Book Review: Why God Won’t Go Away by Alister McGrath

Yet I’ve noticed recently that all is not well within these virtual communities. They had an upbeat feel in the heady days of 2006 and 2007 when the New Atheism seemed to be like a bright new sun dawning on the world. But not now. Is a “crisis of faith” beginning to emerge?” – Pg. 41

A recent debate with atheists and memories of old debates with atheist family members gave rise to the yearning to learn more about atheism and it’s roots. Alister McGrath, a former atheist, holds the chair of theology, ministry, and education at King’s College London, “having previously held the chair of historical theology at Oxford University.” This atheist-turned-Christian challenges the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism.

The term New Atheism was invented in 2006. Gary Wolf was writing an article for Wired, a British magazine aimed at “smart, intellectually curious people who need, and want, to know what’s next.” Wolf was looking around for a snappy slogan to refer to a group of three men who’d attracted media attention through best-selling popular books advocating atheism: Sam Harris with The End of Faith (2004), Richard Dawkins with The God Delusion (2006), and Daniel Dennett with Breaking the Spell (2006)….In 2007, the New Atheism movement gained a new hero when Christopher Hitchens God is Not Great became the latest atheist best seller. The phrase the Four Horsemen began to be used to refer to these writers, who rapidly assumed celebrity status and are now collectively identified as the intellectual and cultural spearhead of the New Atheism.” – Pg. 3-4

McGrath engages the New Atheism in friendly fire. He’s objective, having read books and publications from atheist writers, and proceeds to tirelessly refute each of their objections with grounded reasoning. He uses historical context to show the harm of the New Atheism. The shocking agenda of the New Atheism and the lengths they would go to eradicate all religion from society shocks other athiests. “Even says Sam Harris, ‘some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.’ This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.”

Killing such people, he tells us, could be regarded as an act of self defense. The Inquisition, the Gestapo, the Taliban, and the KGB could not have put it better. To be honest, I found Harris’s statement to be morally repulsive.” – Pg. 10

The chapters are easy to follow, but you do have to read slowly. McGrath makes every sentence count and it reminds me of studying in school. There are two pages (front and back) of suggested “further reading” for those believers or atheists who choose to learn more, and 13 pages of notes detailing his sources. His index allows for readers to investigate certain phrasing without thumbing through the pages like I do in some book reviews. McGrath’s last chapter makes the New Atheism less threatening. Truth does not shy away from debate nor does it stick its head in the sand. Truth is open to discussion.

Book provided by publisher to review.
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