I got the book! You know, the one with the best arguments for God

In the game of Theological Whack-a-Mole, in which one book after another is proffered as the “best argument for God and/or religion,” only to be replaced by another after the first is found wanting, there is supposedly now A Mole That Can’t Be Whacked. And that is the book I’m holding below, which I finally procured via interlibrary loan.

photo

Yes, it’s David Bentley Hart’s new book, which I’ve written about here and here. The world of Sophisticated Theology™ is thrilling to Hart’s effort, singing in chorus that, this, at long last, is the book that makes the strongest case for God. This is the book that we, as atheists, must confront if we’re to have even a shred of credibility.

Here, for example, is the breathless praise of Hart’s book from Damon Linker in The Week:

One of the many virtues of theologian David Bentley Hart’s stunning new book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, is that it demolishes this facile, self-satisfied position [that of the New Atheists], exposing how completely it relies on a straw man account of God for its cogency. Atheism may well be true; a society of secularists might get along just fine without any form of piety. But until those unbelievers confront the strongest cases for God, they will have failed truly and honestly to rout their infamous enemy.

. . . That bracing and bold assertion, like the others that pack nearly every page of The Experience of God, should be questioned and subjected to scrutiny. But it should also be pondered. For provoking deep thought about the profoundest human questions, and for taking an intelligent stand in defense of faith and against its complacent, cultured despisers, Hart deserves the gratitude of a large and appreciative audience.

Okay, I accepted that challenge and got the book. (I didn’t want to pay for it, and the copy in our library was sent to another school on interlibrary loan, where it appears to have been purloined.)  I will begin reading it immediately, for I’m eager to see the Best Case for God. I’ll report on it when I’m done.

In the meantime, as I’ve said before, I don’t see why we can’t play the same Whack-a-Mole game as do the theists.

So, you religionists, don’t bother to criticize atheism until you’ve abandoned your facile and straw-mannish view godlessness, and truly pondered The Best Case for Unbelief. Don’t open your mouths until you’ve read the following:

The complete works of Robert G. Ingersoll
Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects
Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
Dawkins’s The God Delusion (criticized far more often than read)
Hitchens’s God is Not Great
Dennett’s Breaking the Spell
Harris’s The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
George Smith, Atheism: the Case Against God
Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious Reason
Victor Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis
Walter Kaufmann’s Critique of Religion and Philosophy
David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Natural History of Religion and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

And when you’re done with those, I’ve got more up my sleeve. After all, the Best Arguments Against God just keep on coming.

Readers are invited to add to the list.

317 Comments

  1. Cara
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Subscribe.

    • francis
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      //

  2. Carlos
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    You forgot “The Miracle of Theism”, by J.L. Mackie.

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Indeed I did! Great book.

      • Downe-House
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        You also forgot ‘The Bible’ ;-)

        Careful reading of the whole things leads to onlyone conclusion.

    • kelskye
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I still pull that book out when I encounter most arguments, it’s quite a comprehensive book.

      The only issue I have with it is that it’s case against God is simply the problem of evil. No doubt the argument affects a particular conception of God, but not all theism is stung by this problem. In some ways, I thought the book exemplified just how poor the overall arguments for theism are, as there’s really a small set of arguments that are analysed and recycled continuously. Perhaps this is theism in the philosophical sense, but it’s hard to recognise that this theism is the same kind of theism that most believers from different faith traditions believe.

  3. Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    What, no On the Origin of Species? And I’d think that some Newton might belong on that list, too….

    b&

    • Downe-House
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Many big Christian groups (Catholic and CofE) are quite happy to accept evolution as true, so Darwin doesn’t really argue in his book for atheism – even though at most he was a deist, and many say not even that.

      • Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        The Catholics officially mouth the words that they accept Evolution…but, when they explain what they actually mean, what they espouse is Intelligent Design Creationism, just with not quite so many features having been Designed. Specifically, that human moral cognition is irreducibly complex and required Jesus’s direct intervention in the form of a literal Adam and Eve. They also tend to insist that abiogenesis and cosmogenesis were both irreducibly complex and required further intervention. They also hold to a great many other violently anti-scientific concepts, especially in biology, such as male human parthenogenesis and non-corporeal cognition.

