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Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism Paperback – April 18, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Pastors need to consider buying this book for every young person in their church who will start college in the fall." (Paul Schperle, Enrichment, Fall 2011)

"For those prepared to enter the dialog, an opportunity has emerged to engage in conversation. . . Against All Gods is a concise manual to help the reader become better equipped to intelligently defend the faith." (Jim Miller, The Daily Sentinel, May 8, 2010)

"In railing against faith, some atheists become the very thing they speak out against. Against All Gods 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." (The Midwest Book Review, June 2010)

"What a wonderful little book. Johnson and Reynolds offer a clear, readable and intelligent critique of the new atheism. But they offer something more: joy, hope and love. You get both the reason and the romance of the Christian story. So the new atheism comes across not so much as wrong, but as one-dimensional and childish, a sort of intellectual pornography claiming to be true love. Johnson and Reynolds's complementary combination of intellectual and theological virtues is a fire that both warms and purifies." (Francis J. Beckwith, professor of philosophy and church-state studies, Baylor University)

"Rather than engaging in specific critiques of the new atheism, Phil Johnson and John Mark Reynolds add their voices to the increasing scholarly chorus that decries the real oppressor in these and related discussions: unexamined naturalistic presuppositions that reject alternative ideas without a hearing. Declaring that uncritical attitudes and a lack of appreciation for ancient writings lie behind many recent criticisms of Christianity, the authors call for open discussion of the relevant issues. This volume is a treat to read, featuring a succinct, straightforward and easily digestible text that successfully treats issue after issue." (Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor, Liberty University and Theological Seminary)

"This superb work by Phillip E. Johnson and John Mark Reynolds is both an informed response to the new atheism and simultaneously an invitation for ongoing conversation with those who question the truth claims of the Christian faith. I have longed to have a volume like this one to share with my colleagues in the world of higher education. Against All Gods is timely, convincing, readable and accessible; it is a privilege to recommend this little book to a wide audience, with the hope that it will find its way into the hands of university students across the land." (David S. Dockery, president, Union University)

"Johnson and Reynolds are provocateurs in the best sense of that word, and Against All Gods is sure to arouse considerable debate and reflection. This is not another apologetic response to the new atheists. It is a cultural analysis and critique of their claims. It reads like a detective novel and conveys powerful, important ideas to the reader. I couldn't put it down." (J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University, and author of The God Question)

About the Author

Phillip E. Johnson taught law for more than thirty years at the University of California--Berkeley where he is professor emeritus. He is recognized as a leading spokesman for the intelligent design movement, and is the author of many books, including Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.

John Mark Reynolds (Ph.D., University of Rochester) is the provost at Houston Baptist University and the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute. Reynolds lectures frequently on ancient philosophy, philosophy of science, home schooling and cultural trends. He has taught philosophy at several colleges and universities, and he completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the philosophy of science at Biola University. He regularly appears on radio talk shows, such as the Hugh Hewitt Show, and actively blogs on cultural issues at patheos.com and for the Washington Post's online column On Faith. His books include Three Views on Creation and Evolution(Zondervan) and The Great Books Reader (Bethany House).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (April 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830837388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830837380
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Vjecsner on November 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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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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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.
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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.
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