Home » Intelligent Design » Is this the twilight of atheism? – Oxford Historian says yes

Is this the twilight of atheism? – Oxford Historian says yes

I’ve just read a most interesting book by Oxford historian Alister McGrath, arguing that we are currently looking at the twilight of atheism.

That’s certainly my impression, judging from the remarkably ill-advised antics of the recent anti-God campaign. One thing the campaign made quite clear is that materialism is not some neutral middle ground on which we can happily do science experiments together. On the contrary, these people are militant, and that could be trouble for you if you are a theist or non-materialist of some kind. For the rest go here.

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11 Responses to Is this the twilight of atheism? – Oxford Historian says yes

  1. There’s only one snag with McGrath; he is not ID and is fact TE like most of the ASA and CIS

  2. Alistair McGrath is a former molecular biologist and a professional theologian/apologist and hes a great mind. He doesn’t support ID. Why do you think that is?

  3. Actually I suspect by the standard of Myers or Dawkins, Dr McGrath is a “creationist”.

  4. I read this book a while back, too. I highly recommend it. Most of it is a history of atheistic thought told from the perspective of a Christian who is a former atheist himself. McGrath’s initial atheism was in part due to the “religious” violence he was exposed to in Northern Ireland growing up.

    There are some surprises in the book, like the fact that the first use of the term which concatenates the Greek “a” and “theos” was first applied to early Christians(!) (the Romans regarded them as something of “atheists” because they didn’t believe in the Roman pantheon). Also he suggests that the Protestant reformation contributed to the rise of modern Atheism because it minimized the mystical elements that had been present in Catholicism, further compartmentalizing “faith” and “reason.” (McGrath is himself a Protestant–Anglican most likely–so this is not a slam against Protestantism, just an observation).

    McGrath has a great mind, and the fact that he doesn’t support ID doesn’t take anything away from this particular book. The topic doesn’t really come up, except on one page where he briefly mentions Paley and suggests that Paley’s design arguments actually backfired. Without the book in front of me, I don’t recall his argument for implicating Paley in this (it’s been a several months since I read it). I’ll have to look it up and refresh my memory on that later.

  5. But compare Claire Berlinski’s review of that book, which concludes as follows:

    Alister McGrath contends that a new “cultural sensitivity” has “led to religious beliefs being treated with new respect.” Yet on the pages of our major news organs we find the faithful described in the most disrespectful terms. Here is novelist Jane Smiley, in Slate, depicting them as “unteachably ignorant,” advising us to “[l]isten to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are — they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence.” Brian Reade of the Mirror calls the faithful “self-righteous, gun-totin’, military-lovin’, sister-marryin’, abortion-hatin’, gay-loathin’, foreigner-despisin’, non-passport ownin’ red-necks.” Maureen Dowd, predictable as sunrise, sees “a vengeful mob — revved up by rectitude — running around with torches and hatchets after heathens and pagans and infidels.” And Nicolas Kristof echoes his New York Times colleague with his nod to “wheat-hugging, gun-shooting, Spanish-speaking, beer-guzzling, Bible-toting” Americans. If Delsol’s thesis needs further confirmation, consider this: These critics are exercised about the intolerance of the religious.

    No, not much newfound respect for religion on display here — just a good deal of what Delsol calls the “ideology of the apostate.” Mainstream moral thinking remains, above all, structured around the rejection of religious morality. “The drama of the present age,” she observes, “does not lie so much in the return of certain figures of existence as it does in the fact that these figures were — and in many cases still are — despised.” Evidence for Delsol’s somber assessment of Western man, with his limited, repulsive view of truth and transcendence, is everywhere, belying McGrath’s sunny appraisal of man’s renewed spiritual sensitivity.

    Source: http://www.hoover.org/...

  6. I believe that nihilistic atheism, the kind promoted by Dawkins and Dennett, will for all practical purposes be gone in the very near future.

    The ideology that replaces it may be even worse, from what I can tell. There are power-hungry, ambitious people out there right now who (1) realize that all human beings need spiritual solace of some sort, and (2) are working steadily on synthesizing a new monistic religion with a lot of superficial trappings from today’s most popular ones.

    It’s all over Youtube already, touting Aleister Crowley’s philosophy. Throw Helena Blavatsky and Alice A. Bailey into the mix and you’ve got yourself a nice, poisonous stew of scientism.

  7. Honestly, I don’t see the new atheism going away until atheists start attacking the scientific claims of Dawkins and Dennet- such as their ideas in evolutionary biology. If a publically known theist argues the point they are quickly brushed to the side- it is expected they don’t agree. And, I might have agreed with Dr. McGrath during the publication of his book, but now I don’t know. He wrote the book before the great atheist push- since McGrath’s book Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennet have published books.

  8. bork, it’s interesting you should mention Harris since he, in my opinion, is the thin edge of the monistic wedge. (h/t Ms. O’Leary)

  9. AOFM:
    Interesting find. Definitely will make me rethink Harris- I wonder why materialistic atheists aren’t tearing into him- simply because he agrees with their main focus?

    Ian Hutichison (sp?) is hardly a researcher. It seems like most of his work is open to interpretation, and fudge facts work together. I’d be surprised to know what Harris thinks of Gary Schwartz.

  10. 10

    Bork

    Are you saying that McGrath is insufficient because of his TE approach and is thus tainted with Naturalism?

  11. Michael:

    Nope, I like McGrath- even though I am an agnostic. I understand McGrath as a theologian- something that is not dictated by science; for him as a Christian the point is to believe in Jesus- not evolution vs ID. And, as far as I can tell does not get into the debate at all.

    Also, I am saying McGrath’s point of atheisim dying out might be countered by the current culture war- i.e. McGrath could not have predicted the the surplus of pro-atheism books.

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