Many critics have pointed out that Hitchens, Dawkins, et al. set up a caricature of religion and then giddily demolish the straw man of their own creation. That is true enough, but more important is the idea of God that they insist upon denying. Let me put it bluntly: I do not believe in the God that Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, et al. do not believe in. We should even be made nervous by talk about "the existence of God," which invites the idea that God is one existent among other existents. The word God refers to the predication of existence itself. This reflects, of course, the traditional language of God as pure Being. In this understanding, to deny God is to deny reality. Macquarrie is right: Faith's name for reality is God. Whether or not one uses the word God, we are all engaged in a discussion about the nature--the ultimate nature--of reality. That discussion involves many disciplines, most notably philosophy and theology. Christians are those who believe that the revelation of God in the history of Israel and the Christ event is true and therefore, as Macquarrie puts it, "creation and its existence are good." Or, as 1 John puts it, "God is love." Hitchens, Harris, et al. are not really making the case for atheism. They are attacking the grab bag of evils and absurdities associated with that amorphous reality called religion, which is an easy thing to do. "Religion" has to do with human beliefs and behaviors that are as riddled with nonsense as any other human enterprise. Christians, qua Christians, have no stake in defending "religion." Much of what is called religion is false and meretricious....Now, if Hitchens and company want to talk about God, i.e., Reality, that would be a most welcome discussion.There is much to ponder here, not the least of which is the question of what it means to suggest that God is not himself a mere existent like any other existent. I've discussed this notion of God being "beyond being" in other posts, notably back when I was engaged in something of a dialog with some very interesting and intelligent Orthodox bloggers for whom much of this probably seems like old news.
The simplistic and naive god of the "philosophers" is not the God of the Christians, though it is the whipping boy of the atheists, who snicker and slap each other on the back like frat boys at a cornhole party, pointing at what they take to be religious doctrine and spewing forth the intellectual equivalent of rude laughter. To some extent they need no answer, any more than creationists do. And yet, if you look at any textbook in the philosophy of science, you will almost invariably find an entire section devoted to the controversy over "intelligent design", in spite of the fact that there is no real controversy at all. So, too, I suppose, there will always be a felt need, if not a genuine one, to say something about the Dawkins and Dennetts of the world. What Fr. Neuhaus has said strikes me as very well said indeed, but it will not be the end of the story, any more than Michael Ruse's refutation of intelligent design has put an end to that story.
On the other hand, perhaps the Harrises and Hitchenses do serve a useful purpose: they provide a target at which folks like Fr. Neuhaus may shoot--though it is rather like shooting fish in a barrell--thus providing the rest of us with interesting and thought-provoking reading material. O felix culpa!