A Christian that I often debate with was kind enough to buy me a book that he thinks makes a good case for god's existence and addresses many of the arguments made by the so called New Atheists. In return, I promised to actually read the book (of course) and write a chapter-by-chapter review of it here on my blog.
Well the book, called The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism, written by a philosopher named Edward Feser, arrived a few days ago. I've read the first chapter and the preface and I have to say that the book seems like an interesting read. I like Feser's writing style. He's very polemic and clear about articulating his point of view and he's able to keep my attention while reading (which is very important). And at 267 pages of content, the book isn't too long.
I had very little knowledge of Feser before being told of this book. He's an associate professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College according to Wikipedia. There are thousands of professors like Fesar who stay under the radar and never make a whole lot of noise outside of esoteric philosophy circles, and one can make a name for themselves by criticizing or debating big name philosophers and scientists, like those that comprise the New Atheists. But so far Feser is still relatively unknown, even to many theists and atheists active in the debate over god, religion, and secularism.
Feser's book is a critique of what's become known as New Atheism, and I'm told it's a very good one. Here on this blog I will be critiquing Feser's critique of New Atheism. But here's the problem. I don't always agree with many of the New Atheists myself. And to be honest with you, the only two books I've read in their entirety made by a New Atheist author is Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (which I still regard as an excellent critique of Abrahamic monotheism and its social effects),* and Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape. I've read part of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, which is arguably the most famous of the New Atheist's books, and I've read excerpts of Sam Harris' The End of Faith (which is the book that started the "New Atheism" phenomenon) and Daniel Dennett's, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. I agree with these guys on a lot of stuff, but not on everything. So when I criticize Feser it won't necessarily be from the perspective of the New Atheists, it will be from my perspective. And that means I might at times agree with Feser and not with the New Atheists, or I might disagree with them both.
I've had my criticisms of the New Atheists in the past that are shared by Feser. And that is that the New Atheists have not made a strong effort to take on the best arguments for theism. Instead, they spend most of the time criticizing religion and its social effects, especially its most stupidest forms (which so happen to be the kinds that get the most publicity; a failure of religious intellectuals to make more noise). And while there is a need for that, there is more importantly a need to attack your opponent's best arguments. The New Atheists may not have done that, but many other atheist philosophers and scientists have done that, and the internet is crawling with counter apologists who are obsessed with addressing the best and brightest arguments for god that theists have. And so the New Atheists do not have some kind of intellectual stronghold on the world's billion or so atheists.
I honestly do not rely heavily on many of the New Atheists for arguments against god. I've found reading atheist blogs and websites and watching YouTube videos provides a much more detailed and richer source of good counter apologetic arguments. For the really heavy stuff I tend to seek the relevant experts in science, history, religion, and philosophy. The bottom line is that atheism is not defined by the New Atheists, nor does it rest on their arguments. The New Atheists can be credited for making atheism more popular than it ever was and making it more socially acceptable to be openly skeptical of religious claims (something which still needs improvement in many parts of the world). But it is not the New Atheists who have, for the most part, given us the definitive set of arguments against god. With some notable exceptions, they're just popularizers of existing criticisms against god, some of which have been around for centuries, but were kept quiet by law or social custom.
This is all to just set the stage from where I'm coming from as I begin to dig deeper into this criticism of my worldview and its social effects. and its four most popular proponents. I've been looking for the best criticism of atheism out there, and have tried to take on the best arguments that theists can offer. I will have to see if Feser's book and arguments live up to the hype.
An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Preface)
1. An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 1 Bad Religion)
2. An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 2 Greeks Bearing Gifts)
3. An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 3 Getting Medieval)
4.2 An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 4 Scholastic Aptitude - Part 2: Natural Law)
4.3 An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 4 Scholastic Aptitude - Part 3: Faith, Reason, And Evil)
5.1 An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 5 Decent of the Modernists - Part 1: Pre-birth of the modern & Thoroughly modern metaphysics)
5.2 An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 5 Decent of the Modernists - Part 2: Inventing the mind-body problem)
* I don't think Hitchens really made the case against Eastern religions but that is not relevant for this review of TLS because Feser is not defending Eastern religion.