The “New Atheists” not only don’t believe in God, but they’ve taken it upon themselves to ensure that everyone knows exactly what they think on the subject. As Gary Wolf described the movement it involves “enthusiastic advocation of atheism” along with criticism of any type of “religious belief and cultural respect for religion”.
And this is the mindset that Alister McGrath addresses in his book “Why God Won’t Go Away”. McGrath is well-known and respected as a theologian, and he shows why he has earned that distinction with this book.
This book is divided into three distinct parts which take us from the beginnings of The New Atheism, and what makes it different from your every day average atheism. Many atheists choose not to believe in God, or a higher power, or any type of deity, and prefer not to have someone else’s views forced on them. They either don’t believe that God exists, or they actively believe that God does not exist.
The New Atheists are different in that they are “anti-Theist” Not only do they not believe, and they seem intent on removing the choice to believe from everyone else. McGrath points out that the New Atheists’ adamant non-belief in God is secondary to their opposition to any form of religious belief or practice. That’s like me saying that I don’t like peas, but what really matters is that you shouldn’t be able to eat them because I don’t like them. The several attempts to make the new atheist movement a force to be reckoned with all seem to have failed, but a few diehards, remain as a very vocal minority.
Next we are treated to a look at some of the faulty logic of the movement; three main themes that repeatedly surface are violence reason and science, all of which the new atheists regularly use in their attacks on Christianity, and for that matter any other religion or religious culture. For example according to the New Atheists, all science is provable, while religion runs from evidence. Of course other faulty logic includes things like “All religion is evil, the Soviet Union was evil, therefore the Soviet Union must have been religious.
As Dr. McGrath points out, reason and science are used a lot, but when used by the opposing side, they refuse to listen: obviously religion and science have to be at odds, even when they are saying the same thing.
As the book comes to an end, we are shown how the New Atheist movement is declining, and seems to be dying. No matter how much some of the leading voices proclaim that God is a figment of our imagination, He just won’t get out of our heads. God just won’t go away. And as the committed atheists make their voices heard, it seems that more and more people are becoming interested in God.
I found this to be an insightful look at one of the many cultural phenomena that the Church is faced with today. The author didn’t blindly and deliberately attack the viewpoints of the New Atheists, rather he systematically addresses many of their issues. As a pastor I highly recommend this book, to anyone looking to understand more about the culture in which we find ourselves ministering.