Challenging the New Atheism
Pragmatic Confrontations in the Philosophy of Religion
This book presents a pragmatic response to arguments against religion made by the New Atheism movement. The author argues that analytic and empirical philosophies of religion—the mainstream approaches in contemporary philosophy of religion—are methodologically unequipped to address the “Threefold Challenge” made by popular New Atheist thinkers such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett.
The book has three primary motivations. First, it provides an interpretation of the New Atheist movement that treats their claims as philosophical arguments and not just rhetorical exercises or demagoguery. Second, it assesses and responds to these claims by elaborating four distinct contemporary philosophical perspectives— analytic philosophy, empirical philosophy, continental philosophy, and pragmatism—as well as contextualizing these perspectives in the history of the philosophy of religion. Finally, the book offers a metaphilosophical critique, returning again and again to the question of method. In the end, the author settles upon a modified version of pragmatism that he concludes is best suited for articulating the terms and stakes of the God Debate.
Challenging the New Atheism will be of interest to scholars and students of American philosophy and philosophy of religion.
Table of Contents
1. The New Atheism: A Threefold Challenge
2. Contemporary Philosophy of Religion vs. The Threefold Challenge
3. Modern Origins of the Threefold Challenge
4. A Postmodern Approach to the Truth and Meaning Challenges
5. Challenging Meaning: Pragmatic Reflections on Metaphilosophical Issues
6. Integration and “More Than Pragmatist” Philosophy of Religion
Aaron Lawrence Breiter Pratt Shepherd is Assistant Teaching Professor of Philosophy at University of Massachusetts Lowell and an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Rev. Dr. Shepherd currently serves as pastor of Union Congregational Church (East Walpole, Massachusetts).
"This remarkable book supplies a metaphilosophical analysis of dominant trends in modern western religious thought, using certain ‘challenges’ posed by the New Atheists as an organizing rubric for the account. The upshot is a compelling case for the re-evaluation of philosophical pragmatism, especially Josiah Royce’s ‘more than pragmatist’ perspective, as the most promising option for philosophers to explore moving forward. It should prove to be of great interest to any contemporary reader concerned with the ‘meaning of faith.’" – Michael L. Raposa, Lehigh University, USA
"Shepherd contextualizes the challenge to religion by the New Atheists. This systematic inquiry holds together disparate styles from the breadth of philosophy of religion, from reformed epistemology to continental atheology. Pragmatism, and principally Royce, emerges as the most cogent approach to the puzzle of making sense of God and religion." – Roger Ward, Georgetown College, USA