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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Conversation Starter with Non-Christian Friends
Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism is a small book packed with big ideas. Co-authored by the eminent law professor, Philip E. Johnson (Darwin on Trial) and professor of philosophy, John Mark Reynolds (When Athens Met Jerusalem), this volume engages with the cultural influence of the so-called `New Atheists', folks like Richard Dawkins, Chris...
Published on June 6, 2010 by Stephen

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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My Review of this book in Books and Culture
The following article is located at: [...]
Against All Gods

How best to respond to the New Atheists.

Benjamin B. DeVan | posted 9/30/2010

When asked for my position on the Creationism/Evolution spectrum, I usually punt to the television series, Friends. In Season 2, Episode 3, "The One Where Mr. Heckles Dies," Ross the paleontologist...
Published on October 5, 2010 by Benjamin B. DeVan


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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Conversation Starter with Non-Christian Friends, June 6, 2010
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This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism is a small book packed with big ideas. Co-authored by the eminent law professor, Philip E. Johnson (Darwin on Trial) and professor of philosophy, John Mark Reynolds (When Athens Met Jerusalem), this volume engages with the cultural influence of the so-called `New Atheists', folks like Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. It is the authors' contention that even though the New Atheists' attitude towards theism and Christianity in particular is overwhelmingly hostile and their conclusions incorrect, they are asking the right questions. Johnson and Reynolds happily point out that these attacks have made belief in any religion an issue again for public debate and so rather than be disheartened we Christians should seize this opportunity to present and defend the Gospels within the intellectual arena.

Johnson authors the first five essays along with the introduction and epilogue and Reynolds contributes the remaining three essays. I will not discuss all eight essays, but merely my five favorites (3 by Johnson, 2 by Reynolds) Johnson introduces the New Atheism as old arguments whose only new element is the evangelical fervor with which their advocates preach the gospel of disbelief, actively seeking converts. Not content with simply overthrowing belief in the existence of God, the New Atheists view theism as a malevolent force that ought to be stamped out entirely to make way for an atheistic utopia, founded according to the providences of secular reason and scientific naturalism. Ironically, Johnson welcomes such a blistering attack because for far too long, religion has been largely ignored within academia as a subject not worth talking about anymore. Johnson thinks it better by far to have religion again on the table, even if the atheists' intent is to prepare the body for burial.

Johnson's first essay, Introducing the New Atheists portrays them rather charitably as clear-eyed pugilists who have taken their gloves off and declared they have had enough of the scientific establishment's wimpy appeasement policy of assuring society that religion and science are compatible. They think the time has come to face reality and recognize that in light of the fact of Darwinian evolution, there is no longer any reason to go on believing in any God(s). The sooner we grow up and accept that the universe is a brute fact without purpose or design, that it is indifferent to humanity, that morality is an illusion, that love and compassion are merely chemical mixtures in the brain without any greater intrinsic significance, that the works of Bach and Shakespeare are merely noises and markings on a page; and that the human animal is nothing more than a genetically programmed, complex meat machines without free will or a soul - the sooner we accept all these facts about reality, the better off we will all be. Any more pandering to this dangerous God delusion is detrimental to scientific advancement and society as a whole.

We have to hand it to these self-proclaimed `Brights'. At least they are bold enough to state what they believe....well, sort of what they believe. The New Atheists tend to be rather inconsistent on the subject of morality. Given their absolute insistence that morality is merely an illusion foisted upon us by our genes to trick us into cooperating with each other, it is amusing to note the righteous contempt with which Dawkins and Hitchens repeatedly decry the `immoral' acts of the Christian God, whom they condemn as a genocidal tyrant.

