Here goes, as promised....some thoughts about Mark Johnston's Saving God: Religion after Idolatry (starting with the first four chapters).
About the "undergraduate atheists"--Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. I mentioned the phrase in an earlier post. Yes, as I speculated there, Johnston uses that label primarily because he thinks these guys are attacking undergraduate theism. They haven't bothered to read Spinoza, for example.
Johnston has so much ire that I think it biases him, making him misinterpret what "the new atheists" are up to. For example, he speculates that Dawkins and Hitchens are somehow trying to recreate their halcyon college days, when everyone they knew was an atheist. (Is he serious?) Harris is dismissed as almost literally an undergraduate himself.
My take on it is that "the new atheists" feel like the boy in "The Emperor's New Clothes." They have always privately thought religion was utterly inane. They resent that they've had to keep their thoughts to themselves, and that religion has such power in the modern world. So they've decide it's time to get it all out in the open. Of course, the religion that concerns them is the religion that makes the world go 'round, not the high-brow religion of Princeton philosophers...or Spinoza.
It's ironic that despite Johnston's ire about the new atheists, some of his complaints are the same as theirs. His catologuing of the moral depravities of Yahweh is even more extensive than Dawkins's in The God Delusion. He even quotes Dawkins half-way through: "Yahweh is the most unpleasant character in all fiction." Yet even at this point he finds a way to accuse Dawkins of some mistake or other (I didn't quite follow).
Why is Johnston so mad? I think he perceives Dawkins & Co. as hostile to all of religion. He's certainly right about their tone, even if they manage an occasional careful nanosecond. Johnston has a religious cast of mind, and he's not happy to find it under attack. Even his skewering of Yahweh comes about in a very different way than Dawkins's. Johnston is at pains to show that his dissatisfaction with Yahweh grows out of a basic idea common to all religions--the rejection of idolatry. The moral monster of the bible, with all his grotesque flaws, couldn't possibly be "the highest one." So worshiping him is idolatrous.
The real "highest one" is nothing monstrous, nothing supernatural, nothing incompatible with science, nothing that wants us to reject science...but more on that later.
I'm intrigued by the religious cast of mind that Johnston doesn't want to give up, but wants to give a "proper object of worship." It intrigues me, because I just don't have it. I wonder what it is, and how it's different from the religious cast of mind even Dawkins admits to having when he calls himself a "religious atheist."