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You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene.

That generation's cultural high point came on April 8, 1966, when Time magazine carried a lead story for which the cover was completely black except for three words emblazoned in bright red letters: "Is God Dead?" The story described the "death of God" movement, then current in American theology.

But to paraphrase Mark Twain, the news of God's demise was premature. For at the same time theologians were writing God's obituary, a new generation of young philosophers was rediscovering his vitality.

Back in the 1940s and '50s, many philosophers believed that talk about God, since it is not verifiable by the five senses, is meaningless—actual nonsense. This verificationism finally collapsed, in part because philosophers realized that verificationism itself could not be verified! The collapse of verificationism was the most important philosophical event of the 20th century. Its downfall meant that philosophers were free once again to tackle traditional problems of philosophy that verificationism had suppressed. Accompanying this resurgence of interest in traditional philosophical questions came something altogether unanticipated: a renaissance of Christian philosophy.

The turning point probably came in 1967, with the publication ...

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hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2008

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