Responding to Neo-Atheism

American Thinker | Rick Richman | Sep. 21, 2008

Neo-atheism has had a very successful publishing run over the past several years, with best-selling books by Christopher Hitchens (“god is not great”), Sam Harris (“Letter to a Christian Nation”) and Richard Dawkins (“The God Delusion”), among others. But this year there has been an equally impressive counter-phenomenon. Three recent books, written from three widely divergent perspectives, have responded to the arguments of neo-atheism with both intellectual force and literary grace.

In April, David Berlinski, a secular Jew and well-known skeptic of Darwinism, who holds a Ph. D. in Philosophy from Princeton and has written widely on mathematics and science, published “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions.” The book defends religion by attacking atheism’s attempt to enlist science in its cause.

The book is written with Mr. Berlinski’s characteristic literary verve. To a Nobel Prize scientist’s argument — offered at a conference on “science, religion and reason” — that “for good people to do evil things, [it] takes religion,” Berlinski responds: “Just who has imposed on the suffering human race poison gas, barbed wire, high explosives, experiments in eugenics, the formula for Zyklon B, heavy artillery, pseudo-scientific justifications for mass murder, cluster bombs, attack submarines, napalm, intercontinental ballistic missiles, military space platforms, and nuclear weapons?”

“If memory serves,” he writes, “it was not the Vatican.”

Last month, Michael Novak, a Catholic scholar who holds the Jewett Chair in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, published “No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers.” Mr. Novak believes the country needs a respectful dialogue between believers and unbelievers, and he has effectively produced one in book-length form, setting forth the arguments of the neo-atheists with extraordinary respect and civility before presenting his own views.

He has written a humble book, all the more powerful for its humility. Even at age 74, after a lifetime of religious study and writing, he acknowledges he cannot be certain that what he believes is true. But he has set forth a case for religion that is all the more compelling for its serious treatment of the other side.

This month, Rabbi David J. Wolpe, named earlier this year by Newsweek at age 49 as the number one pulpit rabbi in America, published “Why Faith Matters.” It is a book in a class by itself, because it combines both intellectual force and lawyer-like accumulation of historical, statistical and other evidence with something equally compelling — the power of personal example.

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