Johnson points out that in fact, such vitriolic denouncements of religion by these atheist crusaders pose more of a threat to the reigning scientific institutional authorities than to Christianity. Christians are rather accustomed to attack, having been thrown to the lions or hurled from the Bastille for centuries. Rather, it is the `mandarins' of science that face a serious problem. If they endorse the New Atheists' campaign to persuade the public of Darwinism's necessarily atheistic metaphysics, it will look as though they have been lying to the public for decades with their constant assurances that science and nonfundamentalist religion are compatible. (page 22) Moreover, if enough scientists join the Atheistic Soul-less Train, the scientific establishment could not disavow the movement without facing a revolt in their own camp. (page 23)
Johnson welcomes the bold position adopted by the New Atheists because he would like to see the contested issues regarding the relationship between science and atheism analyzed fairly and thoroughly by our universities. Only by a genuine intellectual confrontation between competing viewpoints can we hope to arrive at the truth over whether Darwinian science and theistic religion are incompatible. Let us leave the conduct of such analysis to the scholars and students in the classroom, says Johnson, rather than leave it in the hands of some federal judge to rule that only one position may be considered (page 25).

Johnson's second essay, entitled, Harvard's Aborted Requirement in Reason and Faith, chronicles passionately Darwinist Harvard psychology professor and popular author Steven Pinker's successful campaign to block a proposed required course on the relationship of faith to reason. He claimed his objection on the basis that such a course would place superstition on the same level as reason as parallel and equivalent ways of pursuing knowledge. Pinker argued a university should be devoted to reason only and that faith belongs in religious institutions. (page 28)

Clearly, Pinker does not accept that there are any good reasons either in philosophy or science to believe that God exists and thus why he refers to religious belief as superstition. Johnson exposes the fact that Pinker has, in the typical fashion of naturalistic rationalists, oversimplified the subject. He has identified "faith' with religion, "thus wrongly assuming that the only faith of any importance is faith in a supernatural being" (page 32) and that some people rely on faith and some people rely solely on reason. Pinker fails to recognize that everybody has faith and everybody reasons. (page 34)

Naturalists, for example, have an absolute faith in a philosophical doctrine that says that our universe is a closed system of cause and effects in which every conceivable natural phenomenon is explicable on the basis of some combination of chemical laws and chance. (page 34) Such scientists believe that the successes of science fully justifies their holding these beliefs with absolute certainty such that they eliminate the idea of `faith' in naturalism entirely from their vocabulary, but instead view naturalism as a defining example of reason. (page 35)

For Johnson, the truth of the matter is that having the right kind of faith is not an alternative to reason, but an essential element of reason. Having faith is not wrong, so long as the object in which it is placed is worthy of such faith. Johnson argues that the total inability of science to even begin to explain the origins of life or the universe in purely naturalistic terms, whilst simultaneously refusing to countenance the compelling evidence for Intelligent Design, is evidence of a dogmatic faith in the truth of Darwinism that runs counter to reason and evidence.

"Darwinism may refer either to a specific theory of biology or to an episteme, a way of thinking about things in general," (page 49) When teaching the theory of evolution, the student must first adopt the `correct' worldview, which is to say, a purely naturalistic worldview. (page 50) Otherwise, the evidence for the theory will not be persuasive. The student must first be indoctrinated in the belief that science is the supreme and only arbiter of what is true and that the first great commandment of science is that the world is devoid of an Intelligent Creator, but rather is composed "only of material causes that act on each other according to physical laws or chance." (page 50) Scientific knowledge of the universe is incomplete but metaphysical certainty about the absence of a Designer is absolute. According to Darwinism, only when the student has fully converted to the naturalistic paradigm can she begin to learn about the world. (page 50)

Dawkins and Johnson agree on little but they are united in disparaging theistic evolution on the grounds that the theistic evolutionist does not understand the full implications of the Darwinian hypothesis. (page 51) The main spokesman for theistic evolutionism, Dr. Frances Collins, is essentially trying to have his cake and eat it too. He accepts Darwinian evolution in biology, yet appeals outside of biology, to cosmology and to a universal sense of morality, to try and reclaim the universe for theism. Johnson agrees with Dawkins that this "maneuver fails to explain how it can be consistent for a biologist to insist on employing only naturalistic reasoning in biology and then employ theistic reasoning in physics." (page 52) An unguided, Darwinian process cannot have a Designer guiding the process from behind the scenes. A guided, unguided process is simply a guided process and thus not Darwinian evolution.

