18 17 16 15 14 13 12 Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Feser, Edward. The last superstition: a refutation of the new atheism / Edward. Well the book, called The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism, written by a philosopher named Edward Feser, arrived a few. Last Superstition, The. A Refutation of the New Atheism. Feser, Edward. The central contention of the “New Atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam.
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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Fcser has written a lively anil well informed polemic against the latest crop of Village Atheists – Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett.
This is a serious and passionately engaged challenge to the latest effort to impose a dehumanizing orthodoxy by religious illiterates. Thomas, Introduction to the Summa Theologiae. John Poinsot [John of St. Thomas Fulvio di Blasi, et al. If There Is No God. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of St.
Manufactured in the United States of America. Includes bibliographical references and index. Actuality and potentiality B. Form and matter C. The four causes 3. The Unmoved Mover B. The First Cause C. The Supreme Intelligence 4.
Scholastic Aptitude The soul Natural law Faith, reason, and evil 5. Descent of the Modernists Pre-birth of the modern Thoroughly modern metaphysics Inventing the mind-body problem Universal acid A.
The problem of skepticism B. The problem of induction C. Complex inorganic systems C. The reference to God is apropos. Just over a decade ago the very idea would have been laughed off as supersition or extreme; now it is those who oppose it who are frequently labeled crackpots and extremists.
Edward Feser: The Last Superstition
But equally sudden has been the rise of ostentatious unbelief as the de rigueur position of the smart set. Y et atheist chic is now, out of the blue as it were, the stuff of best sellers, celebrity endorsements, and suburban reading groups. It is as if the urbane cocktail hour secularist liberalism of the twentieth century has, by way of the slow but sure inebriation produced by an unbroken series of social and judicial triumphs, now become in the twenty-first century fall-down-sloppy drunk and lost all inhibition, tye turns blaspheming, whoring, and otherwise offending edsard all sane and decent sensibilities as the supertsition strikes it.
The confluence of these developments is no accident, though not for the reasons liberal secularists suppose. To their minds or what is left of them sexual libertinism and tge for religion, as publicmass phenomena rather than as the private eccentricities of a decadent elite, which of course have edwad been with us constitute the final victory of reason, twin fruits of the modern scientific worldview whose full consequences are only now becoming widely perceived over four centuries after its birth.
This is a book about that error: The other half was disgust and distress over the largely inept and ineffective as it seems to me response to these developments put forward by many religious and political conservatives.
But the most important thing to know about the belief that God exists is not that most citizens happen for now anyway to share it, that it tends to uphold public morality, and so forth. The most important thing to know about it is that it is true, and demonstrably so. The most important thing to know about it is that the very idea is a metaphysical absurdity and a moral abomination, and again demonstrably so. In each case, what is at issue is a matter of objective fact that it is the business of reason to discover rather than democratic procedure to stipulate.
What is needed to counteract the antireligious and libertine madness of the present time, then, is not crude populism or short-term political strategizing, but a rethinking of the relevant issues back to first principles.
If you are someone who agrees that these developments constitute a kind of madness, and want to understand how we have reached such a low point in the history of our civilization, you will want to read this book.
If you are someone who does not regard them as madness, you need to read it – to see if I may say so the error of your ways, or, if that is not likely, then at least to understand the point of view of those who disagree with you. I want to thank my agent Giles Anderson for initiating this project, and my publisher Bruce Fingerhut for bringing it to fruition.
During the many months on which I worked to complete the book, it often seemed as if I was doing little else. For this reason and for so many others too I owe my greatest debt to my beloved wife Rachel and to our dear children Benedict, Gemma, Kilian, and Helena, for their patience and love.
It is to them that I dedicate this book, though I dedicate it also, and above all, ad maiorem Dei gloriam. These dedications are by no means pro forma. If this seems to be an angry book, that is because it is. But I hope that it is also, and more deeply, an expression of loyalty, gratitude, and love – for God and his many gifts, for family, and for a civilization that once defined itself in terms of these things, and which, even in its current depressing decadence, has managed to pass them on to me and to my loved ones.
I hold instead that they ought to be restored to their rightful place as the guiding principles of Western thought, society, and politics, and that, accordingly, secularism ought to be driven back into the intellectual and political margins whence it came, and to which it would consign religion and traditional morality.
For when the consequences of its philosophical foundations are worked out consistently, it can be seen to undermine the very possibility of rationality and morality themselves. As this book will show, reason itself testifies that against the pest of secularist progressivism, there can be only one remedy: While he had no intention of embracing Christianity or any of the other traditional monotheistic religions, he had, he revealed, been led by philosophical arguments to conclude that there really is a God after all – specifically, a First Cause of the universe of the sort described by Aristotle.
Aristotle and his teacher Plato are almost universally regarded as the two greatest philosophers ever to have lived. Their arguments have been known and studied for over 2, years.
Flew was 81 years old at the time, and had been for over fifty years one of the most influential and respected philosophers in the world. And insofar as its self-satisfied a priori dismissal of outsiders as benighted, and of defectors as wicked or mad, insulates it from ever having to deal with serious criticism, it is a mindset that echoes the closed-minded prejudice and irrationality it typically attributes to religious believers themselves.
Secularism is, in its way, a religion to itself, and it is a religion that cannot tolerate infidels or heretics. We shall see by the end of this book that this is by no means an accident, a mere byproduct of the passion and folly to which every human being succumbs from time to time.
For secularism is, necessarily and inherently, a deeply irrational and immoral view of the world, and the more thoroughly it is assimilated by its adherents, the more thoroughly do they cut themselves off from the very possibility of rational and moral understanding. Moreover, and for this very reason, its adherents unavoidably find it difficult, indeed almost impossible, to perceive their true condition. The less they know, the less they know it.
