Religion Under the Lens
Paul Copan and Chad Meister, eds. (Wiley-Blackwell : October 26, 2007), 296 pages.
A comprehensive and authoritative overview of the most important ideas and arguments in this resurgent field. The text moves beyond the borders of Western theism to more accurately reflect the nature of the twenty-first-century world. Featuring eighteen original essays from leading scholars, this collection offers a wide variety of viewpoints for a well balanced perspective on both traditional and cutting-edge topics in philosophy of religion. Designed for course use, this accessible text includes study questions and annotated further reading lists to stimulate reflection and provide opportunities for deeper exploration of the fundamental questions of the nature of religion.
David J. Bagget, Gary R. Habermas, and Jerry L. Walls, eds. (InterVarsity Press: Apr 2008), 280 pages.
What did C. S. Lewis think about truth, goodness and beauty? Fifteen essays explore three major philosophical themes from the writings of Lewis: Truth, Goodness and Beauty. This volume provides a comprehensive overview of Lewis's philosophical reflections on arguments for Christianity, the character of God, theodicy, moral goodness, heaven and hell, a theory of literature, and the place of the imagination. Contributors include Victor Reppert, Dave Horner, Peter Kreeft, Russell Howell, and Michael Peterson. "There are three things that will never die: truth, goodness, and beauty. These are the three things we all need, and need absolutely. Our minds want not only some truth and some falsehood, but all truth, without limit. Our wills want not only some good and some evil, but all good, without limit. Our desires, imaginations, feelings or hearts want not just some beauty and some ugliness, but all beauty, without limit." ~ Peter Kreeft, chp. 1
Chad Meister (Routledge: Nov 2, 2007), 736 pages. Companion to the Introduction.
In the past, most philosophy of religion anthologies focused exclusively on Western theistic issues such as arguments for and against God's existence, religious language, morality, the nature of God, and so forth. While much work in the field is still Western and theistic in nature (and these are indeed yet productive and fertile times for engaging in such issues), religious parochialism is unwarranted, and the discussion is now beginning to swing in broader directions. There are rich traditions of philosophical thought in non-Western and non-theistic religions, and as the world community has globalized in myriad ways in recent decades, such interaction, engagement, and expansion should be reflected in philosophical and religious publications as well. So besides traditional Western issues (including such recent ones as intelligent design and open theism), I have also included in my reader non-theistic perspectives of ultimate reality and their responses to evil, religious experience, and death and the afterlife. I have also included some of the recent trends which are often ignored in anthologies such as feminism in philosophy of religion and religion and the environment. In addition, I wanted this work to be a useful reader and guide for students, so I included a significant number of pedagogical tools (as I note below). I don't think any reader/anthology on the market has as many student aids. ~ Chad Meister
Christopher Hitchens (Twelve Books, Hachette: May 1, 2007), 307 pages.
Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he's completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. And can he turn a phrase!: "monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents." Hitchens's one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers. Yet few believers will recognize themselves as Hitchens associates all of them for all time with the worst of history's theocratic and inquisitional moments. All the same, this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers' weaker arguments: that faith offers comfort (false comfort is none at all), or has provided a historical hedge against fascism (it mostly hasn't), or that "Eastern" religions are better (nope). The book's real strength is Hitchens's on-the-ground glimpses of religion's worst face in various war zones and isolated despotic regimes. But its weakness is its almost fanatical insistence that religion poisons "everything," which tips over into barely disguised misanthropy. ~ Publisher's Weekly
Gerald R. McDermott (InterVarsity: Mar 2007), 192 pages.
In the providence of God, why are there other religions? Was the God of the Bible wise in allowing for them? Can they serve any purpose? Gerald R. McDermott explores teaching from the Old and New Testaments and reflections from a number of key theologians from the early church to suggest an answer to this intriguing but perplexing question. In the end McDermott provides considerable insight into the troubling clash of the world religions and offers a helpful Christian response. "Dr. McDermott has written extensively on the world religions from the orthodox Christian perspective. God's Rivals sets forth to answer the questions of whether or not there are other gods, and more importantly Why? Past that the questions really flow, and I personally love his style of giving enough facts from the Bible and historical writings to let the reader begin to form his or her own opinion. The "continuous red thread" is a helpful concept guiding this reader through a difficult forest." ~ William A. Fintel at Amazon.com
Kwame Anthony Appiah (W.W. Norton & Company: Feb 17, 2007), 224 pages.
