The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism is a fairly new book by Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley. While the title says it is a Catholic Challenge, the book really makes the arguments against atheism via logic and natural theology and does not rely on either scripture or sacred tradition. Of course the authors are Catholics and sections of the Catechism are used throughout to further highlight a point.
The laser focus of this book is to deconstruct the philosophy of materialism/naturalism. As much as atheists like to make their case that their atheism is based on reason and science, it really relies on the philosophy of materialism that denies that anything immaterial can exist. It starts out by contrasting the worldview of materialism and the theist worldview and then covering the so-called new atheists.
I thought the section on understanding atheists was a little too narrow in actually helping you to understand atheists. They talk about the tensions that the philosophy of naturalism creates for the atheist and they seem to imply that atheist in their heart of hearts understand why this tension exists in their denial of God. But understanding atheists really has the same problem as understanding people in that people are so varied and their reasons for the philosophies they hold can fall into various areas. St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica only listed two objections to the existence of God and they were generally the problem of evil and the ability of science to explain things. When I was an atheist I was one generally under the second objection in that for me science was my guide to truth and anything not currently understood by science will be understood in the future. A Catholic might reply on a deep piece of theology that it is a mystery, while the atheist will say that something not understood is just a mystery for now. Most of my years as an atheist I never had any doubt that materialism was true and that belief in God was nothing but a superstition to overcome with reason. Science explained everything for me so in my heart of hearts I did not feel those tensions. I trusted materialism unfortunately without thinking about the flaws of materialism and I never looked at what theists had to say on the subject. As a atheist there is a pride in saying you are following reason and truth, but really many atheists are seriously looking for truth and the atheist worldview is downright depressing – we have no purpose and we die and that’s it. C.S. Lewis said ‘A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.’and that was so for me. Many atheists probably fall in the same camp in that they never take seriously that their can be a rational argument for God. No doubt there are atheists who live a tension with God in that they are really defying God more than not believing in him or do not want to look at the case for God because they realize they would have to change. So I think this section could have been a little broader understanding of the motives for atheists. In general what they were saying was accurate in that there are real tensions in belief in materialism and when I came to understand what they were it brought me out of atheism into no man’s land for awhile.
Materialism in this book is rightly mocked in a good natured way as the show the myriad inconsistencies. The third chapter starts of the real meat of this book as it looks at morality and the fact that materialism can’t explain it. When materialists try to explain morality they really are trying to explain it away. They will pin it on something that is a ever-moving target and will deny any absolutes in this area. While atheists can be and often are good and moral people, it is not because of philosophy of materialism — but despite it. They look at each of the arguments used to define an ethic that atheists advance and frankly demolish them.
Later on they go into area of epistemology and how materialism is unable to provide a serious explanation for knowledge and reason. Kind of like the joke where the scientist creates life out of dirt and God tells him to create his own dirt. Proponents of materialistic determinism tell us we have no free will while trying to use reason to cause our brain chemical/electrical processes that we have no control over to their cause. The picture on the cover of the book shows a man sitting on a tree limb cutting off the limb he is sitting on. This really illustrates the materialist’s problem is that they have to borrow from the theists to argue their case. The last half of the book shows exactly why this is so in that atheism eliminates knowledge.
I found this to be a well-argued book and written in such a way as to be accessible to pretty much every reader.I don’t know how many atheists would take the time to read this book. Every time I see a book against atheism on Amazon the reviews are extremely negative and obviously written by people who had not read one page of the book or replied to any arguments contained within. Reason is not used and flaming replies full of hyperbole are used. On goodreads.com this book was given 1 star and the 1 star reviews were just polemics. If you read the comments at ex-atheist and recent Catholic John C. Wright’s blog when he talks about materialism you see much of the same. People obviously angered that a SF writer could stoop to believing in God and then to dare to use reason against their arguments. Though I must admit to being entertained by the atheists who accept the natural conclusions of naturalism and yet not see how it undermines their arguments. This book is certainly an excellent resource for those who want to refine their argument when talking with atheists or to just get a firm understanding of just how contradictory radical materialism is. For those honest atheists who consider truth more important than congratulating themselves by calling themselves brights — then this is well worth reading. I certainly wish that I had been introduced to the arguments contained within this book much sooner in my own life.
This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Godless Delusion and be sure to check out their great selection of Mary statues while you are there.