Lennox opens by listing some of the atheists who have earned his ire. Dawkins takes the lead, a seemingly odd choice for primacy as he is followed by Hawking to whom Lennox recently devoted an entire book. The "lesser calibre" atheists that follow are Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and the "more junior Sam Harris". His targets are spread further afield when he lists Frenchman Michel Onfray and Italian Piergiorgio Odifreddi. Note at this time that Richard Carrier and Dan Barker are not listed. I'll come back to this.
He makes a reasonable criticism of Dennett's attempt to rebrand the godless as 'Brights'. This stillborn move never garnered the sympathy Lennox implies; all he can offer in support of his profession of its popularity is the fact that they possess a website. Is that really a mark of overwhelming adoption? And have the religious not similarly erred? Could we point to a single individual who describes himself as simultaneously the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God, and say that we are not alone in occasionally letting marketing get the better of us?
Also in this chapter Lennox makes light of atheists' reproductive abilities, citing a study showing that those who attend religious service once a week have on average 2.5 children, while those who lie in on Sunday have but 1.7. He makes exactly the same point with much the same wording later in the book and I'll discuss it further there. I've reviewed Lennox before, and it's interesting to see how his writing style evolved - I realise given his creationist leanings he would not favour the term. The introduction is polished, witty and tightly written. Unfortunately these high standards seem to slip when we stray outside material available in the free Kindle sample. I'd say the duplication of birth statistics is caused by a desire to get some more controversy and interest in the opening section. It's a trend I've noticed in recently published books; I hope it doesn't persist.
The first two pages of this chapter are mainly quotes. I'll respond in kind:
"For Onfray, then, it is this fictional god that is an enemy of reason. Well, fictional gods may well be enemies of reason: the God of the Bible certainly is not. The very first of the biblical Ten Commandments contains the instruction to “love the Lord your God with all your mind”." [emphasis in original]The commandments appear twice in the Bible, once in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy. Let's see if we can find this instruction.
Exodus:No joy. No mention of mind. Let's try Deuteronomy:
20:2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
5:6 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 5:7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.Again we come up blank, and unlike the other Bible verses, this one is without footnote. Is there anything remotely close in the Old Testament? Perhaps he's referring to Deuteronomy 6:5, a commentary of sorts on the Law:
5:8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
5:10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
"And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."Still no mention of mind. You may argue that I'm being selective with my choice of translations. Here are fifteen others supporting my case. If the commandments truly are the word of God, should Lennox be attempting to improve them? He could have used some reasonably similar quotes from the New Testament to support his case, but painting a picture of more long-standing support seems to take primacy over textual accuracy. Sticking with the Old Testament, he looks for the underpinning of all scientific fields:
"One of the activities fundamental to all branches of science (indeed to all intellectual disciplines) is the naming, and therefore classifying, of things and phenomena. Every intellectual discipline has its special dictionary of words. According to Genesis, in the biological field it was God who initiated this process by telling humans to name the animals."Leaving aside for the moment the mathematical considerations raised by naming (roughly) a hundred million living and extinct species, this is still quite the stretch. To say that 'all intellectual disciplines' can trace their origins back to Adam's efforts with name tags is ludicrous and not indicative of good apologetics. Nor is
his later suggestion that Anthony Flew converted to deism, "on the basis of the evidence of the complexity of life", especially when balanced against Flew's retraction of that statement: "I now realize that I have made a fool of myself by believing that there were no presentable theories of the development of inanimate matter up to the first living creature capable of reproduction." Still, it is pleasant to note that Lennox has stopped falsely referring to Flew as a theist. (See my earlier review of God's Undertaker.)
I've toyed with the idea of reading God and Stephen Hawking (Lennox). I've resisted because cosmology is an area in which I'm almost entirely unencumbered with knowledge. Lennox touches on the subject when he adds a third Irishman to the mix, citing C S Lewis as saying
"They [the laws of nature] produce no events: they state the pattern to which every event — if only it can be induced to happen — must conform, just as the rules of arithmetic state the pattern to which all transactions with money must conform"This is in response to the claim that the universe can create itself from nothing.
Lewis was a great writer, and I've resisted reviewing Mere Christianity because bashing someone's heartfelt expression of their faith with no real negative comments towards outsiders fails to excite me. But if Lennox would like to refute Hawking, Krauss, and others in the field it may be best to bring out someone with relevant expertise.
Moving on to the New Testament, Lennox speaks of the Gospel according to John:
"It records a collection of signs — special things that Jesus did, that pointed towards a reality beyond themselves, and thus bore witness to his identity as God incarnate...John records how people believed in Jesus because of the evidence he provided through the performance of such signs. And John regarded that evidence to be sufficient also for those, like ourselves, who did not directly observe the events."In a discussion of science this is an odd standard of evidence. Sathya Sai Baba, a self-professed living god, had close to a hundred million followers at the time of his death. To this day one can travel to many countries and meet living witnesses to his miracles, which included healing, resurrection of the dead, and telepathic repair of plane engines while levitating. Applying Lennox's supposed scientific standards of evidence analysis to Sai Baba would proclaim him the new Messiah. I think this attempt to shoehorn scientific justification into his faith damages both in the attempt.
Moving on, Lennox addresses the question "Is Faith a Delusion?". I have Christian friends who can give a good, solid, rational defence of their faith. I've met atheists with some deeply irrational reasons for atheism. (And vice versa, naturally.) I was curious how Lennox would tackle this. Sadly, there's little in the line of original thought in this section; it consists of long quotes from Manfred Lutz and Alister McGrath. In fact it's rare to encounter a page in this book without an indented section from another author. Given access to a plain text copy I'd love to run some stats. I'll tackle the quote from McGrath, as I've heard it before:
"Indeed, the New Atheists love to classify faith in God along with faith in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. But that is rather silly. Alister McGrath recalls: As a child I believed (for a very short while) in Santa Claus. However I soon sussed the real situation out, although I must confess I kept my doubts about Santa’s existence to myself for some time because I also noticed that there was material advantage in so doing. I have never heard of an adult coming to believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. I have known many adult people come to believe in God. So clearly there is a great difference."Once we step outside the limiting bounds of Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus to allow us to consider the adult popularity of the 9/11 truther movement, homeopathy, acupuncture, faith healing, global warming deniers and the fact that I like Scooter, we see there's excellent scope for dismissing the analogy. True, examples abound of theists who easily outstrip the thinking of the average homoeopath. But this is not universal, and I take issue with what could be read as McGrath's implication that no adult has ever come to believe in the irrational.
The chapter eventually reaches an end after an attempt to recruit Einstein to the theistic side and a contrast between faith in God and faith in the rational intelligibility of the universe.
On to Chapter 2 -->