Book Review - Why God Won't Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty?

Debate within Christendom should be vigorously accepted. Alister McGrath has written a scathing indictment of New Atheism in his book: Why God Won't Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? 

This is a quick read; excellently written; and thought provoking. I commend it to you highly. My review is enclosed...please feel free to make comments.

Available at Amazon

Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? [Softcover]
by Alister McGrath
224 pages, $15.99
ISBN-13: 978-0849946455

Review by Steven King, MBA, MEd

The world watched in horror on a fateful day in September 2001—religious fanaticism can lead people to unthinkable horror.  The world was forever changed as terrorists aligned with al-Qaeda commandeered four airplanes and flew them into various targets in the United States. In the aftermath of two of those planes being flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City—many people were asking a serious question, “How could God allow such an atrocity to occur?”

The problem of evil has posed serious issues for most that have attempted to reconcile the belief in a good, benevolent deity with the atrocities of the world.  Some authors attempted to make sense of the chaos that followed 9/11 by decrying all religious pursuits as irrational, and thereby dangerous if followed. Maniacal zealots have always received a level of consternation simply because all people can agree that radicalism in religion is truly dangerous. What happens to religious freedom if the idea of religion is branded as “irrational?”  Sadly, the mantra that “religion kills” erupted after 9/11 and is thought to be the essential springboard of an intolerant branch of anti-God sentiment known as New Atheism.

Such adherents have labeled themselves as brights, a convenient moniker revealing a belief that those who hold to a naturalistic worldview feel themselves to be brighter (or smarter) than those who espouse a religious world view. The masthead of the New Atheist website declares its central philosophy without apology: “Intolerance of ignorance, myth and superstition; disregard for the tolerance of religion. Indoctrination of logic, reason and the advancement of a naturalistic worldview.”  Religious ideology, and even religious freedom, must provide the latitude for such erroneous beliefs; however, indoctrination and “disregard for tolerance” should not be valued by any who espouse a particular belief.

Onto this backdrop, Dr. Alister McGrath, Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education, and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture at King’s College, London takes on New Atheism’s chief proponents.  While the realities of the blogosphere have allowed a worldwide response to the tenets of New Atheism, McGrath levies the boom at four of its most notable contributors: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennitt, and Christopher Hutchins.

Of those four, perhaps Richard Dawkins has been New Atheism’s loudest proponent as his book The God Delusion has sold over two million copies to an eager audience.  McGrath criticizes his central theme as a type of intolerant bigotry where he oversteps the boundaries of atheism to a blatant anti-theism.  The informed reader is also commended to McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion where he writes a refutation of Dawkins’ work with exceptionally more grace than is afforded religious zealots by Dawkins.

McGrath deals with issues such as “religion and violence,” “the rationality of religion,” and “science reconciled with religion.”  The latter topic is the field where McGrath shines as he points out that contemporary scientific thought actually corroborates a deistic/theistic worldview.  Necessarily, limiting oneself to merely rationality or science limits the adherent’s worldview—as religious matters prove deep within the soul is a longing for something which transcends a purely logical framework.

New Atheism is only “new” since it makes intolerance of religious ideology intrinsically evil.   Sadly, even some of the New Atheistic mindset is satisfied by yelling at those who disagree—even if they cannot refute them in debate.  At least the interest in the writings of New Atheism has warranted something by making people bring the discussion of God into the public arena.

After all, there is a God-shaped vacuum in everyone—even those who feel, deep down inside that God should go away.  In reality, God will never go away.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 


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