If as Dawkins argues, the Darwinian hypothesis is correct, in other words, if natural selection "really does explain the whole of life, then we should expect it to explain the entire scope of life, including human behavior and human beliefs about God or anything else" (page 53) then Darwinism fully assimilated, "is a kind of philosophical `universal acid' that eats away...every traditional concept...including the container that was meant to hold it." (page 54) Therein lies the irony of self-contradiction: the Darwinian acid dissolves metaphysical concepts of universal truth, yet affirms itself as a revolutionized worldview that presents a true portrait of reality.

Johnson observes the bizarre lack of self-awareness on the part of those that un-skeptically embrace the Darwinian worldview. It has become its own dogma. The one subject "to which the corrosive Darwinian method is never applied is Darwinism itself, which is too cherished to be subjected to such undignified investigation." (page 55) It is the bedrock of reality, the one unchanging reality that provides solid ground as the acid of reduction dissolves everything around it.

In spite however, of the dominance of Darwinism that has come about not by experimental confirmation, but by confidant assertion, Johnson is optimistic. Studies show that theism is on the rise in institutions of higher learning that were formerly bastions of secularism. (page 59) New generations of young, educated theists are growing dissatisfied with the often illogical and certainly unproven assertions of the Darwinian worldview and are examining the evidence themselves. Johnston is confidant that such close examination of the evidence, coupled with open-minded discussion within the classroom can only lead to the toppling of the Darwinian worldview from its rickety pedestal. (page 58-59)

John Mark Reynolds takes up The Obstacle of Reading Old Books and provides a persuasive critique of the failure of the New Atheists to engage with the books, education and culture of Christians, resulting in miscommunication. Though the authors eagerly wish for dialogue between theists and non-theists, such a dialogue cannot take place if it begins with "ignorance of what Christians believe or that has no respect for Christian accomplishments." (page 69)

Reynolds believes that one of the biggest obstacles to such dialogue is linguistical. It is all very well for Dawkins and others to criticize the Bible, but the attacks so far have demonstrated their lack of knowledge of how to engage with ancient texts. They read the Bible, demanding that its values be congruent with their 21st century, western sensibilities. It is as though Dawkins opens the Bible and cries aloud his indignation when what he finds is not a two thousand year old draft of A.C. Grayling's latest ethics column in the weekend edition of The Guardian newspaper.

The Bible is not a simple book, but rather a collection of 66 books written over a long period of time, in many different genres. The New Atheists do not appreciate, or do not seem to care, that critiquing the Bible requires an understanding of the context, genre and culture in which these books were written.

Moreover, "liking a particular work and recognizing greatness in it are two different things. It is easy to despise what we don't like, since it gives us an excuse not to bother with hard work, but the Bible isn't going away," (page 71) It has survived thousands of years of critics and inspired some of the greatest works of art ever conceived. When properly understood, the Bible is a stunning work of art and literature.

Inerrancy is a tricky subject. Christians believe that the Bible is God-breathed, but it is also the work of human beings doing the actual writing. If it is what it claims to be, the Bible is God's self-disclosure to humanity of a universal message. Humanity, however, is still limited by "their finitude, folly and foibles." (page 71)

Reynolds then gives us suggestions on how to read the Bible, starting by taking note of its genre and cultural context, and coming to the Bible with an open mind. He explains that hermeneutics is the field dedicated to helping people read books, both old and new and that hermeneutics suggests a few key questions to help in reading old books better. These include understanding who the original audience was, what genre the books are written in, when it was written, in what setting and what is the central message of what the author is trying to say? Finally, he thinks we should ask, "What if the central message is true? Assuming it's true, what are the implications for my life?" (page 72)

Reynolds believes it is vital that we cultivate the ability to get inside of books and find out what they are all about. He criticizes Dawkins' obvious lack of interest in Biblical hermeneutics and resulting shallow, rhetorical attacks on Biblical ethics, which sadly some peoplefind persuasive because like Dawkins they are not inclined to learn how to read the Bible for all its worth.

