I’ve never had any respect for Alister McGrath, but apparently he thinks I’m a credible source on atheism. He has a book titled Coming to Faith Through Atheism, containing 12 essays about how people returned to religion after a dalliance with atheism, driven by how much they disliked Dawkins and the New Atheism. That sounds incredibly cliched — it’s practically a joke how often theists claim that they used to be an atheist, but then they saw the light.
Fine. More pedestrian pablum from a conventional Christian who doesn’t like Dawkins. I even have some sympathy with the thesis that Dawkins has become a detriment to atheism. However, an argument against one particular flavor of atheism is not an argument for the ridiculous Christianity McGrath favors. I also mildly resent that he cites me (and Ashley Miller) some kind of supporter of his ideas.
Yet it wasn’t just that Dawkins and others set out to make religious faith a badge of shame. The “New Atheism” encouraged a discriminatory rhetoric of denunciation and demonisation directed not primarily against religious ideas, but against religious people. Many were alarmed at this trend. The feminist atheist blogger Ashley Miller distanced herself from those who suggested that “people who are religious aren’t worthwhile and are certainly too stupid to be respected”. The debate ought to be about assessing ideas, she insisted, not about publicly ridiculing religious people: “We dehumanize people who disagree with us instead of arguing about ideas.” It didn’t exactly help with the public face of atheism.
Today, the “New Atheism” is generally regarded as having imploded, increasingly (though perhaps unfairly) being seen as the crystallisation of the cultural prejudices of old white Western middle-class males. Many of its former members, disenchanted by its arrogance, prejudice, and superficiality, have distanced themselves from the movement and its leaders.
Of course he’d think it unfair to view the failure of the New Atheism as a result of
the cultural prejudices of old white Western middle-class males, since he is one, and his stodgy Christianity is the epitome of Western middle-class bullshit. His religion is not an improvement on atheism!
What he doesn’t acknowledge is that neither Ashley nor I have abandoned atheism, which is something rather different than the peculiarly assertive, aggressive style of Dawkins’ atheism. We aren’t Christians! It’s a little rude to pose two people who oppose his position as somehow backing up his new book.
Why didn’t he link to my assessment of Alister McGrath?
That’s McGrath. Incoherent and contradictory, vacuous and vapid, and bumbling along, triumphantly making fallacious arguments that he thinks are irrefutable.
Jebus, but I love “sophisticated theology”. It makes its practitioners look like such hopeless dolts.
I’m still a bit assertive and aggressive, and I still categorically reject McGrath’s weird beliefs.