Book Notice: New Atheism: A Survival Guide

Book Notice: New Atheism: A Survival Guide July 16, 2014

Graham Veale

New Atheism: A Survival Guide
Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2013.
Available at Amazon.com

This is a good little book on the New Atheists written by an Irish Presbyterian high school teacher. Veale also has a website called saintsandsceptics.org with various apologetics resources including articles and videos.

Veale notes how atheism has been spurned on with new energy by views of religion post-9/11 and by the array of atheists blogs that are around (interesting also he calls blogs “intellectual junk food” which I thought was funny). He seeks to expose in this book that much of what they say is based on caricature rather than reasoned evidence. The New Atheists are very good at spin, media savvy, and full of ad hominem rhetoric, but in fact muster very poor arguments.

Any ways, Veale engages the “dogmatic scientism” of the New Atheists with their caricatures of religion and theology. He covers topics like the Flying Spaghetti Monster, God the Gaps reductionism, intelligent design, miracles, and morality.  There is a summary of atheist advocates from books and blogs, he mentions movies, literature, and history along the way too.

In his mind, Christianity passes the “outsider test” in that it can provide evidence for world around us including design, morality, and the resurrection of Jesus. It also passes the “insider test” since Christian theism  coheres with spiritual experiences and religious desires.

I won’t say its the best book on the New Atheists I’ve read (see one’s by David Bently Hart and Alister McGrath), but if you are into apologetics, it is definitely one worth knowing about.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Christopher R Weiss

    It is tiresome to read apologists in general. I will confess, I have not read this book. However, I have read and listened to many others. As someone with a degree in philosophy, I see the same tired arguments from ancients Greeks recycled over and over in response to atheism – the first cause, the prime mover, etc., etc. I then see variants of the ontological argument, and new discussions based on Goedel which claims that materialism is by definition “incomplete.” Finally, you see the pseudo-science and statistical arguments such as misuses of the second law of thermodynamics, bogus statistical models, and so on to make a “designer” or “god” necessary to explain reality.

    In summary, the arguments of the ancient Greeks have simple errors such as the infinite recursion paradox. The ontological argument is absolutely absurd since logic does not imply existence or behavior as seen in things like quantum mechanics. The pseudo-science and bad math arguments have been torn apart by many other bright minds. There is no argument that proves the existence of god nor is there one that even appears reasonable. These critiques are the basis for the god of the gaps reduction.

    The caricatures that the new atheists attack have bases in reality. Somewhere between 25-46% of adults in the US believe some variant of young earth creationism. There are men and women mutilating the genitals of young girls. Sexual abuse by clergy has happened and continues to happen on a smaller scale. The claim of hypocrisy against many religious leaders is and has been valid. The horror stories pointed to as hyperbole actually do happen and have happened. While many religious folks are perfectly justified in claiming, “that is not my version of religion,” this does not address the fact that many of the criticisms by Dawkins, Dennet, and Hichens actually are valid for many religious people.

    More reasonable believers will always be offended by the new atheists, and this offense is justified if the criticisms from new atheists are taken personally. However, when looked at from a macro-scale, the new atheists do have some very valid points. One which seems to be overlooked is that the quiet ranks of reasonable believers have never been good at policing extremism. For example, many peaceful Muslims have stood by while islamic terrorists have done terrible things in the name of reglion. Similarly, christians in the US don’t do enough to shut down folks like Ken Ham and reality distorting young earth creationism. If apologists truly wish to address the problems raised by the new atheists, they must first put their own house in order which includes straightening out other believers with extreme or negative religious perspectives. This abdication of responsibility on the part of reasonable believers always seems to be omitted in attacks on the new atheists.

    • Miles Mayan

      Why go through the effort of putting their own house in order when they can just cry No-True-Scotsman?

      • Christopher R Weiss

        Yes, and then they fall into the traps laid out by Sam Harris in “The End of Faith.” Claiming the extremists are not true christians/muslims/jews ignores the fact that they believe in the same god(s). I wish more believers understood the No-True-Scotsman fallacy… *sigh*. Instead of going after atheists, apologists could be so much more productive by helping extremists with a “we believe in the same god, but you’re doing it wrong” approach. At least moderates and extremists have some theological common ground.

        As an atheist, I am not an anti-theist, but I fully recognize the dangers of religious extremism.

        • Miles Mayan

          I am an anti-theist precisely because when push comes to shove, moderate believers always side with the extremists of their religion over critics of their religion. Defending the reputation of the faith against perceived attacks from outsiders is a higher priority to apologists than actually dealing with the problems within that faith. I believe tribalism is the single biggest obstacle to a viable global civilization, and nothing engenders tribalism as effectively as religion.

  • wbthacker

    “Veale notes how atheism has been spurned on with new energy”

    What an appropriate Freudian slip. Yes, atheism *is* being spurned upon with new energy. (But I think the author meant “spurred onward”.)

    And it’s profoundly ironic for an advocate of faith to call any other discussion “intellectual junk food”. Relying on faith to answer important questions is the ultimate in self-indulgence.