Pastor Mike Clawson here again.
For those interested in thoughtful Christian responses to atheism and especially the “New Atheism” characterized by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al. (as opposed to the kind of responses you might get from say, Ray Comfort or Ken Ham), you might be interested in this new book by Dr. John Haught, a distinguished theologian at Georgetown University. According to Wikipedia:
[Haught’s] area of expertise is systematic theology, with a special interest in issues of science, cosmology, ecology, and reconciling evolution and religion…
Haught, who established the Georgetown Center for the Study of Science and Religion, is the author of several important books on the creation-evolution controversy, including Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, and Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution. A theistic evolutionist, he sees no conflict between science and religion because they explore different levels of explanation. Therefore, “Science and religion cannot logically stand in a competitive relationship with each other.”
His new book, God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris & Hitchens, attempts to take a serious and philosophical look at the New Atheists, whom he calls “soft-core atheists”, claiming that their contemporary brand of anti-theism is not nearly as deep or as challenging as that of past generations, for instance the great atheist-existentialist thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre or Albert Camus, and thus presents little challenge to the more noteworthy theologians of our own time. According to Publishers Weekly:
Haught… argues that there is nothing really new about the New Atheism; it is instead a rehashing of antireligious arguments that are as old as the Enlightenment. In fact, Haught criticizes the New Atheism as being theologically unchallenging, its all-or-nothing thinking representing about the same level of reflection on faith that one can find in contemporary creationist and fundamentalist literature. Haught draws upon theologians such as Tillich, Bultmann, Ricoeur, McFague and Pannenberg to refute some of the New Atheists’ most common contentions.
Just speaking personally, I’ve had essentially the same reaction to the New Atheists as Haught. Their level of dialogue seems about right for a critique of fundamentalist religion (Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren in Newsweek, or the RRS vs. Comfort and Cameron on ABC seemed like fairly appropriate match-ups), but I honestly can’t see Dawkins, Harris or Hitchens going toe to toe with the likes of NT Wright, Nick Wolterstorff, Miroslav Volf, Jack Caputo, Walter Bruggeman or even John Haught.
Granted, I’ve not yet read Haught’s book to know for sure how he does, though I have added it to my list. I’ll let you know if it doesn’t live up to my expectations. However, if you want to read a little bit more of his perspective now, there is an interview with Haught up on the God’s Politics blog. No doubt most of the atheists here will still disagree with his conclusions, though, if you’re not entirely a fan of the New Atheists and appreciate someone who is calling for a deeper level of dialogue and encouraging atheists that they can do better than these popular-level critics, you may want to take a look at Haught’s book.