Feb 20, 2012
If you’ve started regularly reading CatholicGamer, you’re starting to get the tone I’m setting here (Yeah, yeah…game reviews are in the pipe, so keep your panties on). I have zero tolerance for the stupid arguments the village atheists of our age are dishing out. I’m done with keeping the gloves on. That being said, as a Catholic, we are called to be charitable to others. Some think that means that you can use Christians as a door mat. The answer to this is no…no you cannot. How does one strike the balance then? Sometimes, charity involves calling a spade a spade and going on the attack every once and while…using the momentum of your opponent against them. The Last Superstition (TLS) is a book that calls the New Atheism to the mat, and properly administers a choke hold of their own making. So…sit back with me for a while and let’s go over this gem of a book.
If you’ve read any of the New Atheists books, you’ll note very quickly that they are indeed polemic works. They are specifically written in an attempt to take people out of the Christian faith, or to expose it for “what it really is”. For example, Dawkins himself hopes that those who read his book The God Delusion will read the book and then come out the other side as atheists. For the easily fooled, dim witted, and ignorant, this will be true. For the one thing in common the New Atheist books have is that they hit people where they live these days…in the gut. Hitchen’s book “feels” right. What Harris says “sounds” intellectual. Hitchens was a very good writer, he was witty, and he was great at the one liners…perfect for today’s age. Why build an argument when you can throw out zingers all night. As Feser notes:
… But then, that is the Christopher Hitchens recipe for serious journalism: one part real knowledge, one part filibuster, one part sheer bluff. Click “save”, email it to Graydon, down the last bit of scotch, and you’re done for the night. How can you go wrong?
Oh…Feser doesn’t stop there with one liners of his own. There are great quotes like the one above that had me laughing out loud….and very few books do that to me. Lines like this one:
..a secularist colleague of mine once assured me that he didn’t need to bother reading writers like Aquinas, since he “already knew” that they must be wrong – though judging from his grasp of what such writers mean by “God (he confidently trotted a few stupid anthropomorphisms, tiresome comparisons to the Easter bunny, etc), it was obvious that he knew no such thing. It was like trying to discuss Titian with a three-year old who thinks painting is something you do with your fingers.
Finger painting indeed. With that one little paragraph, the man has summed up what the New Atheism is all about. It’s about being sloppy. Sloppy with your thinking. Sloppy with your scholarship. Sloppy with your choice of words. Sloppy with your logic. I can’t count the number of atheists I talk to on the internet that are clearly finger painting their way through serious philosophical and theological questions. They are content with arguing with questionable wikipedia links, Youtube videos and LOLcats.
TLS is more than just a polemic against atheism. The digs against the New Atheists (Hitchens, Harris, Dennet and Dawkins) are just icing on a wonderful Thomistic-Aristotelian cake. Not only does he fight fire with fire, Feser also…*gasp*…gives the philosophical underpinnings of the Christian tradition and carries that into the polemics itself. I know…how is one supposed to cope outside of a 144 character description? Heh. It’s brilliant the way he does it. Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas (…among others…) are all discussed in great introductory detail in the book. Thank God that he does, because I have a feeling that name recognition is the only knowledge the average person has of these men. The study of these men is CRUCIAL in understanding everything in Christianity. As Feser notes:
…the classical metaphysical picture of the world, which derives from Plato, was greatly modified first by Aristotle and later by Augustine, and at last perfected by Aquinas and his followers, is, as I have come to believe, essentially correct, and it makes atheism and naturalism impossible.
If you don’t know what is meant by Final and Efficient Causes, then you will never get why Catholics are against things like abortion, or so-called homosexual marriage, or contraception. If you don’t understand Form and Matter, you’ll never get the Catholic understanding of Transubstantiation. If you don’t understand Potency and Actuality, you’ll never get Creation. Indeed, if you don’t understand any of these concepts, you’ll never understand what Christians mean by God. This is the problem with the New Atheists and their followers: they understand none of it and so all of the arguments they present are at best, straw men…at worse they are intellectually dishonest. The book goes into enough detail to get you curious about things like the Mind-Body problem, Causality and the 5 Ways of Thomas Aquinas. Feser…of course…has books on two out of these three of these subjects (Philosophy of Mind and Aquinas).
A couple final thoughts: one to Atheists and another to Christians.
If you are an atheist, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Why? Firstly, because you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to Christianity. You think that God is some being in the sky, no different from Zeus. You think that the soul is something like a ghost. You think that faith is just a funny feeling people have…kind of like gas….but more warm and fuzzy. You think that the word Suma is something that came out of Japan. You think that part of the argument for God’s existence is “Everything has a cause”. Lastly, aren’t you even curious what the real arguments are in this great debate…or have you just decided to shut your mind completely? If it’s the former, you just might be the intelligent person you think you are. If it’s the later, well….
If you’re a Christian, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Why? Most importantly because you need to understand your faith as deeply as you can. Atheists can only reflect the Christians they’re trying to fight. Currently, the New Atheism is philosophically and theologically weak. This means that the knowledge Christians have of their own religion is philosophically and theologically weak…despite the fact that Christianity itself has great depth. Stop being weak and take up the mission you were given. You have 2000 years of tradition, wisdom and knowledge sitting here being un-used. Use it. For those Christians who have not read a word of Aristotle, or Aquinas, TLS is a perfect introduction to these works. In addition to the introduction, you will get a picture of how your faith tradition just towers over this new atheist movement. Right now, you are probably scared to defend your faith… intimidated by the emotional charge (…and that’s all it is…) that is led by men like Dawkins. This book will start giving you the confidence you need.
That’s it for the review. The Last Superstition is available at the usual places. Go out now and order it today. Atheists owe it to themselves if they want to seem credible, and Christians owe it to themselves to get deeper into the faith.