The Twilight of Atheism : The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World, Paperback

The Twilight of Atheism : The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World Paperback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Atheism is one of the most important movements in modern Western culture.

For the last two hundred years, it seemed to be on the verge of eliminating religion as an outmoded and dangerous superstition.

Recent years, however, have witnessed the decline of disbelief and a rise in religious/spiritual devotion throughout the world.

In this highly readable book, the distinguished historian and theologian, Alister McGrath examines what went wrong with the atheist dream and explains why religion and faith are destined to play a central role in the twenty-first century.

A former atheist who is now one of Christianity's foremost scholars, McGrath traces the history of atheism from its emergence in eighteenth-century Europe as a revolutionary worldview that offered liberation from the rigidity of traditional Christianity and the oppression of tyrannical monarchs, to its golden age in the first half of the twentieth century. Blending thoughtful, authoritative historical analysis with incisive portraits of such leading and influential atheists as Sigmund Freud, Marx and Richard Dawkins, McGrath exposes the flaws at the heart of atheism and argues that the renewal of faith is a natural, inevitable and necessary response to its failures.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Agnosticism & atheism
  • ISBN: 9781844131556



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

I learned quite a lot from this book. It is good to see that even the evangelical wing of the Church of England can produce someone who can give such a clear-eyed assessment of the failings of Protestantism. He also takes seriously the religious views of figures such as Marx and Nietzsche, who most evangelical writers would, I think, simply write off as godless and irrelevant to the faithful, and grapples intelligently with the issues they raise.Where the book didn't quite grab me was in its focus on positive, militant atheism. The book does not really set out to be an apologetic in favour of theism, but it has little to say about (or for) those who simply lose their grip on belief, rather than those who actively reject it. But I expect to read more McGrath, since although I don't share his fairly traditional approach to Christian faith, he is a much more sophisticated thinker than many on the orthodox side of the Church, and runs rings around Richard Dawkins's frankly naive views on religion.MB 28-ix-2010

Review by

A very interesting trip through atheism as conceived from the French Revolution to the fall of the Berlin Wall two centuries later. McGrath makes an interesting case for atheism as a leech philosophy (in that it is simply a case of denying what others assert), and gives an good overview of how movements within Christianity like Pentecostalism show that religious belief adapts and in doing so shows that it is a permanent feature of human life. As a Protestant McGrath’s focus is on his own religion but the same would apply elsewhere.There are, I think, two significant problems with McGrath’s thesis that atheism is in twilight. Firstly he makes the case himself that, historically, popular forms of atheism have risen in response to violent and aggressive forms of religion – a thesis borne out after the publication of this work by the batch of remarkably popular atheist books, provoked by the prominence of Christian and Islamic fundamentalisms. All the religions have been periodically violent and aggressive throughout their history (alongside other things), and there is nothing to indicate that this cycle is going to stop. Secondly, in the secular West (at least) there are vast numbers of people for whom religion and spirituality more generally have little or no importance – non-intellectual atheists, if you like – who do not have this aspect to their lives or see why they need it. That constituency may well be of limited scale, but it seems to be as solid and sure of itself as any other body. Probably of course there have always been many such people, even in deeply religious societies, only now they have no reason to hide it. And that is, of course, only another reason that they will not be going anywhere.

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