Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Review: The Atheist Delusion by Phil Fernandes


The Atheist DelusionThe 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.

14 comments :

Lee said...

[Fernandes] turns the tables to provide a positive case for theism based on the origin of the universe and the origin of life.

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,


None of which is evidence for the Christian God. So why waste the ink?

And I wonder how the 'positive case' gets past deism at best.

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.

What absolute moral law? This is always asserted, or (at best) the use of special pleading comes to the front. Let us hear the logic for it, and how we humans could ever know what these absolute laws are (without them just being subjective whims of a dictator)

"the absurdity of life without God"? Life seems pretty absurd if you assert God in my opinion so I do not see where this leads.

Christians talk of Heaven and the afterlife – well, if it is that good, why not take very risky jobs helping others… then you will die sooner and get closer to Heaven.

Funny… the Christian doesn’t want to die? Lack of faith or evidence I wonder?

"human free will" - Does God have free will I ask myself – is this why ‘human’ is inserted? And did I have a choice about this freewill in the first place :-)

Does Evil Disprove God?

This depends only on what claims are made for this God.

If the claim that God doesn't care about a little evil here or there.

Then of course not.

What kind of God does the author believe in (or defends in his book)?

This chapter is highlighted by the author’s reminder that as Christians we must have a genuine love for the new atheists

And on this note I will stop.

We should all care for our fellow human beings - something we can agree on I hope.

Take care

Lee

thelovingjudge said...

Looks like any other basic Apologetics book. Of course, that doesn't make the points less valid. These are all the issues the new atheists have not yet responded to.

Lee said...

Hi thelovingjudge

"These are all the issues the new atheists have not yet responded to."

Examples please.

I responded to a few of these points in my first reply here. I noticed you didn't respond to those?

Thanks

Lee

Av8torBob said...

Lee,

Just wondering if you believe that Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens have offered any kind of argument against theism in general or Christianity in particular beyond: "There is no God ... and I hate him"?

Eyo said...

The atheist usually makes it look like if Deism is true, that's closer to their side than the Theists' and Lee seems to use that significantly flawed logic. I discussed this with an atheist friend once. I told him that even if deism was true, it’s a disastrous blow to atheism for three reasons—etymologically, historically and by definition.

Etymologically, the term derives from Latin word Deus which means “God” while Theism derives from the Greek word Theos which also means “God”. If anything, both Deism and Theism by etymology stand in contradistinction from atheism which means “no God”.

Historically, the terms were also used interchangeable until the 17th century. Additionally, the first use of the term in more modern times was by a Christian Calvinist who stated in definition that the term was used by some to express their distinction from atheism in the following words: “I have heard that there are of this band those who call themselves Deists, an entirely new word, which they want to oppose to Atheist. For in that atheist signifies a person who is without God, they want to make it understood that they are not at all without God, since they certainly believe there is some sort of God, whom they even recognize as creator of heaven and earth, as do the Turks; but as for Jesus Christ, they only know that he is and hold nothing concerning him nor his doctrine”.

Finally, by definition, a Deist affirms God's existence (something an atheist emphatically denies) but may reject God’s interaction with the world. My friend changed the subject once we got to this point.

Lee, even if deism is true its destructive to an atheistic worldview. However, Christians arguing for the Christian God don't merely use so-called "deistic" arguments to show Christianity to be true. They use them to provide a minimalistic case for God's existence.

Lee said...

Hi Av8torBob,

Just wondering if you believe that Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens have offered any kind of argument against theism in general or Christianity in particular beyond: "There is no God ... and I hate him"?

I think what Dawkins points out is that there is no evidence for the claims of the Christian.

Also, the question of whether there is a god interacting within the universe is a scientific question.

If you object to this, present your evidence for your god of choice and tell me how you could test for any of these claimed for this god.(i.e. how do you know this god actually interacts)

Hitchens adds to this and says "Even IF true, Christianity is awful and the God they believe in is not a nice one (which, if the Christian believe He should be all-good, makes it a bit of a joke)"

This is an opinion from CH, not an argument.

So, tell me now. What is it you believe and why?


Lee

Lee said...

Hi Eyo,

The atheist usually makes it look like if Deism is true, that's closer to their side than the Theists' and Lee seems to use that significantly flawed logic.

Nope... you are missing the point made.

So don't talk to me about 'significantly flawed logic' - you are ignoring my point, and attacking something of your own making.

Please re-read what I actually wrote and address the points made.

On the particular arguments being made I pointed out that they are NOT arguments for a Christian God - this is the God I am not accepting here... this is my atheism, not accepting your claims about your god of choice.

The arguments, I pointed out, are at best for a deistic God.

I have no interest in your "Etymologically", "Historically" or "definition" points since it has nothing to do with what I am arguing.

