book report: Why god won't go away by Alister McGrath (2010)

If dog ears and underlines per page mean anything, then by my physical interaction with this book, this book means plenty. More than that, it is such a pleasure to read a well-written book. Perhaps I should expect it from the chair holder of theology, ministry, and education at King's College London and former chair holder of historical theology at Oxford University. Alister McGrath has debated Dawkins and Hitchens and read the leading books of the gnu atheists. He also has read the works of the regular atheists, who share his disappointment with the fundamentalist approach of the gnu atheists. But with the poor reasoning spouting from the four horsemen of the gnu atheist movement, Dennet and Harris round out that party, not much can be expected from their followers.

In my own conversation with atheistic friends, I have brought up the human propensity to violence apart from religion with Stalin's regime as exhibit A. I ask, is the violence independent of religion and simply a human trait looking for an excuse or a restraint? The reply I heard was Stalinism became a religion, therefore, religion is still the source of human evil. I felt that was along the lines of "tails I win, heads you lose." But McGrath discusses it better when Hitchens appeals the same way.
Christopher Hitchens argues that the Soviet Union was really a religious state, which explains why it was so immoral and violent. Communism became a religions- and that's when things turned nasty.
The tenuous thought processes underlying Hitchen's confident declarations here are rather difficult to discern, but they seem to run like this:
Major premise: religion is evil and violent.
Minor premise: the Soviet Union was evil and violent.
Conclusion: the Soviet Union was therefore religious.
We move from fiction ("all religion is evil") to pure fantasy ("all evil is religious"), everything being forced into the ideological mold by Hitchen's dogged belief in the intrinsic violence and evil of religion. pp. 74-75

I enjoy reading Hitchens. He's a great writer. McGrath is a great writer as well. The book went by too fast. It's a treasure trove of analysis on the gnu atheists. I think even an open-minded truth seeker, who might be an atheist, would enjoy this book and be challenged to look past the simplistic half-truths and over statements typical of its cheerleaders.

I'm thankful to Booksneeze for the complimentary review copy.


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