The Future Of Atheism: Alister McGrath & Daniel Dennett in Dialogue, edited by Robert B. Stewart
This is the sort of book  that demonstrates, at least to me, that there is a wide variance between the survival of a mindset or worldview and its philosophical heft. Various writers of various backgrounds dialogue here through their discussions and papers and predictably disagree as to the intellectual viability of atheism. Yet the whole exercise has a certain air of artificiality, in that the discussion for and against atheism and theism by the various people responsible dealt with only cerebral matters. Let us be clear, atheism is not intellectually viable, but is rather the specious and elaborate justification of an emotional hostility to divine authority, and this book has all the telltale signs (especially on the atheist side) of people who think themselves far more clever and far more logical and far more rational than they are, a veritable honor guard of the Emperor with no clothes. All of this made the book somewhat frustrating to read. It does not reward the reader for the effort needed to wade through the argumentation, but it is at least worthwhile and interesting in an indirect way, in showing just how bankrupt atheism is on a logical and moral level, as if that needed more evidence.
The contents of this book are somewhat uneven as you would expect given its provenance. After an introductory appraisal of the topic, there is a dialogue between Daniel Dennett and Alister McGrath that goes on for more than thirty pages. The rest of the book, which is about 180 pages in total, consists of various papers of uneven equality. Keith Parsons’ effort to proclaim a dawn of atheism reads like embarrassing and inaccurate triumphalism. William Lane Craig’s defense of theistic arguments is able and one of the more enjoyable pieces here. Evan Fales’ essay on despair, optimism, and rebellion is certainly interesting, at least. Hugh McCann’s effort to get scientific about religion is a bit of unnecessary but effective pandering to the scientism crowd. J.P. Moreland’s response to Thomas Nagel’s last stand is effective and punchy, the sort of combative discussion I enjoy a good deal. Paul Copan’s discussion on God, Naturalism, and the foundations of morality is similarly effective. Ted Peters gives a concluding essay on the God Hypothesis and the future of atheism that shows the air of unreality of the discussion as a whole.
As a reader, I was struck by how the atheist side in general failed to realize the facts of the situation. It is common for atheists to put God in the dock as if he has to explain the existence of evil and has to satisfy our desire to know the reasons why. Yet we as human beings often fail to realize that we are in the dock about our conduct and behavior. Whenever the Bible deals with the issue of malign divine providence, something that I have had cause to wrestle with often over the course of my own life, a few facts are made plain–that God is in charge and that He does not choose to explain the reasons why. He tells us that we will be the better for it, and that all things (at least for believers) will ultimately work out for the best, but giving explanations why is simply not on the table. At least not for now. Whether it is eventually true in the future is something that this book is a long way from wrestling with. It is an intellectual effort towards solving a problem of the heart or spirit, and as such I suppose it cannot but come off as somewhat lacking.
 See, for example:
I have a hefty book by Moreland and Craig. I hope to review it soon, maybe next month!
Well, I look forward to seeing that review 🙂
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