        But that’s tangential to my reason for including Darwin and Newton (and Pasteur and Curie and the rest). Rather, my point is that religionists do put forth theories which are supposed to explain the commonly observed natural world, and the only possible responses to those theories is to embrace them; to reject them; or to have some degree of agnosticism with respect to them. Honestly rejecting them outright — strong atheism — requires either (or both) evidence falsifying the theories or competing theories better supported by evidence. Without science, there’s little that falsifies theistic claims and nothing to offer as a better alternative. But with science, the case against religious claims is so laughably and thoroughly discredited and the case for rationalism so overwhelmingly compelling that the only miracle is that there’s even a debate in the first place.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Marella
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Yes I have read letters from more than one ex-theist saying they gave up religion when they learned about evolution. They’ve been taught they can’t have both and they believe it, so when evolution is found convincing they lose their faith.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          and those are the more educated Catholics. There are many that reject evolution. Sadly some of those are in my family.

          • Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps you should have them read Teilhard De Chardin. He was a Jesuit Priest and a paleontologist. Took part in the discovery of Peking Man.

        • Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

          [The Catholics officially mouth the words that they accept Evolution…but, when they explain what they actually mean,]

          When they explain what they actually mean, they mean “Species Evolve.”

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      If you want a good atheistic book by a scientist, how about Stephen Weinberg’s collection of Essays: “Facing Up” and perhaps Feynman’s “The meaning of it all”.

      • JBlilie
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        Sagan’s, The Varieties of Scientific Experience

        • Marella
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

          What about Sagan’s “A Demon Haunted World”? It’s wonderful.

          • Kelton Barnsley
            Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

            Indeed! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.

            I would add Henry Tichenor’s “The Sorceries and Scandals of Satan”, which expertly demolishes the myth of Christian moral superiority, as well as Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. It may have been my heathen bias coloring the text, but the part where Adam is asking Rafael why there are so many worlds if God only wanted to create humans on Earth seemed like it was perhaps meant to be a stealthy criticism of religion hidden in a religious poem.

    • Dermot C
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      @ Ben Goren
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Remember, Newton had his Physical annus mirabilis when he immured himself for a year from the Plague. Sheldon Cooper, OCD, to the power of ∞. Theodicy and all that…

      Slaínte.

  4. Christopher
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    You know what, I’d add Don Cupitt’s 1980 book ‘Taking Leave of God’. The finest atheist-maker to come from a *theologian*.

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      I’ve never read any Cupitt, but have heard he’s darned interesting.

  5. goddoc
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Hume is pretty much the death knell of natural theology. Ever since “arguments for” have relied upon personal experience, or some variant thereof. I wish Hume was read more these days: he’s clear, clever and devastating.

    • Richard Bond
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I agree completely. I have a pretty ambivalent attitude to philosophy, but I think that Hume is the finest philosopher of all: no obfuscation, no pretence; just straightforward, clear and logical ideas expressed in plain language.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      Agreed. Hume is a great starting point. And honestly, each of the books/works on the list can stand on its own. Bottom line:

      Religion = rubbish.

      There, no books needed.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation
    Bruce Hood’s The Self Illusion
    Matt Ridley’s The Origins of Virtue

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Oops didn’t notice xian nation was was already listed.

  7. ratabago
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    A C Grayling The God Argument

    • Dominic
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Oolon Colluphid’s “Who is this God Person Anyway?”…

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Yes, but it must be read only after drinking three Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters.

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      +1

    • Don
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Yes. Grayling’s is a good one. Lucid and plain-spoken.

    • kelskye
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      It was quite an enjoyable read, though mainly for the section on the end about humanism. If there’s one criticism that can be made of the cases made for atheism, most of them are happy to shoot down religious belief and it’s problems, but very few tried filling in something to take in its place. Grayling should be commended for the way he’s able to write so eloquently on such a tricky topic.

      This was an interesting “debate” between Grayling and Peter Williams on the arguments in the book.

      [audio src="http://media.premier.org.uk/unbelievable/0ccdc382-18df-409d-a8c4-0e5d0a08a188.mp3" /]

      • Dominic
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:25 am | Permalink

        “very few tried filling in something to take in its place” – well Alain de Botton tried in ‘Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.’

        I don’t wish to appear rude (just argumentative!) but there is no god shaped gap! Why should you need something else????

        • gbjames
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 4:35 am | Permalink

          There’s no god shaped gap, true. But some people get non-god-shaped value from gathering together and doing things. Because they are in the habit of doing these things at church, when they leave religion they feel a social loss. For them these atheist “churches” make sense.

          I have no personal need for that sort of thing and get uncomfortable going to regular living room “film club” gatherings where people follow the show by going around the room and discussing the movie… too much like a church basement experience for me. But for others, why not? They seem to enjoy it.