These are, I realize, rather striking claims to make, not least because they are so utterly contrary to the self-understanding of secularists themselves. In the days and weeks following the U. Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. One gets the impression that the bulk of their education in Christian theology consisted of reading Elmer Gantry while in college, supplemented with a viewing of Inherit the Wind and a Sunday morning spent channel-surfing televangelists.
Nor do they evince the slightest awareness of the historical centrality of ideas deriving from classical philosophy – the tradition of thought deriving from Plato and Aristotle and whose greatest representatives within Christianity are Augustine and Thomas Aquinas – to the content and self-understanding of the mainstream Western religious tradition.
But such ignorance is simply disgraceful in the case of Dennett and Harris, who are trained philosophers.
The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism
And, supefstition to say, they offer their readers no account of the grave philosophical challenges to which the naturalism they are committed to – the view that the natural, material world is all that exists and that empirical science is the only rational source of knowledge – has consistently been subjected throughout the history of philosophy, and which many influential and sophisticated contemporary philosophers continue to press upon it.
And since the classical tradition is theistic and supematuralist through and through, one also comes to see how powerful are the rational foundations of the Western religious tradition. Indeed, one comes to realize that the very possibility of reason and morality is deeply problematic at best on a modem naturalistic conception of the world, but perfectly intelligible on the classical philosophical worldview and the religious vision it sustains.
One comes laet see that it is very likely evward on the classical Western philosophical-cum-religious worldview that we can make sense of reason and morality. The truth is precisely the opposite of what secularism claims: Only a certain kind of religious view of the world is rational, morally responsible, and sane; and an irreligious worldview is accordingly deeply irrational, immoral, and indeed insane.
Again, these are bold claims, and they will be defended at length in the pages to follow. Suffice it for edwaard to note, for what it is worth – and since we have already been considering the individual case of one specific philosopher, Flew – that my own experience bears them out.
I was myself for many years a convinced atheist and naturalist. This is not to begin some emotional Road to Damascus saga: It is just that for many years I was firmly persuaded, on intellectual grounds, that atheism and naturalism must be true, and then very gradually came to realize, again on intellectual grounds, that they were not in fact true and could not be true.
Russell argued that the nature of perceptual experience and of scientific theorizing entails that we can actually know very little about the material world, and in particular only its abstract structure fesrr not its intrinsic nature. Their work convinced me how naive and unfounded is the assumption of materialists and naturalists that the material world is the touchstone of reality and that we have better knowledge of it than of anything else. This conclusion was reinforced, to my mind, by the work of contemporary philosophers like John Searle and Thomas Nagel – purely secular thinkers like Frege and Russell, incidentally – who despite their own commitment to naturalism argued that no existing materialist attempt to explain the human mind has come anywhere close to succeeding.
The writings of contemporary philosophers of religion like Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne applied the most rigorous of modern philosophical methods to the defense of religious belief, and the scholarship of writers like William Lane Craig and John Haldane revealed that the arguments of classical thinkers like Thomas Aquinas had been lash badly misunderstood by modern critics and commentators.
The classical metaphysical picture of the world, which derives from Plato, was greatly modified first by Aristotle and later edsard Augustine, and was at last deser by Aquinas and his followers, is, as I came to believe, essentially correct, and it effectively makes atheism and naturalism impossible. We will be exploring many of them in detail before long. My aim for now is merely to forestall the standard ad hominem dismissal of religious conversion as a purely subjective affair, a matter of feeling rather than reason.
It was, in my own case, a matter of objective rational argument. Nor is my case unique. Contrary to the caricatures peddled in secularist literature and which have crept into the popular culture at largethe mainstream tradition within Western religion has in fact always insisted that its basic claims must be and can be rationally justified, and indeed that they can be shown to be rationally superior to the claims of atheism and naturalism.
This is certainly true of the accusation that their beliefs often rest on ignorance – a judgment shared even by some secularist thinkers themselves. For they tend to show no awareness of the sophisticated arguments presented by philosophers of a religious bent, preferring instead to attack straw men and present simple-minded journalistic caricatures of religious belief. Secular theorists often assume they know what a religious argument is like: With this image in mind, they think it obvious that religious argument should be excluded from public life.
But those who have bothered to make themselves familiar with existing religious-based arguments in modem political theory know that this is mostly a travesty.
A secularist can argue for the most offensive and intuitively preposterous conclusions – that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with bestiality, necrophilia, or infanticide, say, as Princeton ethicist Peter Singer suggests – and even philosophers who disagree with those conclusions are prepared to treat them with the very greatest seriousness, insisting that such views must, however prima facie implausible, at least get a respectful hearing.
In every other area of controversy, virtually no argument is ever considered decisively refuted: Secular ideas are guaranteed consideration as long as the thinker presenting them possesses a minimum of argumentative and rhetorical ability.
That secularists, who pride themselves on their supposed greater knowledge and reasonableness, so often condemn religious believers in studied ignorance of what they really believe or without applying to them the standards by which they would judge their own ideas, indicates that another factor often attributed to such believers is at work here – namely wishful thinking, a desire for some claim to be true which is so powerful that it trumps a sober consideration of the evidence for it.
For it is by no means the case that only those who believe in God could possibly have a vested interest in the question of His existence. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.
My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind.
But it is no less true that a desire to be free of traditional moral standards, and a fear of certain real or imagined political and social consequences of the truth of religious belief, can also lead us to want to believe that we are just clever animals with no purpose to our lives other than the purposes we choose to give them, and that there is no cosmic judge who will punish us for disobeying an objective moral law.