This books presents as a fair and respectful response to “New Atheism”. It gets points for that, however that makes the content even scarier.

It is full of: * 1 = 0 type proofs (defense of the ontological argument, a “logical” deduction that naturalism proves science is false), * semantic quibbling (see sections on “free will”) * mis-characterizations of probability (“When faced with an improbable event or apparent miracle, there are three logical alternatives: 1) the event did not happen as reported, 2) the event happened and was caused by some natural but unknown precipitator, or (c) the event was caused by supernatural means. If one simply presupposes that (3) is not an alternative, then one-third of the potential explanations are eliminated a priori, without examination or discussion. A much more responsible approach is to take the evidence into account, and to judge miracle reports case by case, with all the options on the table.”) * … and epistemologies (“Human testimony was the only way to establish the truth of historical claims. And whenever anyone tells you how weak it is, listen to her talk for ten more minutes, and she will contradict herself by appealing to human testimony in everything else she says that day: things she has learned in class, in books, on the Web, on the radio.”), * question begging (“And what is science but systematized learning from experience? God made the world friendly for science, not for the sake of science alone, but to accomplish the whole scope of His purposes for us.”) * holocaust-denial style mental gymnastics, which I found particularly horrifying (of the genocide in Joshua: “if the language of “striking all the people by the sword,” “leaving no survivors,” “totally destroying,” “striking all the inhabitants with the edge of the sword,” and so on is hyperbolic (as the evidence suggests it is), then the command cannot have been intended to be taken literally.” … so they just roughed them up a little!? In justifying the presence of evil in the world: “It is also important to keep in mind that the amount of suffering that can exist is limited to the maximum amount of suffering a single person can bear. … The limits to human suffering are marked out by the capacity of an individual to experience pain, which have physiological and temporal boundaries. These limits to human suffering seem consistent with the kinds of morally sufficient reasons that God would have for not eliminating evil.”). * Extraordinary claims that I literally cannot understand how someone could make sincerely: “Indeed,” says D’Souza, “there is no other example in history of the Catholic Church condemning a scientific theory.” [in reference to galileo, in defense of church’s relationship to science]

That is not to say there are no criticisms of new atheism in this book that at least inspire critical thought, (“If religious believers get no credit for their positive contributions to society (e.g., shaping modern science) because “everyone was religious,” then why should their mistakes, like atrocities committed in the name of God, discredit them? This is a double standard.”) but they are drowned out by the above.

A conclusion I drew from this book is that we need to institute a taboo on the words “reason” and “faith” (atheistic or otherwise). These words simply do not mean the same things to different people, and a persistently used to mis-represent opposing views. The clearest example: The apologists in this book consider themselves more “reasonable” (a recurring claim) than the new atheists, since their arguments are presented and dressed up in a much more “logical” form. That is not a definition of reasonable that I (or new atheists) ascribe to.

Cover image for True reason