Tim Keller: One bad thing about “The New Atheists” books is they weren’t just saying that religion is wrong, they are actually saying that even respect for religion was wrong and that we shouldn’t even be courteous and respectful to religious believers, but we really just need to get rid of it all.
And for that’s I think it has a recipe for disaster. That certainly doesn’t bring about civil discourse at all.
The other thing is weird about “The New Atheists” was, most people in the last 30 years came to understand that knowledge is perspectival [sic]. We’ve seem that move away from this idea that you can have this objective view from nowhere, the old enlightenment, you know, scientism. And I’ve talked to a number of philosophers who are not Christian believers who are themselves atheist actually who told me it seems like all the guys who wrote “The New Atheists” books just refuse to take Philosophy 101. They just did not listen to what’s happened in the last 40 years about knowledge. They’re just so sure that if you can’t prove something, then we don’t have to believe it.
And so there’s a kind of epistemological naivete about the books, and there’s also something about them that I think really doesn’t help civil discourse at all.
I do hope that they all get passé, not because I don’t respect the people’s convictions; I just don’t think that they are all that helpful.
Question: What’s on your reading list?
Tim Keller: Frankly, I like C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterton is a Catholic. These are all people who wrote 80 to 100 years ago; smart British people. By and large, I would say they were more insightful for Americans now who are searching, because Britain began, they get more secular before America did. And so smart and thoughtful Christians back in the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s anticipated trends that now we’re seeing in America today.
That’s one of the reasons why I do like Lewis. And one of the reasons I do like a lot of the people around Lewis or people that Lewis like, like, G. K. Chesterton who is a great Catholic thinker, very acerbic and very funny.
Recorded on: December 8, 2008