Atheism’s New Clothes

by Tom Gilson

David H. Glass. Atheism’s New Clothes: Exploring and Exposing the Claims of the New Atheists. Nottingham, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012. 336 pp. $17.99.

“Who is this book for?” That’s one of the first questions I always ask myself when I dive into a book for review. Atheism’s New Clothes is focused entirely on the major anti-religion writings of the “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. It comprises about 300 pages of moderately intense philosophical discussion—somewhat challenging due to the length of argumentation yet accessible to thoughtful believers nonetheless.

So who would be the audience for a book like this? I couldn’t help but think of three persons in particular (there could have been a fourth, but he’s gone). Atheism’s New Clothes could do these particular readers a lot of good. I am of course speaking of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and the late Hitchens. They could learn a lot from David Glass.

The book is like the New Atheists’ literature in the material it covers: Is faith irrational? Does science undermine belief in God? Is there anything relevant to the God question in the existence and order of the universe, in human consciousness, in the facts of biology, morality, the origins of religion, or even the Bible? It’s like their books, too, in taking square aim at its opponents, being unafraid to pronounce them wrong or even foolish.

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It’s unlike theirs, however, in that Glass knows how to produce a valid argument.

I’ve argued elsewhere that the New Atheists’ reasoning skills are seriously lacking, which Glass demonstrates over and over again. And given he demonstrates it with respect to virtually every major claim against Christianity they make, I think I can say this is the most thoroughly argued and devastating critique of the New Atheism I’ve encountered.

Glass Houses

The book’s title refers to a familiar fable, but as I read it I instead kept thinking of a well-known proverb: people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The New Atheists have been chucking rocks at Christianity and other religions. In this book, Glass picks them up and tosses them right back. He’s the one with the name Glass, but it’s their houses that shatter. If you’re going to go about wearing the emperor’s “new clothes,” it’s best not to take up residence in such vulnerable quarters…

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