Saturday, April 10, 2010
The Atheist Delusion: A Christian Response to Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins by Phil Fernandes is an approachable response to the new atheism written with the layman in mind. The author’s goal is to summarize the primary themes of the new atheism and respond with a positive case for Christianity. The final product is an easy-to-read layman’s apologetics text that covers a wide scope of material. This review will only give a basic overview of the content.
Fernandes’ book contains fifteen chapters that offer a positive apologetic for Christianity in response to the main ideas put forth by the new atheists – particularly Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Instead of refuting Hitchens and Dawkins point by point, Fernandes composes his apologetic using these main themes as a roadmap: religious faith is blind, atheism is not a religion, science has disproven God, there is no evidence for God, religion poisons everything, evil and human suffering disprove God, morality doesn’t come from God, belief in miracles is superstition, there is no historical evidence for the biblical Jesus, and teaching children about God is child abuse.
Chapter 1: The New, Militant Atheism describes the brand of disbelief that has become popular, its differences with previous atheist attitudes, and the main points of contention put forth by Dawkins and Hitchens. In Chapter 2: What is Religion? Fernandes make the case that new atheism is a sort of religion in and of itself, especially in its fundamentalist passion. Fernandes also points out what he sees as the real motivating factor behind the new atheism: “According to the Bible, the real problem with atheists is not an intellectual one. Rather it is a moral problem. It is not that there is insufficient evidence for God’s existence. Instead, the atheist refuses to submit to the creator.”1
Chapter 3: Did Science Disprove God? offers a critique of Dawkins’ scientific case against God and turns the tables to provide a positive case for theism based on the origin of the universe and the origin of life. In Chapter 4: Is There Evidence for God? the author makes a cumulative case for theism based upon the beginning of the universe, the continuing existence of the universe, the design and order found in the universe, the possibility of human knowledge, the reality of universal, unchanging truths, the existence of absolute moral laws, the absurdity of life without God, respect for human life, the existence of evil, human free will and responsibility, self-awareness, and feelings of guilt.
Chapter 5: Is Christianity Intolerant? responds to the idea that “religion poisons everything.” In essence, this chapter is a comparison of various worldviews and what sorts of societies each has produced in history. Chapter 6: Does Evil Disprove God? is a concise response to the so-called problem of evil. The author puts the issue into four categories: the metaphysical problem, the moral problem, the physical problem, and the personal problem. Fernandes then offers a number of possible responses to each, stating that, in light of the fact that God and suffering are not mutually exclusive, “once the Christian apologist has provided strong evidence for God’s existence, he need only give possible reasons why an all-good and all-powerful God would allow evil and human suffering.”2
Chapter 7: Are Moral Absolutes Real? points out the tendency of the new atheists to make moral judgments while being inconsistent in their own positions on morality: “Often, they imply that there are no moral absolutes (a view which is consistent with their atheism). But, at other times, they act as if they believe in moral absolutes in order to condemn Christianity or the God of the Bible.”3 What follows is an examination and refutation of moral relativism and an argument for God as a necessary foundation for morality. In Chapter 8: Are Miracles Possible? Fernandes provides a short response to Spinoza’s and Hume’s view on miracles. He also argues that miracles are possible but only historical investigation can show them to be actual.
Chapter 9: What do Christians Believe? provides a brief overview of the classical Christian doctrines: the Trinity, creation, inspiration of scripture, salvation, virgin birth of Christ, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the return of Christ, and the substitutionary death of Christ. This chapter is highlighted by the author’s reminder that as Christians we must have a genuine love for the new atheists. In Chapter 10: Is the New Testament Historically Reliable? Fernandes presents a concise case for NT reliability.
Chapter 11: Did Jesus Really Claim to be God? explores the implicit and explicit scriptural evidences of Jesus’ divinity. This chapter concludes with a seven point refutation of the ancient myth theory (the idea that Christianity borrowed from ancient myths). In Chapter 12: Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? the author summarizes the “minimal facts” approach of Gary Habermas for the resurrection of Jesus.
Fernandes confronts Dawkins’ idea that teaching children about God is child abuse in Chapter 13. In Chapter 14: One Nation Under Dawkins the author argues that if God is rejected from America that freedom will be threatened, censorship will ensue, and tyranny will follow. Finally, Fernandes concludes with Chapter 15: A Quick Review in which he summarizes his overall task in twenty-four questions with concise, clear answers. This chapter is a handy summary as well as a nice reference tool.
In sum, The Atheist Delusion: A Christian Response to Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins is a good apologetics primer for the laymen new to the issues. While not intended to give a full presentation or critique of all of the arguments of Hitchens and Dawkins, Fernandes succeeds in his more modest goal of creating an accessible apologetics introduction geared towards those curious about the broad appeal of some of the themes of the new atheism. Suitable for those new to apologetics.
1 Phil Fernandes, The Atheist Delusion: A Christian Response to Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (Xulon Press, 2009), p. 17.
2 Ibid., p. 96.
3 Ibid., p. 99.