DISCLAIMER: I rec’d a review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers thru their Book Sneeze program. I rec’d no other compensation and the review below is my honest assessment of this work of non-fiction.


Why God Won't Go Away by Alister McGrath


First, I need to start this review by saying that I am an active Catholic who believes in God. So, right from the get-go, I was set to agree with Alister McGrath’s recently published work: Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? McGrath, a scientist and Christian, has written previous books explaining that religion and science are not mutually exclusive but this one specifically addresses the public speeches and writings of the more outspoken New Atheists (known collectively as the “Four Horsemen”): Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens.

McGrath begins by summarizing the “Four Horsemen” and their opinion of God — they’re against Him and think anyone who believes in God is an imbecile. They argue both that God is a myth and that anyone who believes this myth CANNOT, under any circumstances, also be a real scientist. The New Atheist movement, with Dawkins as their leader, shot to public infamy when they explained that the 9/11 attacks were caused by religious zealots — and therefore, all religion is bad because it encourages violence and destruction and chaos rather than peace, building-up and order. The New Atheist movement — especially as propounded by the Four Horsemen — not only disagrees with religious beliefs of any kind (Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu … anything that believes in a Superior Being) but also disagrees with tolerating those who do believe.

And that’s the key to McGrath’s rebuttal of the New Atheist movement — it’s intolerance and elitist view that only those who DON’T believe in God should be considered rational, intellectual, human beings — the rest are fodder for the mill. McGrath explains that the New Atheism is really not atheism but rather ANTI-THEISM — defined as “an intense anger against religion, which is held to poison everything.” New Atheism is “characterized by a gut aversion to religion … condemned as irrational and immoral … [proponents] are convinced that religion is out to get them [and therefore] a preemptive strike is necessary. McGrath carefully and logically dissects the New Atheist’s stance, proving that the New Atheism is not rational or logical, all without using the Bible or other religious rhetoric that can be lightly ignored. McGrath’s anaylsis is purely a stripping of the arguments, proving the lack of logic throughout.

It’s interesting that the New Atheist reaction to “violent religious fanatics” is to get rid of them through violent means in order to better the world. The New Atheists, as described by McGrath (and as proven by direct quotes from the Four Horsemen) are a cult unto themselves, creating anti-religious fanatics, but somehow that’s ok since they don’t believe in God. Even fellow atheists and other New Atheism’s critics, complain about the elitist attitude of the Four Horsemen: “New Atheism seems to think it has a monopoly on truth, refusing as a matter of principle to concede the rationality of other positions.”

Studies quoted in McGrath’s book show that atheism is on a decline — only 4% of the US population characterize themselves as “atheist”. Only 4%! That’s not many. The New Atheism is a dying ideology. For instance, when Pope Benedict was scheduled to visit the UK in 2010, Dawkins and Hitchens demanded that he be arrested for crimes against and promised mass protests against the Pope and the Catholic Church. Instead, the “mass protests” were minimally attended and the New Atheists were shown to be “numerically weak and culturally isolated”. In fact, the notoriously liberal UK newspaper, the Independent, actually published an article titled “Pope Benedict … An Apology” after having published a lead article the day before giving approval to Pope Benedict’s talks to the British people.

An interesting comment at the very end of the book has McGrath explaining that while the New Atheism is very vocal, the opposite result to what they demand is occurring. A young man approached McGrath after a talk and explained that he had become Christian after reading Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. “‘Without Dawkins,’ he told me, ‘I would never have given God a second thought.'”

McGrath’s book is a reasoned, unemotional examination of the New Atheist movement, the Four Horsemen and their brand of ideology, and the eventual disintegration of the movement through lack of logical reasoning. The Four Horsemen and their ideology is annihilated by their own words (copiously quoted in McGrath’s book) and this unemotional, clean examination by a noted historian, theologian and scholar.

This is an excellent book about a movement that makes a lot of noise about the irrationality and general “badness” of religion, yet preaches violence and fanaticism. The New Atheism is not rational. This is not truth. This is much about smoke and mirrors and angry rhetoric.

Highly recommend this book for high schoolers and above … great dissection of an illogical ideology.

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