Any ancient book, argues Reynolds, is worthy of consideration if it "has stood the test of time; describes the human condition plausibly; and is beautifully written, but also challenging." (page 81) He then goes on to explain how the Bible fits those criteria. The Bible claims to be God's self-expression to the world. Reynolds exhorts us to vigorously explore the Bible, to challenge it, to ask questions of it, but to apply oneself to the text in accordance with the criteria summarized above. Millions of people have come to the conclusion after having wrestled with and questioned this difficult book that it is the living word of God. Reynolds challenges us to do the same for, "the Bible is infused with the Holy Spirit and needs no other defender, but with the high courtesy of heaven this living book does wait for readers with questions." (page 83)

In Christianity and Beauty, Reynolds responds to Hitchens' implacably hostile assertions that religion is harmful and that Christianity holds back civilization from reaching its full potential. To help "sell" this myth "is the promise that secularism will finally allow total personal freedom, especially in the are of sexuality." (page 102)

Reynolds makes the excellent and overlooked point that Christian apologists often miss the alluring power of the myth of secularism when debating with secularists. As his casestudy, he refers to the 2009 debate between William Lane Craig and Chris Hitchens, which was held at Biola University. I have viewed this debate many times on DVD and I agree with Reynolds that though Craig thrashed Hitchens using logic and evidences as they pertained to the topic, `Does God Exist', Hitchens may well have appeared the more attractive presenter in the eyes of many people. Craig came ready to argue the existence of God but Hitchens showed up ready to tell a story about the evils of religion. He had virtually nothing to say in retaliation to Craig's arguments but he had the opportunity to peddle the secularist myth. Craig mostly ignored this narrative, focusing only on those parts that directly pertained to his arguments.

It is hard to fault Craig for doing so. This was a debate and by sticking to the issues, Craig was doing exactly what he ought to have done. For those that came to hear the arguments for and against the existence of God, he easily carried the night. Apologists for both Christianity and atheism largely agree on this. One atheist blogger remarked that, "frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a spoilt child." Interestingly however, that atheist blogger failed to appreciate along with his theistic counterparts the seductive power of Hitchens' case.

Elsewhere, Reynolds has argued that the world is divided between `Roundheads' and `Cavaliers'. Roundheads are problem-solvers. They tend to think pragmatically. When they see a problem, they look for a practical solution. They are often engineers, lawyers and doctors. On the other hand, you have the Cavaliers that focus more on the heart and emotions. They tend to see their lives in terms of a story. They are the poets, the writers, the story-tellers of the world. Neither person is `wrong' - they just see the world differently and both need the other as a stabilizing counterbalance.

The Roundhead, be he theist or atheist, can appreciate Craig's style of methodical argumentation, even if he disagrees with Craig's arguments. The Cavalier however, may have found the compelling secular story that Hitchens presented to be the more forceful presentation on the question of God's existence, even though Hitchens provided virtually no evidence in support of his narrative and barely tried to address Craig's evidence for theism.

If I could give only one reason as to why Against All Gods is worth reading, it would be the value of this chapter. Reynolds takes up Hitchens' narrative that was left largely untouched in the debate and provides a theistic narrative that refutes the secular myth and illustrates the beauty of the Christian worldview. He shows us the contributions of Christianity as a civilizing force for good, a worldview that promoted aesthetic values, provided the basis for the moral and ethical virtues that we take for granted today; and laid the foundation for all scientific achievement. Reynolds then tears down Hitchens' assertions that secularism has or could have achieved these same things. Reynolds points out how secularism fails to provide any ontological foundation for morality, how it simply asserts that we can be good but provides no meaningful reason for man to do so if he has the means and opportunity to do otherwise. (pages 102-112)

Christianity teaches that man is made in the Image of God and therefore all men are equal in God's eyes. Secularism is happy to crib that notion from Christianity, but can provide no philosophically defensible reason as to why we should think all men are equal if we are simply evolved primates with varying capacities, talents and mental abilities in a cold universe indifferent to human moral choices.

