Saturday, July 9, 2011
“Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty?”
Insightful, Persuasive, and Very Readable
There is a tendency among some who write books debating theological issues to elevate their arguments to a level far above that of the average reader. In his newest work, Alister McGrath bucks this trend, and much like John Piper in his works debating N.T. Wright, delivers a book that is clear in its argumentation, thorough in backing up its claims, and fair in its evaluation, all while being completely readable and concise (149 pages).
McGrath begins by explaining what the New Atheism is, and how it differs from the more traditional variety. He then engages the New Atheism at the three themes that really make up its core: religion leads to violence, reason disproves religion, and science refutes religious belief. He then points to what he believes is a dismal and short-lived future for the movement.
The book has several strong points, including McGrath’s clear definition and drawing of parameters surrounding what actually constitutes the New Atheism, which relies heavily on the writings of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. He clearly points out and documents the aggressive nature of the movement, and the hatred and violence that it espouses towards any form of religious belief. The author paints an accurate picture of a radical movement, rejected even by those within the traditional atheistic camp. He also does a nice job of refuting the three core themes of the movement, using the internal contradictions within the New Atheism as a weapon against them.
There are two weaknesses in the text that need to be pointed out. First, there are several occasions where McGrath makes a statement about the New Atheism without documenting the support behind it. While most of the book is well documented, the author leaves himself open to criticism by missing support in some key places. Second, while refuting the New Atheisms ability to depend to Scientific evidence to support itself, McGrath openly states his faith in the Big Bang Theory, a conclusion only come to by indeed putting one’s faith in the Scientific “evidence” of the day.
Overall, this was a well written and well argued book with some minor flaws that did not take away from its overall force. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a fair and honest review.