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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review of 'The Reason for God' - Part 1

I've decided to split this into several parts, as I ended up writing quite a bit.

Also, the way I wrote the review changed considerably over the course of reading it.

The Introduction

I started reading this book with the intention of being as open to the possibility of being wrong as possible, but the introduction really irritated me. It didn't feel to me like it was really introducing the book and there were a few things he says that got on my nerves which I have written here. Perhaps I'm being pedantic though, and if so I apologize.

Keller conflates relative morality with arbitrary morality and says this "If morality is relative, why isn't social justice as well?"

He tries to insult moral relativists by comparing them to "the morally upright".

"The people most passionate about social justice were moral relativists, while the morally upright didn't seem to care about the oppression going on all over the world."

Shows more bias here: "Liberals' individualism comes out in their views of abortion, sex, and marriage. Conservatives' individualism comes out in their deep distrust of the public sector and in their understanding of poverty as simply a failure of personal responsibility."
It seems like he is trying to paint liberals as shallow and superficial, while portraying conservatives as "deep" and showing "understanding". I hope this isn't indicative of the rest of the book.

Chapter 1: "There Can't Just Be One True Religion"

"Skeptics believe that any exclusive claims to a superior knowledge of spiritual reality cannot be true." Wrong. That's not what skepticism is at all, either Timothy Keller is an idiot, or he's never picked up a dictionary in his life (He'd still be an idiot in that case).

Furthermore, the crux of this chapter is arguing against something that skeptics DO NOT CLAIM. The fact that all religions cannot be true is something that skeptics acknowledge and use as ammunition against specific religious claims. The people who claim that all religions are true are spiritualists or new-agers or members of inclusive religious sects. Keller fails miserably in actually arguing against skepticism in this chapter.

Chapter 2: "How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?"

Keller simply parrots C.S. Lewis here and pays no attention to the actual arguments made by skeptics that he claims to be rebutting.
"C.S. Lewis described how he had originally rejected the idea of God because of the cruelty of life. Then he came to realize that evil was more problematic for his new atheism. In the end, he realized that suffering provided a better argument for God's existence than one against it."

Keller just accepts this and moves on. I'm not impressed. He spends most of the rest of the chapter talking about how Christianity can comfort those that suffer. I do not dispute that this may be the case, but it has absolutely no bearing on the truth of the religion, which is the reason I do not believe. Keller seems to assume people all disbelieve for emotional reasons.

Chapter 3: "Christianity is a Straitjacket"

Keller attempts to rebut multiple arguments in this chapter. The first is the idea of relative truth. I do not disagree with him that many contradictory statements can't all be true. He falls flat on his face once again though, because he isn't actually addressing the arguments of skeptics, but rather of spiritualists, new-agers or members of inclusive religious sects. He also goes after the idea of freedom saying "Freedom, then, is not the absence of limitations and constraints but it is finding the right ones, those that fit our nature and liberate us." His justification for this is a quote from C.S. Lewis, so once again he is just parroting another apologist while not actually addressing skeptics. Unimpressive.
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

9 comments:

  1. Really interesting actually because this was a book I was curious to know your response about. Thanks for that! Was a good read and not too much at all :)

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  2. Thanks, I'll post part 2 of the review tomorrow.

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  3. Hello there! I just have noticed that the Rss feed of this website is functioning in a right way, did you somehow all the properties on your own or you just left the default settings of the widget?

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  4. I'm on chapter four of this ridiculous book, and I already have 14 pages of notes!! My husband is a Christian and he asked me to read it. Have you noticed that people who are on the cusp of believing and just need a push over the edge, or are believers but experiencing doubt, or are believers and read it for fun, are the only people who seem to think this book is worth the ink and paper it was written on?
    I am finding it to be lacking... wanting... incomplete... and inaccurate! I can't even see why he thought THIS would be a good book for me (the atheist).
    I am finding myself referring back to your notes and another blog often to help me put the thoughts in my head into cohesive thoughts on paper. I'm also drawing heavily from the Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris books I've read - as well as the Bible (who knew?).
    He wanted to read my notes - I am guessing I'm going to have a publishable dissertation on this by the time I'm done (and potentially an unending migraine).
    Can you believe he invoked South African Apartheid?? If not for Dutch Reformation Christians, there would be no apartheid! *face PALM*

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    1. I'm glad that my thoughts on it are of some use. I think the thing that annoyed me most was the fact that it doesn't really respond to any arguments actually put forward to atheists.

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    2. I'm right there with you! And I'm only on Chapter 5...
      I can tell you that, being de-converted myself and currently married to a Christian, that this is very common. I have had to correct him and many others with respect to what skeptics, agnostics, atheists, humanists, etc etc ACTUALLY believe. I've determined that sometimes it must just be easier to attack a straw-man than it is to simply address the actualy point/position.
      I hope he doesn't give me 2.5 pages of notes worth taking for each chapter for the rest of the book. This could become untenable!

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    3. I find it interesting that you are married to a Christian in the first place. Did your husband become a Christian during the course of your marriage?

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  5. I'd like to critique one thing you said:

    **Shows more bias here: "Liberals' individualism comes out in their views of abortion, sex, and marriage. Conservatives' individualism comes out in their deep distrust of the public sector and in their understanding of poverty as simply a failure of personal responsibility."
    It seems like he is trying to paint liberals as shallow and superficial, while portraying conservatives as "deep" and showing "understanding". I hope this isn't indicative of the rest of the book.**

    Keller here actually paints conservatives as neither "deep" nor "understanding"...rather, he is critiquing their views. Their "understanding" of poverty in this case better means their view of it, and it is implied by the word "simply" and in the context that this view of poverty as a failure of personal responsibility in an inaccurate view. Likewise, Keller saying conservatives' have a "deep" distrust of the public sector is not him attempting to call conservatives deep, but just an open observation that is left for the reader to determine if it is good or not.

    People tend to do this a lot, and I notice it in some of your writing as well. In trying to discredit the Christian author at every turn, some of your arguments do not have the depth they need to have in order to withstand a cross-examination. Basically, quality over quantity is what I'm saying. Hope this helps.

    E

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