Review: The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World by Alister McGrath

I read this book shortly after finishing “God is not great” by Christopher
and the two books
make an interesting pair. I found it fascinating to compare each’s arguments
and also the respective styles in which the books are written.

Whereas “God is not great” is quite confrontational and rabid in its dislike
of relion “The twlight of atheism” is much more moderate in its tone. McGrath,
a Christian, was formerly an atheist and presents quite an even-handed
description of how atheism came to be popular and why he believes it is now
less popular.

In a nutshell, the problem with atheism according to McGrath is that atheism
rose in popularly because of defects in the Christian Church. However, now the
church has reformed and changed the behaviour and some of the attitudes that
drove people away (again according to McGrath) there is no longer the
compelling reason for people to turn to atheism.

McGrath spends a lot of time describing the rise of the popularist pentecostal
church as an example of how Christianity has changed and adapted to the modern
world thereby rendering atheism obsolete.

I have a number of problems with this part of the book in particular: Firstly,
while it may be true that the Christian church has become more moderate than
in ages past surely this does not affect the truth or falsity of its beliefs.
Surely people who think on these issues will find religion as unconvincing (or
as convincing) as they might have at any time in history.

Secondly, McGrath seems to confuse popularity with being right - the
pentecostal church may have reached out to the disenfranchised and gained a
lot of support but that does not make its message any more true or false.

In summary, I enjoyed reading the book and I would recommend it to anyone
interested in religion or atheism but I finished it feeling unconvinced by the
central argument that atheism is doomed.


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