Tim Crane

Crane’s world: Atheistic thinker’s tolerant theory of religion counters those 'new atheists'

Crane’s world: Atheistic thinker’s tolerant theory of religion counters those 'new atheists'

Fellow journalists, have no fear. Publishers Weekly assures us that an intriguing and newsworthy new book about religion is “enjoyable” and The New York Times finds it “lucid.”

This despite being written by a heavyweight philosopher and published by the intellectually elite Harvard University Press.  

The title, “The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View,” announces that author Tim Crane, raised Catholic in Britain, is, yes, a convinced atheist. But instead of preaching to his choir he seeks tolerance and disputes the contempt for belief from “new atheists” in media-beloved books like “Breaking the Spell,” “The End of Faith,” The God Delusion” and “God Is Not Great.”    

To Crane, atheists of that sort do not grasp the immensity and sheer humanity of religion, why the world’s 6 billion assorted believers are neither fools nor knaves, and why faith cannot be liquidated in our scientific age though many have tried -- whether through education, propaganda, prison, or executions.  

The Religion Guy has not (yet) read this book but alerts fellow journalists to the news potential signaled in coverage to date. Note especially the Times treatment by James Ryerson, whose Book Review columns cover university press offerings. 

Crane -- reachable via timcrane@ceu.edu --  is no slouch among philosophy professors. He just moved to Hungary’s Central European University after holding the Knightbridge chair at the University of Cambridge, and previously headed the philosophy faculty at University College London.  

He laments atheistic portrayals of religion as some unfortunate carryover from primitive civilization that tries to explain the cosmos in the way science does, as a result appearing “irrational” and “superstitious.” Instead, he figures, two natural factors underlie faith.

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