It is one thing for Hitchens to recognize that human rights are an objectively good thing, it is quite another for him to try and justify that position having declared the universe to be devoid of purpose, design or objective morality. Time and time again, this has been pointed out to him (by Craig, Wilson, D'Sousa and many others) and yet still he continues to peddle the straw man argument that theists do not believe we can be good without belief in God. The real issue that Hitchens refuses to address and cannot answer is: Given the atheist position that morality is merely a subjective illusion, what is his justification for claiming something is right or wrong; and, why should his subjective perception of right and wrong create obligations on anyone else?'

Reynolds ends the chapter by acknowledging that there has been great ugliness within both secularist (Communist Russia) and theistic regimes. Only the theist however has an ontologically defensible, objective standard from which behavior can be said to be deviating from. At the same time, he calls for compassion and dialogue between believer and non-believer. The Christian is called to listen to the doubts of others, question his own faith and ultimately deepen his relationship with God through an examined faith. (page 112-113)

The authors of Against All Gods write in a style that is whimsical, clear and respectful but their content is intended to inspire much debate. I would recommend this book to anyone, particularly my non-Christian friends as it provides great starting points for our further discussion.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief but illuminating, November 12, 2010
By 
Paul Vjecsner (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
The authors make frank admissions of their restricted knowledge, but a good case for reliance on faith in all life's endeavors where knowledge is absent.

Phillip Johnson writes (p.33): "Scientists in particular have to be men and women of faith... To be successful, scientists have to learn not to allow difficulties to destroy their confidence... Yet there is a limit. Sometimes repeated failure is a sign that reaching a goal by the means one has been using truly is impossible... Alchemists had faith that they could transform base metals to gold, but their persistence after lifetimes of failure made them seem ridiculous rather than heroic. I sometimes think of alchemy when reading of the constantly unsuccessful efforts of modern scientists to determine how nonliving chemicals combined by natural means on the early Earth to form the first living cells."

Correspondingly, he writes (p.34): "many scientists today have an absolute faith in naturalism". "On this assumption every natural phenomenon, like the origin of life, for example, is securely known to be explicable on the basis of natural causes accessible to scientific investigation--some combination of chemical laws and chance, to be more specific."

I may add further thoughts here. "[C]ombination of chemical laws and chance" is itself confusing, inasmuch as "chance" is equally the expression of such laws. However, science's presumption of "natural" causes as confined to physical or chemical laws consists of an enormous oversight. The very subject of life concerned here exhibits a natural phenomenon unexplained by only physical or chemical laws, which are understood as undirected and therefore excluding the possibility of goal-directedness, purpose, in nature. That phenomenon, which in fact distinguishes life, is the property of being directed at the goal of self-preservation, in contrast to the lifeless. It is a characteristic totally overlooked in the disputes, perhaps because it is right under our noses, and I have been trying to call attention to it though it remains a blind spot.

Author Reynolds is exceptionally candid in saying about themselves as authors (p.113): "Both of us have our doubts..." Perhaps their arguments are too narrow, by concerning Christians versus atheists. It would be more inclusive to speak about theism opposite atheism. Then there is no need to defend a particular faith, but a general concept of God as one who has goals, purposes, for his creatures. The preceding should help in this direction.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Aid for Atheist Self-Criticism, April 20, 2010
This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
Toward the end of Against All Gods, Phillip Johnson writes this: "[E]very position about the nature of life and its origin has difficulties. Therefore, the question is not whether we can find a position that has no difficulties, but rather, which set of difficulties we prefer to embrace."

For several years now, the "New Atheists" have highlighted what they believe are the "difficulties" in theistic worldviews, especially the Christian theistic worldview. For many of them, rationality is more or less identical to the deliverances of science, and what science delivers most clearly is evolution. Since evolution explains the biological complexity of the universe without reference to God, God is an unnecessary hypothesis. Continuing belief in him, then, is an exercise of irrational faith.

