Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Here's a link to an interview with Oxford acholar Alister McGrath who counters the arguments Richard Dawkins sets forth in his best-selling book "The God Delusion." As atheist fundamentalists are rising in popularity, McGrath shares some insights worth reading.


ALISTER McGRATH used to be an atheist. Now he’s an Anglican theologian.

And he’s taking on one of the most aggressive and polemical atheists of our time, Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling book The God Delusion.

Like Dawkins, McGrath is a professor at the University of Oxford and a scientist. But unlike the zoologist Dawkins, he is an expert in historical theology, philosophy as well as molecular biophysics. It’s an expertise that led him to write The Dawkins Delusion?, published earlier this year.

In addition to lecturing on historical theology, McGrath also helps run the newly-established Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, and is currently researching the iconic role played by Charles Darwin in atheist apologetics.
Q: The essence of this debate, between believers and atheists, is an old one, but how do you think this particular debate is different from those in the past?

A: That’s a very good question. I think the intensity is much, much greater. When you read The God Delusion, it’s extremely aggressive, it’s very dismissive, it prejudicially stereotypes those who believe in God, and I don’t see that in older atheist writings in the 1950s and ’60s. I see criticism but not ridicule. So there’s a change in tone but in terms of the arguments used, I have to say with great sadness that I’ve read The God Delusion very closely and it is a recycling of older positions, many of which are already discredited, and I find myself just astonished that it’s being done.

Q: Do you think it’s really a moneymaking exercise on the part of Dawkins, that he’s merely exploiting people’s current ignorance of religion in our secular age?

A: The God Delusion works as a piece of writing only if the reader is very ignorant or very prejudiced against religious believers. In other words, they don’t know what they believe and they don’t really know very many people [who believe], so they have these rather odd ideas of what people who believe in God are actually like. Those who are acquainted with the field, whether they are religious believers — or atheists — are very, very concerned by the book because it is so obviously dependent on misrepresentation, misunderstanding and so forth. Indeed, in North America, the most scathing reviews have not come from the religious commentators, who are generally disregarded as just being not worthy of serious comment. The most serious, negative reviews have come from atheists who feel that Dawkins is doing atheism a very bad turn, that Dawkins is portraying atheism as extremely ignorant and prejudicial.

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