Paranoid Atheists, Take Note

There are varieties of atheists. Some manifest symptoms of paranoia about the vigor of religion in the Western world. They decry everything about religion and are determined to curb its altogether negative social effects. A good example is Christopher Hitchens, whose book is titled god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Their publications, blogs, speeches, radio and TV appearances are rants against religion, litanies of what is dangerously wrong with religion. The paranoid atheists are not discriminating. And they are loud and vociferous.

Then there are atheists who are reconciled to the fact that religion is here to stay, and even believe that positive goods have been produced by religion—social goods that would not exist but for religion. They see religion as neither good nor bad, as such, but as something capable of extraordinary good and unparalleled evil. They are discriminating. They are willing to cheer what is good about some manifestations of religion. And now they are calmly entering the fray with a distinctively different and refreshing tone.

Excellent examples are the authors John Mickelthwaite and Adrian Wooldridge. Their new book, God Is Back: How the Revival of Religion Is Changing the World, is a kind of protest against the excesses of paranoid atheism. They argue that modernity is a boon to religion, and that more of religion in certain of its forms, especially as it is exhibited in America, should be encouraged. Mickelthwaite and Wooldridge cannot be ignored. They are prominent journalists who write for the prestigious British periodical The Economist. Their message of good news about religion is bad news for scoffers like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher.

God Is Back is a book for your summer reading list. With 400+ pages, it may be the only summer reading you do. But the price is right and the balanced consideration of religion as a social good is timely

Helpful reviews of God Is Back, by John Mickelthwaite and Adrian Wooldridge:

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking.

5 Responses to Paranoid Atheists, Take Note

  1. Pingback: Doug Geivett: Paranoid Atheists, Take Note

  2. Doug Geivett says:

    Tim,

    Let us know what you think of the book.

    Note to other readers: The passages Tim places in quotation marks are from an earlier comment I made to this post. Just thought it would help to know we’re not quoting the book’s authors.

    -Doug

  3. Tim Farley says:

    Thanks again. When I asked if their assessment of Christianity was fair, I was asking if they give a well-balanced picture of the impact Christianity has had around the world, or if they focus more on the “evils” commonly attributed to Christians by atheists. It sounds like they give a balanced view if they are willing to acknowledge “social goods singularly attributable to the behavior of Christians in accordance with their beliefs and values.”

    It is refreshing to hear that the authors seem to understand that religion is a “life-transforming force” and not just a hobby. So many atheists just do not seem to get this important fact.

    I look forward to reading the book.

  4. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Tim,

    Don’t expect detailed discussion of other religions. These guys are especially interested in describing the American “model,” as it might be called, which values religion whilst preserving the separation of church and state. They think Europe could benefit greatly from adopting the same approach. I don’t know how that can happen when religion has been marginalized to the degree it has in Europe.

    The authors talk about the rise of religion around the world. In addition to Christianity, Islam is a major focus. A major point is that religion is a life-transforming force in the lives of people. This is confusing to nonbelievers. Secular entities, including government, will not understand the world if they do not become more literate (and appreciative) of the role of religion.

    I’m not sure what you mean by their assessment of Christianity. They acknowledge many of the kinds of social goods that are singularly attributable to the behavior of Christians in accordance with their beliefs and values. But they aren’t Christians themselves.

  5. Tim Farley says:

    Thank you for this recommendation. It sounds like a book I will be interested in picking up.

    When I look at the table of contents, it seems as though the book is primarily concerned with Christianity and Islam. Is this the case? Does it examine the other major world religions?

    Also, do you think the authors’ assessment of Christianity in the U.S. and around the world is accurate and fair?

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