readable -- TLS

This is indeed a thought-provoking book -- BBC History Magazine

Book Description

This bold and provocative book on what went wrong with the Atheists' dream is now available in paperback --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is ironic that McGrath's book came out in 2004 shortly before the books by the New Atheists: Sam Harris (2004); Richard Dawkins (2006); Daniel Dennett (2006) and Christopher Hitchins (2007). Since then McGrath has published two books that deal with the New Atheism, 'The Dawkins Delusion' (2007) and 'Why God won't go Away' (2011). In the main 'Twilight of Atheism' covers the history of atheism in the two hundred years between the fall of the Bastille in 1789 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. As a work on history he does a competent job, understanding the past helps us understand the present, and gives us a hint about the future. It is one of the ironies of history that the early Christians were called atheists (atheistos) because they challenged the validity of the pagan religious system. He should have spent a bit more time discussing the Soviet Union as the world's first atheist state; it would have made a good case study of what happens when atheists have power. It would be interesting to see what comrade Dawkins would do if he had real power, e.g. how would he go about eradicating the 'religion' virus?

The Soviet Union tried power to eradicate religion, but it did not work. This is a lesson from history, but it failed, which is evident to us all. Some have argued that he deals with hard atheism, but why should McGrath soft peddle on this issue? I was particularly intrigued by the biography of Madalyn Murray O'Hair (1919-1995) who was responsible for removing prayer and the bible from state schools in the USA, she was a hard line atheist, but her arguments were not very good, much the same as the New Atheists. If people object that McGrath is dealing with hard atheism, then I suggest that this is nothing when compared with the vitriol of the New Atheism.
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Format: 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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By A Customer on 8 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
This book was very different from what I expected. While the author clearly states he is a christian who was previously an atheist, this does not read as an attempt to convert or as a religious book.
The book is really a study of atheism as a social phenomenon, considering those factors that have tended to favour atheistic outlooks and those that have not. The message I came away with was that the rise of atheism had much more to do with the prevailing social environment than with evidence for or against the existance of God.
The author seemed very sympathetic to atheists as a whole, with the exception of irrational extremists, like 'Dawkinsian' fundamentalists. It is interesting that the language of extremists, whether religious or atheistic, tends to be similarly intolerant and aggressive.
I did not agree with all that the author wrote, but it was always informative, and proved an enjoyable read.
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Format: Paperback
The more I read this book, the less I liked it. I'm an open-minded Christian and I think belief and unbelief should be respected and taken seriously. The first part of this book largely succeeds in doing that; but I agree with another Amazon review that it descends into a biased, sensational and "atheophobic" rant. I'm sure McGrath could have come up with some better examples of atheist thinkers than the loathsome-sounding Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who would probably have been unpleasant whatever she believed in (after all, not all religionists are nice). I don't think, in the end, this book is fair to the atheist viewpoint, and typifies some of the narrowness of vision and meanness of spirit than can give religion a bad name. Shame, an opportunity missed.
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Format: Paperback
As McGrath duly notes in the introduction to 'The Twilight of Atheism': "This book will not settle anything; but at least it can further discussion of one of the greatest issues of our time." Having studied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Molecular Biophysics, before gaining first class honours in Theology at Oxford University, Alister McGrath is well positioned to provide a broad insight into any debate concerning religious belief. A one time Atheist turned Christian, McGrath has first hand experience of life on both sides of the fence.
Rest assured this book is not aimed at converting 'non-believers' but at dispelling the controversial notion that "religion is the world's greatest evil." McGrath achieves this by tracing the history of atheism and highlighting the flaws, not of atheism as a whole, but of the secularist movements that have tried to impose atheism. Contrary to the beliefs of some, by no means does McGrath imply that the fall of the Berlin wall was a result of atheism, although he does draw attention to the failures of oppressive systems that have enforced their doctrine upon the unwilling. McGrath explains that, like religious movements, secular-atheist movements have been marred by a history of atrocities. As such atheism can be considered no less evil than monotheism.
Clearly 'The Twilight of Atheism' is written from a Christian perspective, but McGrath does not attempt to con the reader into thinking otherwise. McGrath is sympathetic to atheists who "just ask to be left alone, getting on with their lives peacefully and Godlessly". He does however take exception to the "militant, awkward, and angrier" forms of atheism. Just as religion has oppressive factions, so does atheism. Both are unacceptable.
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