In this book, Mark Johnston argues that God needs to be saved not only from the distortions of the "undergraduate atheists" (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris) but, more importantly, from the idolatrous tendencies of religion itself.The business about idolatrous tendencies sounds intriguing, and so does the attack on "undergraduate atheists." I take it they're undergraduate atheists, in Johnston's view, because they attack undergraduate theism. This is an insult you hear a lot. It's sort of odd, since the critics insult "the new atheists" by insulting 99.9% of believers. But OK. Dawkins & Co. are dismissers of religion, not just the religion of the masses. So the "post-graduate theism" of the .1% can't be ignored by them.
Judging from the first chapter, which can be downloaded for free, post-graduate theism is definitely not simple-minded stuff. Here's an idea that's tantalizingly counterintuitive. Johnston says believing in God isn't just thinking that God exists. If there's a devil, the devil presumably thinks that God exists, but the devil doesn't believe in God.
Believing in God "requires a certain success in hitting the correct target. Or, more exactly, it requires the arrow of God to have had you, or your religious tradition, as its target." You can't just look inward to find out if you stand in the proper relation to God to be a believer in him (her, it).
This is very, very post-graduate stuff. Here's the most counterintuitive part--at least as I read the argument. If the relation of believing in is between a believer and a something "out there," then if there isn't that something, nobody stands in that relation. If atheists are right, then there's no God, and there are no theists!
I'm awfully curious to see what Johnston thinks God is. In the first chapter and promo we can see he believes God is nothing supernatural, and God is not the idol described in scripture. But Johnston thinks God is still a source of salvation--believing in God will help us cope with the difficulties of life. What, then, is God? If I want to find out, I guess I'm going to have to break down and buy the book.