Jonathan Rée

Many Ways to Kill God

Seven Types of Atheism


Allen Lane 170pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

John Gray wants to draw a line under ‘new atheism’, and plenty of readers will wish him well. Richard Dawkins and his fellow God-bashers claim that they have brought happiness to thousands by liberating them from theistic superstition. They may be right. But they have also caused enormous annoyance, and not only to people of faith: non-believers too have found their approach to religion absurdly indiscriminate. New atheists seem to think that religious folks all believe in an immortal soul and a supernatural god, that they adore him for having designed and built the world we live in, and respect him for making up rules of conduct enforced by a system of rewards and swingeing punishments. If you want to escape religion, they think, all you need to do is reject these beliefs.

But religion is not that simple. Some people who consider themselves religious do not subscribe to any of these claims, while many have serious doubts and most are content to participate in a community with shared values and rituals without setting any store by theological doctrine. The new atheists pride themselves on sticking to well-attested facts, but they come a cropper when confronted by what believers actually believe. They seem to have a hole in the head where they ought to have a sense of history.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,