I read two reviews of Hart's book, one good and one bad. The glowering review
from Christianscholars.com convinced me reading the book would be a waste of time. Sometimes that happens. For instance, Reverend Kishkuman's favorable review of Witnesses
convinced me that I probably wouldn't be able to sit through it, even for the sake of morbid entertainment.
That being said, in the case of Hart's book, not because the book is a joke, it's probably pretty good for what it is, I just don't think that what it is will tell me anything radically new.
These quotes sum up the greater part of the review:
reviewer wrote:The “New Atheists” write sophomoric books caricaturing religious belief, and their fans gather before atheist self-help preachers and employ a rocking band to set the mood. David Bentley Hart believes that the new atheism fits very well with the spirit of our shallow, consumer civilization.
reviewer wrote:When the New Atheists rail on religious belief, they are rarely if ever speaking of any God affirmed in any version of classical theism.
reviewer wrote:Hart contends that modern religious fundamentalists and atheists, alike, are working with a concept of “God” that is more akin to what ancient peoples, even the ancient Hebrews, referred to as the “gods.”
I'll quickly note in the spirit of my challenge to Don in my last post, that Mormons are working with a concept of "God" that is more akin to what ancient peoples believed, and rejecting classical theism is something Mormons wear as a badge of honor.
Anyway, that brings us nearly to the end of the review. I've never read a New Atheist book, in fact, I've never read a book by an atheist arguing against God. I will end up agreeing with most of what Hart says about New Atheism, I'm sure. I'm aware of the definition of God from classical theism. I understand the bounds of the discussion.
The remaining parts of the review:
Yet, “it cannot possibly be the case that there are only contingent realities” unless we want to affirm an infinite regress.
I've heard of the cosmological argument. Does he have a revolutionary take on it?
Hart contends that attempts to make sense of human consciousness “in materialist terms frequently devolve into absurdity
Rubs me the wrong way like crazy. The Philosophy of Mind may be the most active area of analytic philosophy in the last 60 years, and all the good material against "physicalism" -- which is what we call it now, not materialism -- is written by other atheist philosophers with no interest in God. Will Hart's rejection of physicalism be more profound than the atheist (naturalist) David Chalmers? Daniel Dennett himself rejects reductive physicalism. All the New Atheists do, I think, Pinker is the other guy whose framework wouldn't make sense in reductive physicalism. Chalmers rejects the weakest versions of physicalism, but the thing is, none of the alternatives are enhanced by God. The first issue here is the very issue of why philosophy of mind is a philosophical discussion and not science discussion. One example. Richard Rorty and David Lewis both have fun examples of encountering aliens wired totally different than humans. Maybe their biology is so different (maybe even machines? Dennett) or their mannerisms that we're at a loss of ascribing a first person experience to them -- do they feel pain, etc? How would you prove that they do or don't? For that matter, how do you know other people have a first-person experience? Shared biology (Sober) or behavior; hardly proof, but without it, what? Now, how would God help settle the problem of other minds aside from declaring the other mind sentient? That other minds is a vexing problem that science probably can't solve and that philosophers can debate forever, doesn't mean it's a limitation of a variety where God helps. Compare to suddenly finding your car keys. In principle, that is a gap that God possibly explains, even if we hold a high bar for a standard of evidence, I can imagine God explaining a physical anomaly far easier than I can imagine God solving the problem of other minds. In physics problems, God intervening makes sense in principle, in philosophy, the principle is the thing we don't understand in the first place.
but also a very convincing case against some of the most popular apologetic programs among evangelicals, such as young earth creationism and intelligent design.
Thank you for that, at least.
The stuff on Tillich the reviewer mentioned would be my weakest point. But I can also look up Paul Tillich in the SEP. It's also least likely to find broad acceptance among Christians as Stem noted.
Also mentioned is the transcendental argument, which is the most garbage argument for God ever conceived. Gets minus points for that.
Not mentioned is the ontological argument, which in my opinion, is the only argument for God, and the only proper way to define God. One thing that I can respect about the ontological argument is that it was actually conceived of by a theologian and original to theology, it isn't high philosophy somebody else thought of aped to the cause of God. I'm not going to defend that argument in this post as already this is long, I realize the ontological argument sounds totally silly, but, just putting it out there that if I were to go back and question my atheism, I'd start by reviewing the ontological argument.