Johnson and Reynolds push back against these conclusions by pointing out several difficulties within the "Darwinian worldview" itself. Among other things, they point out that faith is not irrational. Rather, it is human, a necessary component for all human intellectual endeavors. Further, the deliverances of science cannot determine once for all the nonexistence of God since those deliverances shift over time. Also, if the Darwinian worldview acts as a "universal acid" on traditional beliefs - the phrase is Daniel Dennett's - then it acts as a universal acid on all beliefs. If there is an evolutionary explanation for belief in God, then there is also an evolutionary explanation for belief in evolution. If the evolutionary explanation invalidates the former, it invalidates the latter as well.

One needn't agree with Johnson and Reynolds' Christian theism, as I do, to appreciate the difficulties with atheism they raise in this small book. But surely at least one of the goals of a liberal arts education should be self-criticism: knowing what's doubtful about one's own position. For years, criticism of theism has been an implicit and explicit part of a liberal arts education on many college campuses. Taking the first steps toward criticism of atheism in the same way would be a sign of educational progress.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good groundwork for discussion, April 5, 2010
This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
This book is quick, enjoyable, and helpful enough that anyone interested in discussing the competing worldviews of naturalism and theism ought to read it. Johnson and Reynolds obviously know which side of the debate they are on, but this book is more of a primer the debate than a showcase of the debate itself. Johnson spends the first five chapters focusing on ways that the New Atheists are moving a bit too fast and loose in their arguments. He claims that they are both developing their own worldview without scrutinizing its foundations, and then criticizing other worldviews without understanding their foundations. Of course, the same might be said of some branches of theism, but this book serves as a primer on debate through a light critique of the New Atheists, so it is only natural the New Atheists supply the examples. Reynolds then goes on to provide a more positive account of how the New Atheists could give their intellectual foils a fairer hearing, namely, by giving due regard for sensible interpretations of Scripture and accepting the historically positive influence of religion on society and education. Though Reynolds' portion feels more like traditional apologetics, I would say that it still falls under the project's scope of being a primer--after all, if you don't respect your opponent or know how to listen to them, you can never argue with them. By the end, you can really sense that these two professors are gentlemen, and that the public square could benefit from their cue.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An immensely Clever Book, May 10, 2010
By 
A. Morgan (Virginia, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
This is a clever little book. Johnson and Reynolds are not writing an apologetic, or polemic against the wave of New Atheism (although they do not agree with it.) What this book does is to call out Scientists and Universities to seriously study the claims of new atheism and to scrutinise it's arguments. And this is the reason the authors and this book are very clever.

The new atheist movement is on the offensive. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchen's are not just atheists - but they have become evangelical atheists. They have moved from not believing in God, to actively trying to bring down theism as a rational position. They have moved from saying religion is a waste of time, to religion is evil.

Yet the authors of this book argue that while they disagree with the conclusions of the new atheists, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchin's are asking the right questions. They are bringing the issue to the forefront. And this is a GOOD thing for the authors of this book. Why? Because it will force universities and scientists to engage with the claims of the new atheists. Dawkins especially, has pushed the boundary of what science is beyond the comfort zone of many scientists. Would the scientific world endorse Dawkins claim (scientifically) that the logic of Darwinism supports atheism, or that the answer to cosmic fine tuning is in fact that there are a huge number of alternative universes? Surely this has left the discipline of empirical science and entered philosophical speculation.

For me this book throws down a challenge to the scientific and academic world. The challenge is - "Please - engage with New Atheism, and it's claims vigorously. Make Dawkin, Harris and Hitchin's defend their position. Compare it with scientists who accept intelligent design as well as the claims and teachings of Christianity and then make your mind up. Please, let's have an open, fair, deep and impartial examination."

As the authors suggest, if this were to happen, this will mean that for the first time new atheists will have to defend their position rather than merely taking skeptical shots at christianity.

