Monday, March 15, 2010
Review: The Making of an Atheist
With the so-called "new atheism" making the rounds in recent years and getting a lot of media attention, it's been necessary for Christian apologists and scholars to take up the gauntlet. It would be necessary regardless, but even more needed right now because of how aggressive this new crop of atheists has been.
Enter James S. Spiegel, professor of philosophy and religion at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. On the radio program I co-host, Perspective Underground, we recently had the privilege of interviewing Jim about his new book, The Making of an Atheist," released in the United States by Moody Publishers. In his book, Professor Spiegel makes a very strong case that atheism, especially the aggressive "new atheist" variety, has its roots more in a fallen will and moral compass rather than skeptical objections.
The moral argument has been made in the past by other Christian scholars of history, to be sure. However, Jim's book makes a fresh, compelling case for the 21st Century. In The Making of an Atheist," he reviews several different areas in a very user-friendly fashion. He opens by looking at some of the actual arguments used by the New Atheists, and then in subsequent chapters, deals with atheism's irrationality, causes and obstinacy. The book concludes with the very real blessings of theism, or belief in the God of the Bible.
Here is a little clip of the introduction to set the stage for the following chapters . . .
The candid remarks of atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel are telling:
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and naturally, hope that I'm right about my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that."
These comments by Nagel . . . reveal strong emotions. Could it be that their opposition to religious faith has more to do with the will than with reason? What if, in the end, evidence has little to do with how atheists arrive at their anti-faith? Perhaps we should consider the possibility that skeptical objections are the atheists' facade, a scholarly veneer masking the real causes of their unbelief—causes that are moral and psychological in nature. That is precisely my aim in this book. Atheism is not at all a consequence of intellectual doubts. Such doubts are mere symptoms of the root cause—moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience.
Jim Spiegel's case certainly resonates with a key passage in Scripture, namely Romans chapter 1, which says that men "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." God's Word goes on to say . . .
. . . because that which is known about God is evident within them, because God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:20-22).
Romans 1 goes on in a similar vein, but you get the idea. Man doesn't believe because he has suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. It's not because God has hidden Himself under a bushel basket.
Certainly, the New Atheists will object vociferously to such a depiction and insist that their skepticism is based on science. If they are truly objective and rational, then they should read Professor Speigel's new book and consider what he has to say with an open mind and honest self-criticism.
Who knows. Maybe they'll have a change of heart.
Late note: To go hand in hand with this book review, check out this column by Vox Day on the New Atheism's passing day in the sun.