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A Sceptic’s Guide To Atheism

Peter S. Williams (Damaris: 2009).

This is an accessible response to the contemporary anti-God arguments of the ‘new atheists’ (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Grayling, etc). Atheism has become militant in the past few years, with its own popular mass media evangelists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. In this readable book, Christian philosopher Peter S. Williams considers the arguments of the ‘new atheists’ and finds them wanting. Williams explains the history of atheism and responds to the claims that: ‘belief in God causes more harm than good’; ‘religion is about blind faith and science is the only way to know things’; ‘science can explain religion away’; ‘there is not enough evidence for God’; ‘the arguments for God’s existence do not work’. Williams argues that belief in God is more intellectually plausible than atheism. ~ Product Description

Interview with the Author

What is unique about your book compared to other critical treatments on the “new atheists”?
The new atheism is characterised by the propositions that belief in God is false and evil. The new atheists believe that at the core of even the most outwardly benign theism is an immoral commitment to flouting one’s intellectual responsibilities. That means that the new atheism
presupposes both an account of rationality and an account of morality. What’s unique about my book is that I examine those accounts and turn the results of this analysis against the new atheism. By systematically reviewing their major arguments, I show how the new atheism is grounded in incoherent accounts of knowledge and morality.

It’s not just that the new atheists are wrong to define ‘faith’ as ‘belief without evidence’ or ‘belief against the evidence’. It’s that their positive account of what it means to live up to one’s intellectual responsibilities is self-contradictory. I counter with an epistemology that isn’t
self-contradictory, which frowns upon both ‘blind faith’ and belief despite overwhelming counter evidence, but which opens up the possibility of a faith in God that’s compatible with living up to one’s genuine intellectual responsibilities.

Then again, the new atheists put a lot of emphasis on arguments against belief in God, as
opposed to arguments against the existence of God, and these arguments all have a moral dimension. For example, the argument that faith means being committed to ignoring one’s intellectual responsibilities presupposes that we have an objective moral responsibility to reason in a certain way. However, for the new atheists to invoke objective moral responsibilities is self-contradictory, since the naturalistic worldview of the new atheism excludes the reality of any objective moral values. For example, Dawkins says both that there are no normative facts, no good, no evil, and that faith is an evil that leads people to do evil things. These claims form an in consistent set.

Read the rest of the interview… 


‘Williams’s reply to the emergence of militant public atheism is as timely as it is devastating.’ – Dr. Angus J. Menuge, Professor of Philosophy, Concordia University, Wisconsin, USA

‘Peter S. Williams’ new book A Sceptic’s Guide to Atheism… takes the arguments of “The New Atheists” to pieces.’ – Dr. Robin Parry, Editorial Director at Paternoster Publishing

‘The new atheism is like the Titanic leaving Southampton. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and her other captains proclaim her unsinkable. Surely she will obliterate all obstacles in her path – especially religious faith. In this insightful book, Peter Williams shows that a carefully articulated, philosophically grounded faith is to the new atheism what hitting an iceberg was to the Titanic. The lesson is clear and urgent: get off while you still can!’ ~ Dr. William A. Dembski, senior fellow with Seattle’s Discovery Institute, author of The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press)

‘Williams’ painstaking analysis attempts to get inside the atheist mindset by investigating a potpourri of charges against Christianity, constructed from a wide range of atheological perspectives. He responds with excellent rejoinders and counterarguments, producing a highly
instructive give-and-take. The overall effort is a coherent, well-reasoned defence of Christian Theism that challenges the best atheist attacks. As Williams concludes, he has seen nothing that comes close to undermining the Christian faith.’ – Dr. Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor, Liberty University