Can you use the argument presented by this theistic book to get past deism?

Your reply suggests you cannot, since you never argue that you can.

My friend changed the subject once we got to this point.

Are you sure it wasn't you who changed the subject, as you have with your reply here?

I will continue, on the point that I made - the arguments presented from this book review (as highlighted) are at best for the deistic god and cannot be used to get past that point.

To get from the deistic god to the theistic god - you need something else, which was my point.... from which YOU changed the subject from :-)

Lee, even if deism is true its destructive to an atheistic worldview.

My claim is only that I do not accept the claims for the Christian God (your god of choice I assume)...

It's a-theist... it isn't a-deist :-)


So sorry, if deism is true, it doesn't help with your Christian claims - not one bit. That is the only point I need to make.

My only claim remember is that I do not accept your claims about your God your choice


However, Christians arguing for the Christian God don't merely use so-called "deistic" arguments to show Christianity to be true. They use them to provide a minimalistic case for God's existence.

Are you sure?

So, what are your arguments to take you from the deistic god to the theistic?

OK, to be clear - what are your claims about your god of choice, and why?

I shall ignore any arguments that can be applied to the deistic god - and if you like I will even assume these to be true.

Lee

Eyo said...

Lee, your irrationality is unbecoming. Certainly you can do better than that. First, Fernandez's title is "the Atheist Delusion" so even if the author argues for Deism, he's still showing the flaw in atheism (hence the importance of my point that deism is not some "cousin" or next of kin to atheism but rather to theism).

Second, chapter 4 apparently works to deal with providing evidence for a generic God (deistic God) if you will. And don't side step the issue by saying "I shall ignore any arguments that can be applied to the deistic god - and if you like I will even assume these to be true". Are you them claiming to be a deist? Then never use the label "atheist" again.

Third, as I mentioned, sometimes one doesn't argue straight to the Christian God but rather argues first to a minimalistic God then to Christianity in specific. That seems to be Fernandez's approach who moves from chapter 4 that is generic to Chapters 9-12 that is specific to Christianity. By the way, is it me or did you miss reading the summary from these chapters. Seems like selective reading if you ask me.

It seems to me that while you claim "I shall ignore any arguments that can be applied to the deistic god", by ignoring the statements in summary of chapters 9-12 you show that you will ignore everything that doesn't suit you even arguments for Christian theism.

Finally, there seems to be a conflation / confusion of issues here. Are you asking me of my arguments from deism to theism or are you claiming that Fernandez fails to make the appropriate bridge from deism to theism. If your claim is the latter, that's obviously false unless you selectively ignore the summaries from chapters 9-12. If you claim is the former, well, I haven't present my argument and this is not the place to, though we can discuss it if you wish elsewhere. Just let me know.

Much love and blessings Lee,
Eyo

Av8torBob said...

Whoa, Lee. This is not the place (and, frankly, I don't have the time) to follow you down every disconnected rabbit trail you can think up. This post is a book review for a book that takes on the so-called "new atheists." You objected to the review for several reasons. That's fine.

I made no statement about either the book in question or your comments/challenges about the book in question. All I did was ask if you believe that Hitchens/Dawkins offer a positive argument (key word) against Christian theism. Do you think they have done that?

You said:Hitchens adds to this and says "Even IF true, Christianity is awful and the God they believe in is not a nice one (which, if the Christian believe He should be all-good, makes it a bit of a joke)"

And, as you rightfully point out, this is an opinion, NOT an argument. In fact, it is a perfect illustration of my original point: that CH/RD entire book(s) amount to a foot stomping outburst that "there is no God ... and I hate him."

My point is that since they make no real philosophical argument against Christianity; and since they offer no scientific argument to support their naturalistic hand-waving explanation of all things without a shred of evidence for the process they claim accounts for everything ... I don't really know how or what to respond to?!

Can you help me out here? If they don't offer an argument that you can identify, I don't see how a discussion of the topic can be very fruitful.

Lee said...

Hi Av8toBob

Whoa, Lee. This is not the place (and, frankly, I don't have the time) to follow you down every disconnected rabbit trail you can think up. This post is a book review for a book that takes on the so-called "new atheists." You objected to the review for several reasons. That's fine.

Way to go to avoid a reply... I wonder why you bothered asking a question in the first place if you do not like what you read.

You asked a question, I replied – you claim I created ‘disconnected rabbit trails’

What nonsense.

I responded to your question, I don’t think Dawkins ‘hates’ a god he does not believe exists – that is just blame stupid.

What Dawkins does question are the claims made by Christians and states that if a God exists then His interactions would be testable by science. If you object to this, fine – I couldn’t careless, but it is the major claim Dawkins makes about God.

As for CH, we are agreed – so I will waste no more ink on the subject.