        • kelskye
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 4:41 am | Permalink

          To answer your question, it’s to be remembered that the question of theism extends far beyond the ontological question, and for many there are ethical and existential considerations that accompany it. This isn’t true for all, but it’s certainly true for some, so to neglect “the big questions” may make a naturalistic worldview seem inadequate by comparison.

          Or to put it another way, “if God doesn’t exist, now what?” – and it’s worth recognising that can be a significant question for some people, and significance enough to the point that the atheism simply doesn’t stick (or you wind up with atheism+) precisely because atheism isn’t a comparable worldview to theism. On the other hand, humanism is, and so it’s refreshing that the likes of Grayling are capable of articulating on the matter so lucidly.

        • Kevin Alexander
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:09 am | Permalink

          Actually, an evo-psych argument for a god-shaped gap can be made.
          Consider the phenomenon of neoteny where juvenile features are retained in the adult animal. We don’t just have cute baby faces we keep vestiges of our cute baby brains and one of the features of that brain is an emotional attachment to our parent(s).
          Which feeling persists even when your parent is gone. To be convinced for a very religious person that there is no god is like a toddler realizing that (s)he is lost in the mall with mother nowhere in sight. Terrifying.

          • Dominic
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

            All good points, GBJames, kelskye & Kevin!

    • Raphael
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

      I read Grayling after hitting Dawkins and Hitchens. I would definitely classify myself as a humanist. The first half of The God Argument is stuff you would be familiar with anyway from Dawkins or any other serious writer demolishing the god argument. But the second section on humanism is what made this book shine.

      It helps debase the accusations many theists have that a life without a god would be meaningless. There is so much to be said for the humanist experience, if anything I don’t believe you could live life to the fullest otherwise. It’s such a liberating view, to spend less time moralizing and judging others and spend more time living a good life. There is no reason why one would need to resort to nihilism. I can’t help but feel like since I realized this is the only life we have, and how special it is to even be alive, that life has far more meaning and wonder for me than I ever felt before.

      Pair this up with something like Bertrand Russell’s Conquest of Happiness and I think it makes a very refreshing case for the good life indeed

  8. Bruce Gregory
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I fear you will not be impressed by Hart. You will recognize his tone, however. It is shared by some of the posters on this site. Let the games begin! — The immature agnostic.

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      I’ll just leave this here for you, Bruce.

      • Bruce Gregory
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        I’m afraid I’m too immature to get it.

  9. gbjames
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Why not a little Mark Twain, too?

    Letters from the Earth

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I was going to list that one! Good read, indeed.

  10. Dominic
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    “I will begin reading it immediately”
    Truly, Professor Ceiling Cat suffers so we do not have to!

    • Marella
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      And thus we are saved the tedium of reading this twaddle. All hail Professor Ceiling Cat!

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      I just looked at the picture again and I’m just not seeing the bliss in Jerry’s eyes.

  11. Dominic
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up by John Allen Paulos

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Beg to differ but arguments for god do add up—to million$ if the Templeton people find you.

    • Ross
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Excellent book.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        Second that.

  12. Barry Lyons
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    “Leaps of Faith” by Nicholas Humphrey, though in Michael Shermer fashion, Humphrey discusses a lot more than religion.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      This is a wise strategy — as well as a reasonable approach. The same evidence and arguments are offered for claims of the paranormal, which is just supernatural made more explicit.

      Once you understand why and how human testimony can be misinterpreted — and why and how people come in to ‘rescue’ their conclusions — you notice the same thing happening in religion. Anyone in what’s been called the ‘skeptic movement’ will attest that there’s plenty of tone trolling and Little People Arguments condemning those who are rude enough to try to argue for the truth and change people’s minds.

      “If someone wants to believe in ghosts, why should you care? Maybe it helps them. I don’t believe in them myself, but I at least have the common human decency to let people believe what they want.”

      Meanwhile, those who believe in ghosts are cavorting around smugly proclaiming the importance of their discoveries, claiming they’ve got solid evidence even while insisting that ghosts are a matter of faith and only reveal themselves to the pure of heart.

  13. redlivingblue
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Howz about Carl Sagan’s Demon-haunted world?

    • Rick Fetters
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      +1

    • John K.
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Yes, you put my suggestion down before I could make it.

    • Kurt Helf
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      +1 Dammit!

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      Yes — essential.

  14. Ken Pidcock
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    When I was a kid, I read a book by Julian Huxley that I found persuasive. Was it Religion Without Revelation? I don’t remember.

