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

I have just finished Alister McGrath’s new book, “Why God Won’t Go Away; Is The New Atheism Running on Empty?” In this book, scholar, historian, and theologian McGrath introduces the reader to a group of anti-theists known as “New Atheists”. New Atheism is defined as “an enthusiastic advocation of atheism and a scathing criticism of both religious belief and cultural respect for religion.” McGrath identifies two kinds of atheism. The first is Apathetic Atheism. This group takes the position that says “I don’t believe in God”. They feel no real need to defend their beliefs and have no serious heartburn with organized religion and faith. The second group is known as Committed Atheists. This group takes the position that says “God does not exist”. They have reasons for their beliefs and possess a desire to make those reasons known to all. New Atheism falls in this second category, but goes farther. They do not tolerate religion and believe that apathetic and committed atheists are “cowards”. New Atheism is aggressive and, as McGrath says, “militant” in nature. He says, “The New Atheists make rationality one of its core defining characteristics and emphatically and aggressively denies that any alternative view can be regarded as rational.”

Why God Won’t Go Away is divided into three sections. In the first section, he introduces the reader to the four leading voices of the New Atheism: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. He also lists their recent works and how they have contributed to this movement. In the second part, McGrath focuses on and unpacks the core themes of violence, reason, and science. It is here that he exposes the flaws in the New Atheism movement. Thirdly, McGrath explores the question, “Where does the New Atheism go from here?” It is here that he chronicles the decent of New Atheism from the mainstream and how it is losing traction with its original and sympathetic audience.

I really appreciate McGrath’s method of writing in this book. He was kind and fair while giving a solid rebuttal to New Atheism. He has chosen to take the high road in his explanation and handling of this movement. This makes the book work. “Why God Won’t Go Away” is well written, researched, and presented. He has succeeded in pointing out the internal problems of New Atheism and their reluctance to have an open mind. McGrath’s subtitle asks the question, “Is New Atheism Running on Empty?” I believe he has answered that in the positive. I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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