A Review of John F. Haught's book, God and the New Atheism

I think Christian theologians debunk themselves. When I read Arminian and Calvinist arguments I agree with them both when they criticize each other, as I do with Catholic versus Protestant arguments, and liberalism versus fundamentalist arguments. When debunking Christianity as an outsider, I merely have to state why I agree with their criticisms of each other. They do my work for me, for the most part. And they know that which they argue against very well, too.

In my book I utilize the arguments of liberal Christian scholars against evangelical Christianity over and over. They make my case for me. Evangelical (or fundamentalist) Christianity does not have a leg to stand on after the liberals are done with it.

But what about liberal Christianity?

Liberal Catholic scholar John F. Haught, former Chair and Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University from 1970-2005, and one of the world’s leading thinkers in the area of science and religion, thinks his version of faith survives the onslaught of the so-called “New Atheists.” In a book titled, God and the New Atheism, Haught takes aim at Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Against Dawkins he claims that God cannot be dismissed as a delusion; against Harris he claims that faith is not the enemy of reason; and against Hitchens he claims that religion does not poison everything.

In the Introduction Haught argues that a proper understanding of God, faith, and theology is something these critics are woefully lacking in, and as such their critique of Christian religion is “theological unchallenging.” (p. xi). Haught argues that when it comes to the Christian notion of God the understanding of the New Atheists “has almost nothing to do with what Christian faith and theology today understand by that name.” (p. xv). When it comes to understanding religious faith their views are “at the same unscholarly level as the unreflective, superstitious, and literalist religiosity of those they criticize.” (p. xiii). Haught faults them for debating with “extremists” like creationists, fundamentalists, terrorists and intelligent design advocates “rather than any major theologians.” (p. xv).

In Haught’s words the New Atheists (including Daniel Dennett at this point) think “science alone can tell us what religion is really about, and it can provide better answers than theology to every important question people ask.” (p. x).

In a few posts I’m going to look more closely at Dr. Haught’s arguments.