My point is that since they make no real philosophical argument against Christianity; and since they offer no scientific argument to support their naturalistic hand-waving explanation of all things without a shred of evidence for the process they claim accounts for everything ... I don't really know how or what to respond to?!

If you want others to accept your claims about your God of choice – the burden of proof will be on you to prove these claims with evidence and reason.

If you do not careless that your ideas about your God of choice are rejected without reason or evidence then again – fine.

I do not have to provide evidence and reason against what has not been shown to be even likely.

Do you feel the need to present evidence and reason to why your neighbour does not have fairies at the bottom of his garden? Of course not.

As for scientific – I doubt you even know what that means, your statement of “scientific argument” highlights this perfectly.

If they don't offer an argument that you can identify, I don't see how a discussion of the topic can be very fruitful.

Personally, I couldn’t careless about their arguments... I care about my own.

Would you now like to state what it is you believe about your God of choice, and tell me why you believe it?

Only then will you present anything worth discussing.

Lee

Lee said...

Hi Eyo,

Lee, your irrationality is unbecoming. Certainly you can do better than that.

Your underhand petty attacks on me (rather than the arguments) are tiring - but whatever makes you happy. I don’t mind really – it shows your weakness not mine.

First, Fernandez's title is "the Atheist Delusion"

Indeed... I wonder who he is trying to cash in on?

but so even if the author argues for Deism, he's still showing the flaw in atheism

A flaw in your definition of atheism maybe – not mine.

Atheism is merely the non-acceptance of the claims of the theist. A-theist, not a-deism as I pointed out before.

Richard Dawkins clearly writes in his book that he does not reject all possible gods, merely that he finds the ones presented very unlikely – so much so they can be rejected along with the fairies. We can live our lives as if there are no fairies, and no gods.

However, this still leaves the door open (however small) for deism as a possibility.

And don't side step the issue by saying "I shall ignore any arguments that can be applied to the deistic god - and if you like I will even assume these to be true". Are you them claiming to be a deist? Then never use the label "atheist" again.

I claim to not accept the claims of the Christian – label that however you like my friend.

I am a non-believer – does that make you happier?

None of this helps with your claims that your God of choice exists – so we are wasting ink here.

Third, as I mentioned, sometimes one doesn't argue straight to the Christian God but rather argues first to a minimalistic God then to Christianity in specific.

You mean you cannot argue straight to your Christian God of choice?

So try to hide Him in the uncertainty and unknowns?

Nice one... rather dishonest, but this is what you need to do I suppose.

Cannot fight straight, try and confuse with shadow boxing. It might work with children, but I am too old for that game.

Lee said...

That seems to be Fernandez's approach who moves from chapter 4 that is generic to Chapters 9-12 that is specific to Christianity.

Statements and assertions are shown in the summary... can you add anymore to them?

By the way, is it me or did you miss reading the summary from these chapters. Seems like selective reading if you ask me.

The best arguments Fernandez presents (as shown in this summary) are merely (and I did say at best) for the deistic god.

It seems to me that while you claim "I shall ignore any arguments that can be applied to the deistic god", by ignoring the statements in summary of chapters 9-12 you show that you will ignore everything that doesn't suit you even arguments for Christian theism.

Take it to mean whatever you like.

It was meant to say that I shall waste no further time here on deistic arguments.

Happy to discuss however the Christian claims.

Please clearly state them, and tell me why it is you believe them to be true.

It is this last bit that is missing from the book summary of assertions.

Are you asking me of my arguments from deism to theism

I would love to hear/read them... do you have any dear friend?

or are you claiming that Fernandez fails to make the appropriate bridge from deism to theism.

I’ve seen no evidence that he does shall we say.

Of course, I’ve not read the book – but I would be very surprised if he is able to present anything new that I have not already heard and read a hundred times.

If your claim is the latter, that's obviously false unless you selectively ignore the summaries from chapters 9-12.

Just asserting a claim is not providing evidence or reason for that assertion.

So, no – it is not ‘obviously false’

You are fee to add to his assertions here – I would love to discuss them further with you.

If you claim is the former, well, I haven't present my argument

Indeed... so what is it you do offer?

and this is not the place to, though we can discuss it if you wish elsewhere. Just let me know.

I would love to continue this discussion, just let me know – and I hope to find the time.

Take care

Lee

Eyo said...

Lee my email address is macairyo@hotmail.com or you can look for me on Facebook: Ukpong Eyo. I'm sure we can continue elsewhere. Have a great day

Av8torBob said...

Eyo,
Are you THE "Eyo from Iowa" on Koukl's show last week? I'm a little slow on the uptake but I just recognized that unique name of yours here.

Anyway, I really enjoyed your call ... and thanks for joining in here, too.

Bob

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