Very clever! And Highly recommended!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy contribution to the conversation, May 12, 2010
This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
Phillip E. Johnson has long been considered one of the leading figures in the intelligent design movement, due in large part to his book Darwin On Trial. His familiarity with both intelligent design and the various manifestations of evolution makes him a prime candidate to take on the new atheists and their age-old arguments. In Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism he is joined by John Mark Reynolds and the result, while lean in size at 116 pages, is anything but lean in content.

Though this book is a response to the charges leveled by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the like, you will not find a point by point rebuttal. Rather, this book is what Johnson and Reynolds consider their contribution to the conversation. After all, they point out, "although they tend to give the wrong answers, they also tend to raise the right questions". This book is written in a very accessible manner and will make a good introduction to the conversation for all but those most unfamiliar with the topics at hand.

If there is one thing that complicates the Johnson/Reynolds side of the conversation, it's in the co-writing of the book. Phillip E. Johnson writes the introduction and chapters one through five then hands it off to John Mark Reynolds for three chapters before returning for the epilogue. There is certainly a shift in style and expertise--not for the worse, but it certainly breaks the flow.

In not simply answering a laundry list of challenges from the new atheists, Johnson and Reynolds refuse to let the terms of the debate be set for them. All in all, Johnson and Reynolds have made a well-reasoned defense for the continued conversation between the two camps.

This was a free review book provided by InterVarsity Press.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let the Light of Reason Shine on Non-theism, May 21, 2010
This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
Don't hate Phillip Johnson because he's a persuasive intellectual: There are ample and more legitimate grounds to have an aversion to him.

Of course I'm just kidding. He's the lawyer who has applied keen observation in refuting Darwinism. He's written numerous bestselling books. He's been a powerful critical thinking advocate. He helped birth the ID movement. So, seriously, he doesn't need anyone else publicly loathing him and his work.

Herein Professor Johnson (graduate of Harvard/U. of Chicago Law School; law clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren; University of California, Berkeley professor emeritus; authored: Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance, The Wedge of Truth) and John Mark Reynolds (Ph.D., U. of Rochester; founder: Torrey Honors Institute; professor of philosophy Biola University) entreat readers to advance a rightful scrutiny of modern atheism. The authors advocate public discussion of worldviews and the rational pre-commitments they are tethered too; let the light of reason shine on all the facts, presuppositions, and arguments related to the debate over atheism.

The authors provide helpful rational tools and the strategies required to prevail during the debate in the marketplace of ideas. Prof. Johnson and Dr. Reynolds demonstrate that the pugnacious atheists attempt to evangelize the non-atheists with ideas that are philosophically weak and epistemically self-stultifying.

With precision and scholarly aptitude they approach the evidence and the worldview grid of unbelief as they deliver a compelling case for truth and openness which only theism rationally underwrites.
see my Apologetic book that contends for God's existence
Truth, Knowledge and the Reason for God: The Defense of the Rational Assurance of Christianity
or prove theism by using Moral Absolutes:
There Are Moral Absolutes: How to Be Absolutely Sure That Christianity Alone Supplies
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Like Surprising Ideas, Don't You?, July 31, 2010
By 
Daniel L. Marler (Oak Lawn, IL, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
"Against All Gods" deals with questions which are raised by the "New Atheists" and in particular it deals with the naturalistic presuppositions at the root of their bold assertions. Many books refuting the new atheism are now available but this one has something special that the other books don't have: Phillip E. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson has an outstanding ability to cut through the tactics of his intellectual opponents, get to the root of their arguments, dissect their arguments, and then reveal the flaws and inconsistencies in their thinking. He is a brilliant thinker--even, at times a "surprising" thinker, like when he mentions what he LIKES about Richard Dawkins (he has a lovely singing voice, you know)--and he combines his sharp thinking with effective communication skills.

