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David Bentley Hart offers an honest assessment of Richard Dawkins’s new book

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Outgrowing God by Richard Dawkins

The book is Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide. Hart thinks Dawkins has finally found his authorial voice but you had better read the rest:

At last, Dawkins has found an authorial voice entirely adequate to his theme. And it is charming. Yes, of course, the confused and chaotic quality of his arguments remains a constant, and the basic conceptual mistakes have not altered appreciably since the earliest days of his polemics; but here it all comes across as the delightful babble of a toddler. “Do you believe in God?” he asks on the first page, tugging at your sleeve, eager to inform you of all the interesting things he has learned about religion this week. “Which god? Thousands of gods have been worshipped throughout the world, throughout history.” Do tell. And, in fact, tell he does, breathlessly emptying out his whole little hoard of knowledge about the local deities of ancient peoples. The sheer earnest impishness of his manner is almost enough to make you ignore his continued inability—despite decades of attempts by more refined logicians to explain his error to him—to distinguish between the mythic and devotional stories that peoples tell about their gods and the ontological and modal claims that the great monotheistic traditions of the “axial age” and after have made about God, or to grasp the qualitative conceptual gulf that separates them.

David Bentley Hart, “Richard Dawkins Discovers His Ideal Idiom and Audience” at Church Life Journal

Hat tip: Ken Francis, co-author with Theodore Dalrymple of The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd

9 Replies to “David Bentley Hart offers an honest assessment of Richard Dawkins’s new book

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    A classic review! Book and movie reviewers of previous decades sometimes achieved this level of quiet perfect destruction, but the art seemed to be lost…. until this.

    The reviewer only misses one section of Dawkins infantility. Dawkins hates Islam even more than he hates Christianity, and his dysunderstanding of Islam is even more profound than his dysunderstanding of Christianity.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    I’m shocked – shocked – to find that David Bentley Hart has written a scathing review of a book by Richard Dawkins.

  3. 3
    ET says:

    I’m shocked- SHOCKED- that Richard Dawkins would write a book that bashes God. 🙄

    cue Berlinski to write a book titled “Outgrowing Dawkins”…

  4. 4
    abc says:

    LOL, David Berlinski, please perform said suggestion !

  5. 5
    AaronS1978 says:

    Tis no more shocking then Richard Dawkins writing a book called “out growing god”
    And let’s not forget Richard Dawkins probably has no bias the any kind (Sarcasm Emphasized)

  6. 6
    jstanley01 says:

    My favorite David Bentley Hart lecture focuses on the differences between, “the mythic and devotional stories that peoples tell about their gods and the ontological and modal claims that the great monotheistic traditions of the ‘axial age’ and after have made about God,” where Hart zooms in on “the qualitative conceptual gulf” between them. Specifically, on a distinction of category which must be made between the ritual sacrifices pandemic to our species from deep time and the sacrifices that Abraham’s God required when He came on stage.

    Hart not only shows that the two served wholly different functions, but that they were at odds. And not only at odds; Hart shows how the latter exposed and overthrew the former’s bankruptcy and corruption. Not by prevailing in war, much less by winning, for all time, abstract intellectual arguments via books, lectures or blog posts. Rather, it was by a victory won on a hill called The Place of a Skull where the two kinds of sacrifice contended in the singular sacrifice of one man — whom all previous sacrifices back to Isaac had foreshadowed — where Abraham’s God answered the depth of humankind’s genuine existential needs once and for all, proximately and ultimately.

    It turns out, the problem wasn’t death, like everybody thought. It was sin, go figure.

    On the way, Hart successfully disposes of the simplistic hypothesis of Marx and Freud et. al. – which lightweights like Dawkins love to parrot — that religion evolved to comfort human beings, in our angst over our mortality, with childish hopes of an afterlife. A notion which the evidence that Hart canvases from the prehistory and history of religion not only renders mistaken, but laughable.

    When it comes to humankind’s “mythical and devotional stories,” laying aside the first, there’s a whole lot wrapped up in that second adjective, “devotional.” The bulk of which still survives in underground form today (paganism with its pantheon having receded since Christ, but in principle, it has not vanished, but rather, still rules). And none of it is pretty.

    David Bentley Hart – Death, Sacrifice, and Resurrection

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    As an aside, the replacement of pantheons of lesser gods with a single all-knowing, all-powerful, all-purpose deity actually sounds like an application of Occam’s Razor centuries before the good monk formulated his guideline.

  8. 8
    jstanley01 says:

    Seversky,
    This is pure speculation, but I wonder if the human propensity for many gods may have neurobiological roots. Jordan Peterson has speculated that the multiple nodes about which psychologists hypothesize — which he says exist in all human beings and represent several more-or-less independent personalities united under one consciousness — may have such roots. And likewise, the countervailing propensity to want one god (or “one ring to rule them all”) corresponding to the one consciousness, would have such roots (me). Pointing you to specific links on the subject, though, would be hard; I’ve listened to quite a bit of Peterson’s stuff. Too much to dig through, lol…

  9. 9
    Truthfreedom says:

    dawkins is a fool.
    If Evolution ‘gave’ us religion, how does he expect to ‘erase’ it? If we are ‘hard-wired’ to believe in ‘God/s’, how is he going to modify our brain circuitry to archive his ‘goals’?
    Maybe using mass-lobotomy? A magic wand? Does he want to create a ‘selected’ race, free of ‘religious superstition’? And to replace it with his crazy, blind, superstitious atheism?
    This philosophical illiterate has fooled way too much people.
    At least he is good for some laughs.

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