05 May 2009

Doubting Ditchkins

There are two new books out that take on, in different ways, the New Atheism of (especially) Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, whom one author calls collectively "Ditchkins." These two bestselling authors have provoked a very strong response, but I have come across little that really breaks new ground. But these two new titles look very good. I've read other books by their authors and they are both very bright lights.

David Bentley Hart is an Orthodox theologian who authored an excellent piece of contempory theodicy in The Doors of the Sea, among other works. His new anti-atheism book is Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (brief reviews here and on Amazon). Rather than rehashing old Aquininan arguments for the existence of God, he examines how Christ and Christianity have created our contempory "humane" view of humanity itself. He is not a easy author, and this recycles his previous work to a large extent, but this looks to be an accessible entry into Hart's thought.

Even more interesting to me is the new book by Terry Eagleton, a British scholar and cultural and literary critic who must be the world's most articulate Marxist. His takedown of postmodernism in After Theory was tremendous, coming as it did from a PoMo fellow-traveller. I won't survey his new book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution, since Stanley Fish does it thoroughly, but it is a very unexpected defense of religion from someone who is not (in any obvious way) religious.  Fish speculates on why he wrote this book, and concludes: "He is angry, I think, at having to expend so much mental and emotional energy refuting the shallow arguments of school-yard atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins. I know just how he feels."

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