    Have fun with Hart’s book. Try not to get your facile, self-satisfied position too demolished. My own reaction is that I’m always grateful to a theist who thinks me merely idiotic as opposed to condemned.

    And make sure you’re in a sound-insulated room when you read the biology stuff toward the end. Your neighbors don’t need to hear you screaming.

  15. fletchclem
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I have read a lot of theology. I really don’t expect you’re going to find anything along the lines of the argument you might be looking for. I would not get my hopes up if I were you.

  16. Pete
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    One up my sleeve:

    B. Russell. Religion and Science.

  17. gravityfly
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    “Caveman Logic” by Hank Davis. Not very well known but makes a strong argument about how “Gods” are created by the human mind.

    BTW I hate it when someone purloins a library book. >:(

    • Cliff Melick
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Probably taken by one of Hart’s ardent admirers.

      • gravityfly
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        No doubt :-(

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      If the thief reads it, that’ll be punishment appropriate to the crime.

  18. Diane Rooney
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    (My first post on WEIT!) Got to add Joseph Lewis: An Atheist Manifesto.

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Welcome!

  19. icaro066
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I bet the distance between the best and the worse arguments for god aren’t big.

  20. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “What’s up with God?: A Comprehensive Guide To Heaven” by D. H. Slartibartfarst.

    Just in case.

    • gravityfly
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Slartibartfarst? You’re kidding, right?

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        :-)

    • John Harshman
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      What about “Where God Went Wrong”, “Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes” and “Who Is this God Person Anyway” (all by Oolon Colluphid)?

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        All exquisite choices.

  21. revelator60
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Another edition to the required reading list: “The System of Nature,” by Baron D’Holbach. It is first work to propound pure, modern atheism and argue in favor of scientific materialism. Published anonymously in 1770, it was such a scandal that the Catholic Church ordered one of their top theologians to write a rebuttal. D’Holbach was the first “New Atheist.” He was a friend of Hume but far more direct in his atheism.

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      I think you can add Letters to Eugenia by D’Holdbach to the list

  22. Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    You should add

    Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification to that list. Plus, maybe, Martin and Monnier (eds.), The Impossibility of God and The Improbability of God.

    Sorry if you’ve already answered this, but what actually is the best argument for God’s existence, in your opinion?

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Surely, the least worst? ;-)

      /@

    • Kevin
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      One proof: I become god. That would be relatively convincing, at least to me. Controlling everything in the universe, knowing everything, going anywhere, anytime. It might be boring after a few thousand years, but I would make new species on different planets and give them sentience and send them a ufo every once in a while to freak them out. Great fun.

      • John K.
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        The Transcendental Argument took me a while, but really only because the equivocation mistake can be hard to catch with all the intense vocabulary it uses.

        Personally, an argument has to be at least valid (logically follow from the premises and have no logical fallacies) to even be in the running for the adjective “good”. I have yet to encounter such an argument for a god. I have not even found one where the soundness of the assumptions needs to be legitimately considered.

        • Kevin
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          Indeed, every definition of god is worse than all of the inconsistencies of every science fiction movie I have ever seen.

          God is like a Death Star. One shot and the whole thing gets blown to bits.

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      Yes, to Martin!

  23. Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The Awgooments not for Ceiling Cat.

    Also, the rest of Stenger’s god-related oeuvre (which our new fundamentalist agnostic, Bruce Gregory, would do well to crack): God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion, God and the Atom, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us, The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, God and the Multiverse: Humanity’s Expanding View of the Cosmos, and Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness.

    • Bruce Gregory
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      A fundamentalist agnostic. I am not sure what that means, but it sounds impressive. Please be sure to add “immature,” I know it’s a conceit, but still. It is interesting that so many books are devoted to a simple fact: there is no evidence for God (but plenty of evidence for those who believe in God).

      • Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        hmmm… nah. Fundamentalist is more apt, methinks. You can add that to your badge of pride.

      • Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        my take on fundamentalist agnostic: “I don’t know and you don’t know either.” with little evidence to support the position. I find fault in this because I do know that there are no gods as described by the world’s religions and I also know that there is no evidence, despite thousands of years of looking, for anything else that could be defined as “god”. I know it as well as I know that there are no fairies, no fat man coming down chimneys Dec 24, no reptilian aliens masquerading as Queen Elizabeth 2, etc.

        There is no evidence for gods no matter if people believe in gods or not. Wishful thinking doesn’t mean anything supports that thinking. There is indeed evidence that believers exist, believers in gods, in fairies, in Santa, in Illuminati, etc. doesn’t mean those things are real

        fnord

        • Bruce Gregory
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          Good for you. I like your certainty. It reminds me of the certainty of other true believers. But I should expect that on a site called “Why evolution is true.” We craven folks can only manage “Why evolution is the best explanation we have for all the evidence.” What wimps!