AAppiah, a Princeton philosophy professor, articulates a precise yet flexible ethical manifesto for a world characterized by heretofore unthinkable interconnection but riven by escalating fractiousness. Drawing on his Ghanaian roots and on examples from philosophy and literature, he attempts to steer a course between the extremes of liberal universalism, with its tendency to impose our values on others, and cultural relativism, with its implicit conviction that gulfs in understanding cannot be bridged. Cosmopolitanism, in Appiah’s formulation, balances our “obligations to others” with the "value not just of human life but of particular human lives" — what he calls “universality plus difference.” Appiah remains skeptical of simple maxims for ethical behavior — like the Golden Rule, whose failings as a moral precept he swiftly demonstrates — and argues that cosmopolitanism is the name not "of the solution but of the challenge." ~ The New Yorker
Philip Broadhead and Damien Keown, eds. (I.B. Tauris: Feb 6, 2007), 240 pages.
It is often alleged that religion is a major cause of war and dissent. History is littered with the wreckage of religious conflict, from the crusades onwards, and it is frequently maintained that it is religion which is the tinderbox that ignites so many regional disputes - from Bosnia's ethnic cleansing to the ongoing conflict in Iraq. If religion is on trial, the evidence against it so often seems damning. But is the picture really as grim as has been painted? Very little is heard in defence of religion and few attempts have been made to put the other side of the case. The essays in this volume are among the first systematically to explore the role of religion as a force for peace, both historically and in the contemporary world. They focus on the efforts that have been made by individuals, communities and religious groups to secure conflict-resolution and replace hostility with tolerance and mutual respect. Specific topics explored include: nationalism and religious conflict; revolution and religious wars; the impact of secularisation; ethnicity and religion; conflict over holy places; and making and keeping the peace. ~ Product Description
Daniel C. Dennett (Penguin : February 6, 2007), 464 pages.
In his characteristically provocative fashion, Dennett, author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea and director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, calls for a scientific, rational examination of religion that will lead us to understand what purpose religion serves in our culture. Much like E.O. Wilson (In Search of Nature), Robert Wright (The Moral Animal), and Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene), Dennett explores religion as a cultural phenomenon governed by the processes of evolution and natural selection. Religion survives because it has some kind of beneficial role in human life, yet Dennett argues that it has also played a maleficent role. He elegantly pleads for religions to engage in empirical self-examination to protect future generations from the ignorance so often fostered by religion hiding behind doctrinal smoke screens. Because Dennett offers a tentative proposal for exploring religion as a natural phenomenon, his book is sometimes plagued by generalizations that leave us wanting more ("Only when we can frame a comprehensive view of the many aspects of religion can we formulate defensible policies for how to respond to religions in the future"). Although much of the ground he covers has already been well trod, he clearly throws down a gauntlet to religion. ~ Publishers Weekly
Keith Ward (Lion Hudson Pic: September 1, 2006), 224 pages.
Although he lacks the glibness, arrogance, and fame of best-selling antireligionists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, Ward neatly cuts the ground from under such global-village atheists. He points out their definitional haziness about the key terms religion and the paltriness of the evidence for their claims, and their reliance on outdated, unverifiable anthropological and psychological speculations. And that's only in the introduction. Religion and violence, religion and irrationality, religion and morality, and whether religion does more harm than good are the topics of the short book's four parts proper, and in each Ward demonstrates that clear, consistent, and logical relationships between ill effects and religious motivations cannot be established. If religion is violent, how to explain Quakers and Buddhists? If irrational, then those philosophical reconcilers of reason and faith Kant, Descartes, and Aquinas must be refuted. Religious belief seems immoral only when scripture is cherry-picked, and whether religion harms more than helps the person and society has yet to be demonstrated. Ward argues with the findings of social science research and philosophy rather than scripture, and he concludes with boilerplate ecumenism only after having reassured readers that God-bashing celebs don't, perhaps can't, know what they're yakking about. ~ Ray Olson for Booklist
James F. Sennet and Douglas Groothuis (InterVarsity Press: Nov 30, 2005), 336 pages.
The shadow of David Hume, the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher, has loomed large against all efforts to prove the existence of God from evidence in the natural world. Indeed from Hume's day to ours, the vast majority of philosophical attacks against the rationality of theism have borne an unmistakable Humean aroma. The last forty years, however, have been marked by a resurgence in Christian theism among philosophers, and the time has come for a thorough reassessment of the case for natural theology. James F. Sennett and Douglas Groothuis have assembled a distinguished team of philosophers to engage the task: Terence Penelhum, Todd M. Furman, Keith Yandell, Garrett J. DeWeese, Joshua Rasmussen, James D. Madden, Robin Collins, Paul Copan, Victor Reppert, J. P. Moreland and R. Douglas Geivett. Together this team makes vigorous individual and cumulative arguments that set Hume's attacks in fresh perspective and that offer new insights into the value of teleological, cosmological and ontological arguments for God's existence. ~ Product Description