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

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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: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

Indeed, at times he seems to shoot himself in the foot, as many of his quotations appear to be far more convincing than his refutations of them.
Charles Gidley Wheeler
To his credit, Haught admits that it is possible to be moral even without belief in gods but in doing so he destroys the last justification for that belief.
Franklin D. Ross
Instead, I was deeply disappointed by the lack of substance in Haught's short book, which utterly fails to respond to Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

200 of 280 people found the following review helpful 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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45 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Tintin on July 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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41 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on April 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are some cultural debates that break new ground and shed badly needed light on old issues. There are others, though, that generate much more heat than illumination. I fear that the current (New) atheism/theism controversy more often than not falls into the second category. Angry and belligerent New Atheists lining up against angry and belligerent Intelligent Designers and fundamentalists: in this context, the debate too frequently reduces to name-calling.

That's why books like John Haught's are novel but refreshing contributions. Haught, who has reflected on science and religion for a couple of decades now, writes soberly and judiciously. He argues that the New Atheism, defended by the Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens troika, suffers from (1) irrelevancy (disdains familiarity with theology and side-steps serious debate by going after fringe theists); (2) inconsistency (first because it never questions the foundation of its scientific naturalism, second because it never pauses to ask how reason, if it's nothing but an evolutionary product, can be trusted--a point similar to one defended by C.S. Lewis in his book Miracles); and (3) scientistic reductionism--or what Haught calls "epistemic and ethical puritanism"--which "shrinks" both knowledge and morality into the too-confining language of naturalism.

More positively, Haught argues that faith, contrary to the reductionistic definition adopted and easily demolished by the New Atheists, is better thought of as an openness to experiences which point beyond themselves to depth, beauty, and truth, qualities Haught associates with divine Being. In making this argument, he draws heavily upon an earlier and excellent book of his, What Is God?
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