Book Review: Why God won’t go away! Alister Mc Grath. Engaging with the New Atheism

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Church, MT Life, Problems, Theology
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This is a book that I have Just finished reading. It is that good, I can’t help but blog it.

I wrote a few months ago a book review on John Lennox, about the controversy between Hawking’s view of creationism and the true Christian faith of creation. This encouraged me to read “Why God won’t go away!” by Alister McGrath, because this is an important issue of bridging the use of science and the belief of religion together.

Alister McGrath is a professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King’s College London, and Director of its centre of Theology, Religion and Culture. He has written many theological books like “Mere theology” and “An introduction to Christian theology”. The purpose of this book is to inform the christian believer about the characteristics of “New Atheism” and how they are false in comparison to the christian faith. He breaks the book up as thus:

1. What is the New Atheism?

2. Engaging with New Atheism: 3 core themes

3. Where does the New Atheism go from here?

What is the New Atheism?

It would be useful to define what New Atheism is, before we explore its faults. New Atheism was formulated by the combination of 3 influential atheists. They are Sam Harris “The End of Faith”, Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” and Daniel Dennett “Breaking the spell”. These 3 men with their books started a movement in 2006, which then was gaining members. In 2007 Christopher Hitchens became involved with his book “God is not great”. McGrath goes on to explain how they became influential, and tried to convince the world that all the problems in the world, are down to organised religion. McGrath then gives a very good character profile of each of the men. They are convinced that all the terrorism and wars are down to the Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Judaism and Christianity), but McGrath then continues to explain what is different between New Atheism and Atheism. He concludes that New Atheism is totally anti-theistic. Atheism, has become so broad it includes areas of scepticism and Gnosticism. There are very few real atheists out there, because many people don’t believe there is a God, but they can’t be certain. This makes the case for a new sect of people who totally reject there is a God, and go further by giving evidence for it. These are the New Atheists. New Atheists are also anti-liberal. McGrath points out that two people: Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell call themselves “Brights” to create a distinction to other Atheists. This is a really good chapter to understand what a New Atheist really is.

Engaging the New Atheism : 3 core themes.

McGrath explains in defence that there are problems within religion, but he argues that it isn’t religion to blame for all the problems. The thought is “Religion poisons everything”. That is true to an extent. Organised religion that puts more focus on mankind, and not on God are poisoned, because they are not living by the truth, instead they live by what they want. New Atheism isn’t singling anything out in particular with what is wrong with religion, but saying that religion as a whole is poison. McGrath though argues against it because he clearly gives evidence that each Abrahamic religion teaches to love each other and to live in peace. McGrath then goes on an attack against secular violence (like the UK riots) and argues that organised religion is a way that distinguishes what type of human beings we are: here is a quote:

“Human beings are very good at inventing ways of distinguishing themselves from other groups of human beings and allowing these differences to generate conflict. Religion is one such difference. But there are lots of others: gender, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language and football. Get rid of religion, and conflict and violence will simply find another occasions for their emergence and other grounds for their justification”. (pg55)

     McGrath then goes on to two more chapters: 1) is about the rationality of God. He defends the evidence that there is a God, and shows up the heresy in the “Bright” movement. 2) The proof of Science. He argues that science is more in a box because it doesn’t allow flexibility or spontaneous calculation. That is why they can’t find God, because God is not in logic, because he is logic. He is outside of logic, and that is what they don’t understand. McGrath wraps this section by saying:

“Sadly many contributors to New Atheist websites seem to think that loud and rude insults trump evidence-based argument. I’m not sure whether that tells us something about the intellectual weakness of New Atheism or about the state of contemporary Western culture.” (pg87)

Where does the New Atheism go from here?

This small section highlights what New Atheism is doing now, and there are many scientists who thought that this sect of Atheism would be a good one to follow, but there is serious scepticism about this now. As the title of the book shows, God will not go away, even if a religious sect wants it to.

Hopefully that has given you a flavour to read this book. I would encourage you to share it with others, because this is another cult that is trying to put God in a box, and they need to know the truth.

Happy reading!!!!!

  1. jaybark7 says:

    Thanks for the good review of this book. I always enjoy reading reviews (and writing them). Have not read much by McGrath but appreciate his thoughtfulness in responding to the challenges of New Atheism. Thanks for sharing!

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