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Monday, 11 July 2011

Book Review: Why God won’t go away
by Alister McGrath


IN THIS BOOK, Alister McGrath offers an overview and critique of the movement known as the New Atheism.  He begins by looking at what the New Atheism is, with particular references to four names associated with the movement – Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens.  He also explains the differences between the “New” Atheism and other, more moderate forms of Atheism.  McGrath then addresses three themes often identified by the movement as arguments against religious belief – those of violence, reason and science.  He then assesses the current state of the New Atheism before asking what the future may hold.

This is an engaging and accessible book.  It’s succinct but thorough and as such is a very useful tool in understanding the New Atheism, its strengths and its weaknesses.  By looking at this worldview in such a way it’s a brilliant introduction for those wanting to understand the New Atheism better without focusing on only one issue or one associated ‘name’ or book.

McGrath is not a sloganeer and offers a perceptive analysis, asking difficult questions of the New Atheist worldview while attempting to give them a fair hearing.  It is interesting that although New Atheists accuse religious people of being irrational and ‘vile’, they frequently resort to insult to try and make their often incoherent point.  This appears to frustrate McGrath more than anything – rather than having a constructive conversation it becomes a shouting contest whereby reason  and rationality appear to have very little say – highly ironic since New Atheists like to accuse anyone with a belief in God as ‘irrational’.  Religion, to them, is evil, and God the cause of all the world’s woes.  But ‘evil’ is a moral statement, and if God is a delusion how can he cause anything?

The New Atheist tendency to proclaim itself as right and everyone else as wrong smacks of the very fanaticism it criticises.  It fails to back up its statements from history and ignores the criticism from other atheists, seeing them somehow as traitors to the cause.

I could go on far longer – but this is a review rather than an opinion post!  I will simply say this – if this is a topic that interests you, or indeed you are fascinated by either religion, philosophy, reason or science, this is an excellent book.



I review for BookSneeze®

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

3 comments:

Perpetua said...

McGrath is always worth reading and this one sounds like something I would enjoy. Thanks for highlighting it, Lucy

Mel Menzies said...

This sounds an excellent book, Lucy. I'm certainly interested in an answer for NAs: I blogged on this topic some time ago: http://www.melmenzies.co.uk/blog/2009/01/proof_that_god_does_not_exist_look_no_further_than_a_bendy_bus
Mel

Lucy Mills said...

Thanks Mel for the link, good post - and great title :)

"The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."- Richard Foster