God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. By John F. Haught
Article first published online: 7 APR 2009
© The author 2009. Journal compilation © Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes Registered 2009
The Heythrop Journal
Volume 50, Issue 3, pages 541–542, May 2009
How to Cite
McCall, B. (2009), God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. By John F. Haught. The Heythrop Journal, 50: 541–542. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00484_29.x
- Issue published online: 7 APR 2009
- Article first published online: 7 APR 2009
Pp. xvi, 124 , Louisville : Westminster John Knox , 2008 , $16.95.
Haught is Senior Fellow, Science & Religion, at the Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University. He is one of the world s leading thinkers in the field of theology and science, and his recent books include Christianity and Science (2007), God after Darwin (Second Edition, 2007), Is Nature Enough? (2006), and Deeper than Darwin (2003). In this title, Haught peers into the background assumptions of such authors as Dawkins (The God Delusion), Harris (The End of Faith), and Hitchens (God Is not Great) and argues that there is really nothing ‘new’ regarding the New Atheism (note that Dennett is covered by implication). Rather, it is the same old antireligious sentiments that stem from at least the Enlightenment in new dress with increased vitriol.
The New Atheists generally assert some or all of the following: 1) apart from nature and humans, there is nothing else; 2) nature is self-originating; 3) the universe has no point; 4) there exists nothing but natural causality; 5) all features of humanity can be explained by recourse to Darwinian processes; 6) faith in God has produced – and is producing – much evil in society; and 7) morality does not necessitate belief in a God (pp. xii-xiv). Haught finds the New Atheism theologically unchallenging; they are unfamiliar with the works of Moltmann, Pannenberg, Barbour, and Tracy, to name just a few.
Ironically, Haught contends that the New Atheism is the equivalent of fundamentalist/creationist thinking, but from the opposite side. Although looking at evolutionary origins is perfectly palatable – even critical – Haught rejects the notion that evolutionary biology fully explains all phenomena, notably ethics and religion. On the contrary, though Haught affirms that evolutionary biology can help explain some aspects of the development of religion and ethics, it cannot do so exhaustively. Moreover, he states that a proper understanding of religious truth is one that is consistent and consonant with scientific claims (p. xii).
Although this book can profitably be read by Christian Academics and trained theologians, it is intended primarily for the general reading public, in order proverbially to ‘arm’ them for battle against scientific naturalism. In general, Haught demonstrates that the New Atheists are logically inconsistent and make improper generalizations in their treatment(s) of religion. I recommend this book for both laity and trained alike; I could foresee it being used in introductory courses in the philosophy of religion.