Reviewed by Fionnchú
Relying on Bronze Age verses to critique religion’s essence is like analyzing astronomy through astrology, or chemistry by alchemy. So argues this Oxford professor of divinity. The paperback edition features a large heading on the cover telling how Ward confronts “Dawkins and the New Atheism.” Basically, Ward protests his fellow Oxford colleague for relying on simplistic readings of scripture while ignoring theology; I found Ward somewhat stronger in challenging Dawkins rather than Dennett, but both are dispatched very hastily in a brief preface when another book might have better suited Ward to take on his opponents with the depth deserved.
To sum up, “superstitious vulgarity” too often has been assumed by scientific and secular critics as the highest (or lowest) level to which “a complex affective encounter with the being of the cosmos” might attain–not only for modern people but for our ancestors, who could have turned to the gods or God out of not fear and trembling but out of poetry, love, and understanding, however partial or half-formed. Ward presents an overview of the philosophy of religion. He considers not only familiar criticisms, but formulations by its adherents to build upon its visions for bettering humanity.