I received Why God Won’t Go Away – Is the New Atheism Running On Empty? by Alister McGrath book from Book Sneeze. As always, I am not required to write a positive review but only an honest one.
According to the publisher, here is the summary from the publisher, Thomas Nelson:
“The rise of the new atheism, which includes the manifestos of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, has created a public willingness in today’s marketplace to talk about God and religion. Yet the debate up to this point has focused largely on rebutting the new atheist critique of Christianity. Why God Won’t God Away moves into new territory by challenging the new atheism on its own grounds.”
Who It’s For …
– Anyone interested in the new atheism and classical apologetics.
– Perhaps another group as well: Skeptics of the Christian faith who are either not angry enough to be a “new atheist” and perhaps still searching for an expression of Christianity they can connect with.
Who It’s Not Really For …
– Those who have already read Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett and Harris. I like McGrath so when the book was offered, I immediately signed up for it content not knowing much about it. That said, this book is not a particularly helpful if you have already read “The Four Horsemen”. For those interested in the “new atheists”, I would suggest that you start off reading this first.
But I too, am not convinced the “New Atheists” are going to be around much longer (I think much of it has to do with book branding and is similar to how publishing trends work within the Christian culture as well). As McGrath argues that particular monicker and the movement is expiring. Atheism/agnosticism will stick around and probably have a different look similar to how Christianity takes on different expressions, especially within particular cultures and subcultures. This is the sub-title and the premise of the book but at times it feels lost in the summaries of the claims and brief refutations of new atheism.
What I Liked
– For years, I have appreciated the mind of Alister McGrath. Not sure this book will make anyone a reader of Alister, he has some amazing stuff out there but the reader gets to appreciate a sound mind.
– I liked that he made distinctions between Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris. There’s a lot to Hitchens in particular that I do appreciate. And there’s a lot to Harris that I don’t.
– I liked that he attempted not to “villainize.” Frankly, I think he did an adequate job on that. Apologetics always comes across as harsh to me but I get that he’s critiquing people’s work and that tone is part of the deal. He’s probably using much more restraint than I’ll ever know. And it’s likely far kinder and better than any treatment he has received from his critics so kudos for turning the other cheek.
– I liked the chapter on Violence – When Religion Goes Wrong. I’m very interested in the subject of violence and religion and thought that McGrath did a great job.
– I also did not know the sub-plot to how the new atheists like Dawkins in particular got criticized by his supporters. Similar to how Christian leaders get attacked on the blogsphere, I thought the story of the shutting down of the Dawkins forum, the reaction and then Dawkin’s reaction was very interesting.
What I Wasn’t Sure About
– Admittedly, I was bored in the beginning. Having read Hitchens/Dawkins and having been bored by Harris, I’m not the target audience for the first third of the book. But obviously, you need to begin my setting the context and Alister does a great job introducing newbies to the scene.
– There were a few times throughout the book that I was wondering why did Alister publish this? If the new atheists are “running on empty”, why not let them fizzle out? That said, this book works for those occasions when you are sitting at a coffee house, pub or holiday gathering and someone talks about The God Delusion. It’s not Sunday School curriculum, it’s not sermonic and in my opinion is not small group material. (For a serious small group study, I would suggest reading Hitchen’s God Is Not Great or Dawkins and then reading one of the many refutations, like God Is Great, God Is Good or Alister’s Dawkins Delusion would be an interesting and likely, a great experience.
I liked the book as it went on and by the end I thought to myself it was worthy giving to those in a different part of the conversation – namely those still intrigued by the arguments of people like Hitchens. So what I am saying is, if you thought it was a good idea to give The Case of Christ by Lee Strobel to a skeptic friend, Why God Won’t Go Away could be helpful to those interested in “new atheism.”