For example, Johnson addresses the reality that Darwinism has become something of a "grand narrative" nowadays, among intellectuals. And it is applied as a "corrosive force" to every field of study and philosophy and worldview. But then Johnson makes this insightful observation:

"The one subject to which the corrosive Darwinian method is never applied is Darwinism itself, which is too cherished to be subjected to such undignified investigation. It must be a rock of certainty, while everything else is dissolved into shifting sand by the acid of reductionism. In consequence, the possibility that Darwinism itself is a product of brain chemistry rather than reason is never mentioned, much less featured on the cover of Time [magazine]."

He goes on, "When you hold a dominating position of unquestioned epistemic superiority, you do not need to debate rivals on equal terms, because it is safer and more devastating to sweep them away by explaining them in the language of your own paradigm."

What a great insight! (Although, I suspect those who disagree with him wouldn't like the uncomfortable truth he points out.)

I've read most of Phillip Johnson's books--at least the ones that are written for lay audiences--and have found them to be very interesting, very helpful, and intellectually profound.

Three chapters in "Against All Gods" were written by Dr. John Mark Reynolds. The way that I've carried on about Phillip Johnson might lead one to believe that I was unimpressed with Dr. Reynolds' contributions. But that's not true. Reynolds' chapters are interesting and helpful, as well--especially the parts where he includes lengthy quotes by Phillip Johnson. (Come on, that's a joke. I'm kidding.)

Reynolds' tone is irenic and even, at times, gracious. Like Johnson, he hands a compliment or two to the new atheists for their contribution to opening up an important and necessary discussion of God. He writes, "The best thing about the new atheists is that they are starting some good conversations."

I especially enjoyed Reynolds' chapter which described how to read "Old Books". (I immediately took out my high school yearbook and applied some of the principles.)

"Against All Gods" is interesting, it is well-written and it effectively communicates insightful, well-reasoned thinking.

Dan Marler
Oak Lawn, IL
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A top pick for any intrigued with the modern religious debate, June 12, 2010
This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
In railing against faith, some atheists become the very thing they speak out against. "Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong about the New Atheism" discusses the modern atheist movement, bringing forth a scholarly debate and how many atheists are hurting the cause arguing with weak or false information, putting religion to the stake a bit too harshly. "Against All Gods" is a fascinating read, and a top pick for any intrigued with the modern religious debate.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read today, April 2, 2010
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This review is from: Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism (Paperback)
Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism is the latest book by Phillip Johnson and John Reynolds. Books written by more than one person always cause one to wonder which parts were written by each author. This is solved in this work because each chapter gives the author. The best chapter is The Darwinian Worldview by Johnson because it gets to the heart of the whole creation, evolution, intelligent design controversy as read by the public. These views are worldviews and, as such, color the way one sees reality. Johnson shows that the religion and science labels and dichotomizes, thus distorts, the whole controversy. The reason for this book, as Johnson explains, is some scientists are no longer content to defend their view but have decided that belief in God is an evil that can no longer be tolerated. He then supports and defends this conclusion, one that is no longer hard to defend today, given the so-called new atheists. The issue now is all too often tolerance.
One excellent point is the new atheists agree with many Intelligent Design supporters and creationists on one major point: Darwinism and theism are openly and irreconcilably contradictory. Evolutionary biologist and geneticist Francisco Ayala of the University of California, Irvine, who was just awarded the 1.5 million Templeton prize, and may others, argue that science and religion are two different non-overlapping disciplines. Science is fact and religion is faith. Science describes reality, religion is about what is good and bad. Against this view the new atheists argue that science has shown religion is wrong, falsified. Religion says God created us, science (and Ayala) says God had nothing to do with our existence. Natural forces, mutations, natural selection, chance and time can do it all. Johnson stresses that another good thing about the new atheists is they raise many of the the right questions. The common position among professors and others is the idea of God is not even wrong, not worth discussing. The new atheists show that the topic is well worth discussing and should not be swept under the rug as has been done for decades now. This book will be widely read and discussed.
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Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism
Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism by Phillip E. Johnson (Paperback - March 18, 2010)
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