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God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens Paperback – February 15, 2008

3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The recent spate of books from atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and (most stridently) Christopher Hitchens has prompted many pundits and scholars to label the trend the New Atheism. Haught uses the term, but argues that there is nothing really new about the New Atheism; it is instead a rehashing of antireligious arguments that are as old as the Enlightenment. In fact, Haught criticizes the New Atheism as being theologically unchallenging, its all-or-nothing thinking representing about the same level of reflection on faith that one can find in contemporary creationist and fundamentalist literature. Haught draws upon theologians such as Tillich, Bultmann, Ricoeur, McFague and Pannenberg to refute some of the New Atheists' most common contentions. Through most of Haught's book, his approach is straight theism, with the exclusively or specifically Christian arguments coming near the end. Although this book is more accessible than some of Haught's earlier theological work (e.g., Is Nature Enough?), it is still challenging and serious; readers will need to follow scientific, theological, philosophical and logical threads to keep up. The reward is worth it, however, as Haught lays out the fundamental issues clearly and without the vitriol that has characterized Hitchens et al. as well as many of their interlocutors. (Feb.)
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About the Author

John F. Haught is Senior Fellow in Science and Religion at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D. C. One of the world's leading thinkers in the field of theology and science, Haught was Chair and Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown from 1970 to 2005. An international lecturer and prolific author, his books include Christianity and Science, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, and the prize-winning Deeper than Darwin: The Prospects for Religion in the Age of Evolution.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (February 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 066423304X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664233044
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #498,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Max Johnson on April 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Many of the negative reviewers of this book so clearly have their OWN agendas in mind that they simply miss the THREE POINTS Haught was trying to make in this concise little critical tome: 1) that the "New Atheists" aren't really so "new"; 2) that the "old" atheists were more insightful and much more consistent (in other words, the NA's are not very "good" atheists); and 3) That the New Atheists rely on "straw God" arguments and certain presuppositions about both the nature of religion and the nature of reality that are not THEMSELVES "scientific," and thus, are more akin to "religious faith' than they are to genuine scientific inquiry.

To those ends, Haught makes his case eloquently and definitively. The negative reviewers need to realize that this book does NOT attempt or CLAIM to be exhaustive (it's only 107 pages, people!), nor does it attempt to "answer" the new atheists with (what for Haught would be) a more "adequate" worldview (for that, you actually have to READ his systematic works on Evolutionary Theology: "God After Darwin," "Deeper Than Darwin," and "Christianity and Science: Toward a Theology of Nature." Only after reading these cogently argued works is one in a proper position to "critique" Haught.

The "personal" nature of some of the negative reviews is quite astonishing, and reveals more about the reviewers' LACK of familiarity with Haught's reputation and his rather extensive body of work than they do about Haught himself.
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Best brief response I've see to the "new atheists" who (1) not only limit their anti-religion arguments to attacks on literalists and fundamentalists while ignoring much more nuanced and intelligent understandings of faith, (2) but also insist that there is no religion other that literalistic fundamentalism; (3) assume without examination that naturalism is the only rational world view, and (4) lack both the candlepower and courage of significant atheists of previous eras who were willing to acknowledge the meaninglessness of life in a world without purpose. That they have made such a splash in our time says more about the ignorance and shallowness of readers than the quality of their thought. In terms of what they believe and they way they defend it, they are simply the mirror opposites of the fundamentalists they lampoon.
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A friend recommended Haught's work to me on this subject. Most books written contra the New Atheists are written by apologists (eg. Trent Horn's Answering Atheists). Haught's book is different as he writes as a theologian. For comparison, Edward Feser's rebuttal (the Last Superstition) on the other hand is a philosophical response. All three share many things in common, but each work shows a slightly different approach appropriate to the expertise of the author. Haught's main complaint is that the New Atheists share a major commonality with the fundementalist religions they debunk: they don't bother to even try to take engage with theology. This is as dishonest as someone who writes to debunk evolution who has never even bothered to become aquainted with the study of biology.
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I've read the books Haught objects to, this one got pretty good reviews on Amazon so I picked it up in hopes for a reasoned response from the "other side."

I was sorry to see so much patronizing, so many straw dogs and pot shots (e.g. "our ill-informed new athiests" ... know absolutely nothing of theology). Fair enough. Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens also do their sniping at times. But once I got over that I tried to find the substance of the book. Here is much of it, and all these points are repeated many times: (1) The new atheists are are not as rigorous as the old ones like Sartre, Nietzche, Camus. (2) They don't know anything about theology and (3) they rail against only the most extreme and fundamental religious beliefs, which Haught himself distances himself from. And (4) where new atheists rely on objective evidence for their beliefs, Haught asks "Can anyone prove objectively that the postulate of objectivity is true?" This last point was made again and again, and then he curiously developed it on page 74 where he simply explains that atheists differ from believers by trusting in the mind's ability to reason! Believers, he explains, allow themselves instead "to be grasped and carried away" by Faith, which he defines as "the inexhaustibly deep dimension of Being, Meaning, Truth, and Goodness." That was particularly disappointing, as he had just ridiculed Harris for defining Faith as "belief without evidence." I mean, is faith belief without evidence or isn't it?

The book is short (100 pages) and pretty well written though often repetitive and pejorative, as I have said before. He often summarizes "the new atheists" arguments reasonably well, but occasionally he is way off the mark.
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