Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? by Alister E. McGrath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As I picked up The God Delusion a few years ago, I have to say I was intimated. Richard Dawkins is well-known and well-established as not only an atheist and intellectual, but he is also a sort of crusader for the cause of New Atheism. While I do not doubt his intellect, his arguments against there being a God (we can’t explain Him, we can’t ascertain His origin, we can’t locate Him) and against religion in general (all religion leads to violence) are laughable at best.
In extremely accessible language, Alister McGrath finds these and other gaping holes in the New Atheist rhetoric. These are not your typical atheists. While classic atheism simply argued against any sort of “higher power” and practiced religious tolerance, often even embracing it for its propagation of morality and community, the New Atheists see religion as only leading us off a cliff.
A few months ago I wrote a post in response to the lecture that I witnessed at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. The talk was titled “The Ultimate Proof of Creation,” but was actually an attack on the moral character of atheists. Seated among a predominantly atheist audience, I was appalled and embarrassed at what was being said. In my post I made quite a feeble attempt at a response, but wrote out of anger and with a lack of substance.
In the lecture, Dr. Jason Lisle asserted that there is no morality outside of Christianity, and further that an atheist has absolutely no reason to be moral because he does not believe in God. As the king of logical fallacies, Dr. Lisle has been stewed in his own soup with this assertion. It is quite easy, in fact, to discount his claim and give full credence to the atheist on her ability to choose to do the right thing in every circumstance without God’s divine direction.
Since I am writing more specifically about Christianity again, it has come to light that for some readers that there are those who troll around these parts who are not Christian. We may be able to call some ex-Christian, but there are distinctive differences in the way that we all perceive matters of faith.
So as part of that exercise, I have devised a poll which comes directly from Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Below the poll are his given definitions for each number on the scale. Dawkins actually sees himself as a 6! I am reserving my response until we have others to start us off.
In modern, mainline, American Christianity, the concept of purpose seems to have become synonymous with a fulfilling life in Christ. No doubt it feels really good to think that, in the words of Rick Warren, “[I am] not an accident and [I] matter to history and to the universe.” But when I stand outside at night and I look up at the clear sky and see the thousands of stars that I am capable of seeing with my naked eyes, I have to wonder if we are just deluding ourselves thinking that way.
Inspired by an earlier conversation, here are two opposing views on the subject of “purpose.”
Way back in 2006, the John Templeton Foundation published the results of its study on prayer and its effect on people who were suffering from major heart conditions and undergoing heart surgery. The study was double-blind and used a control group. Two groups were chosen, one of which were prayed for and the other which was not, but neither were told which group they were in. A third group served as a control were prayed for and told this.
After 2.4 million dollars invested from the Templeton Foundation and 2.3 million invested from the federal government, here are the results:
- More people (59%) in the control group suffered more complications than in the groups who did not know if they were being prayed for (51%).
- 18% of those in the uninformed prayer group suffered major complications (including heart attack) as compared to 13% in the group that did not receive prayers.
These results have precedent: the New York Times reports on a study done in 1997 studied 40 alcoholics in recovery. Those who were prayed for did worse than those who were not.