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Response to “New Atheists” focus of conference

Students on the steps of the Information Services Building

Tuesday 23 August 2011 10:30am

A conference focusing on how Christians should respond to the strident “New Atheism” movement that has emerged in recent years will be held at the University of Otago early next month.

The New Atheists, whose prominent figures include scientist Richard Dawkins and author Christopher Hitchens, claim that believers in ‘the god hypothesis’ should not be tolerated, but should be actively countered and the ‘shoddy’ arguments supporting their beliefs should be exposed. Such leaders among the New Atheists have launched a broadside against all religious beliefs, but have given special attention to the claims of Christianity.

The two-day conference, titled “The New Atheism - A Christian Response”, is being jointly organised by the University of Otago and the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at the Cambridge University. The event features presentations by leading philosophers, scientists and theologians from New Zealand and overseas who will critically examine the New Atheists’ claims from several perspectives.

The conference runs from the evening of Friday 2 September until late afternoon on Saturday at St Margaret’s College on the University campus.

Participants will explore questions such as: How should Christians respond to the New Atheism? Are the central claims of Christianity reasonable? Do the New Atheists have a new case to be answered or are they dressing up old arguments?

Conference organising committee member Professor Peter Anstey says all interested people are welcome to register for the event.

“This gathering will provide a unique opportunity for participants to get to grips with the challenges posed to Christians by the New Atheists, to explore the validity of their arguments and to consider how best they can be responded to.”


The Challenge of the New Atheism
Professor Peter Anstey (Professor of Early Modern Philosophy, University of Otago)

Is Evolution Intrinsically Atheistic?
Dr Denis Alexander (Director, Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmunds College, Cambridge)

Natural Disasters and the Problem of Evil
Professor Robert White (Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Associate Director, Faraday Institute)

Is There a Presumption of Atheism? Natural Theology as a Rebuttal of Naturalism
Professor Stephen Evans (Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University, USA)

God and Ethics: On Learning to Speak Truthfully About Moral Failure
Professor Murray Rae (Professor of Theology, Head of Department of Theology & Religion, University of Otago)

Is the God of the Old Testament a Tyrant?
Dr Tim Meadowcroft (Head of the School of Theology, Mission and Ministry, Laidlaw College, NZ)

Conference Programme and registration information can be viewed at:

About the Faraday Institute

The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion is an interdisciplinary research enterprise based at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, UK. In addition to academic research, the Institute engages in the public understanding of science and religion by means of courses, conferences, lectures, seminars and the media.

For more information, contact

Professor Murray Rae
Head of Department
Department of Theology & Religion
Tel 64 3 479 5393

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