          • Jesper Both Pedersen
            Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

            If you substitute “best” with “only”, then we’re on track.

          • Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

            Okay, Mr. Gregory, you’ve dissed the title of my book and the name of this website. If you’d even read my book, you’d know what I meant by scientific truth. In the meantime, you are behaving arrogantly and rudely,and you won’t be allowed to post here again until you apologize.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

            Well, that was a strawman if anything: “your certainty”.

            Famously facts are based on qualifying _un_certainty. And atheism is merely fact-based skepticism on the matter of magic ideas, including “gods”.

          • Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

            so, Bruce, show me the evidence that says that there are gods. I’m waiting. Show me this evidence so you can really tell me that there is no difference in the positions of atheism and theism. If you can’t, then your attempts at being superior to both sides fails.

        • Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          You nailed my intended meaning squarely on the head, BTW. Me also thinks, upon reflection that “Bruce” was engaging in a not-so-subtle form of concern trolling… a variant he hoped would somehow circumvent da roolz. Evidence for this assertion is a complete lack of any recognition for the ample conversational bones thrown its direction, and its apology — which has an existence quality similar to that of the faeries in my garden I’m currently staring at.

          • gbjames
            Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            At least your’s have a garden. Mine are limited to hanging out around a pathetic little bush.

            • Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

              How do you know I really have a garden? ;-)

            • Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

              I really should’ve said… the faeries flittering around the pathetic dry dirt patch, parched by chronic drought that I squint and curse at… but “garden” sounds so much nicer. And besides, it makes me happy to think of it that way.

              • gbjames
                Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

                Perhaps a rock garden?

              • Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

                I’ve had a late afternoon craft beer, and now there are faeries fluttering about a nice olympic-sized swimming pool, with three bikini babes beckoning me to come out there and join them. I hope Terri’s not reading this… I gotta go now.

              • Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

                I swear, the beer out here works so much better than the results depicted in the average Coors Light commercial.

          • Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

            indeed. :) I have a lovely garden, perfect for fairies, and alas none are there.

            • Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

              Update: I’ve abandoned my purist agnostic stance on the backyard pool, due to the fact I cannot ignore the scratches and embedded dirt in my skin, nor the prickly pear in my privates. I’ve also been forced to decide whether or not the sheriff banging on my door, in fact, exists. Or whether that really was, in fact, a beer. Gotta go…

              • gbjames
                Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

                If I were you I’d check the fairies. They are well known to scratch.

              • Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

                Good thinking. Thanks.

  24. Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    The Bible.

    :-D

    /@

    • Dermot C
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      …is the best book with an argument for God. I’m serious. After all we do behold the divine arse: get round that one, Mr. Hume.

      Slaínte.

    • gluonspring
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Indeed.

      I expect that Hart’s book will also turn out to be a really good argument *against* god as well, as all apologetics, in their poverty (if not rank dishonesty), ultimately turn out to be.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      For the three people on the list who may not already know this, I’m guessing that Ant’s comment is an allusion to Isaac Asimov’s statement, “If you suspect that my interest in the Bible is going to inspire me with sudden enthusiasm for Judaism and make me a convert of mountain‐moving fervor and that I shall suddenly grow long earlocks and learn Hebrew and go about denouncing the heathen — you little know the effect of the Bible on me. Properly read, it is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” (sourced on his Wikiquote page)

      • Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

        Amongst many similar comments from a variety of others.

        /@

  25. icaro066
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I don’t buy any argument about extraordinary claims without some sort of empirical evidence. I bet that book doesn’t have any.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      My guess is that the book is pretty much going to be devoted to explaining why we don’t need empirical evidence for God. That’s an oldie, but a goodie. Fortunately for the theists, they can make it and simultaneously explain how and why and what makes God an excellent explanation — without any sense of self-contradiction. The True Miracle.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        Does anyone know what happened to Raven, who used to comment regularly here? I saved one of his best quotes for frequent use, as it seems to me to squash all subjective arguments for the existence of any god or gods:

        “All faith claims are just voices in someone’s head. Whatever you call them, they are unprovable and there are millions of voices in people’s heads…all saying different things.”

        • Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

          I think raven is a “her”.

          I saw her in a thread over at Pharyngula, oh, maybe two months ago.

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

            OK, good to hear she’s still among us. I’ll adjust my use of pronouns accordingly.

            • Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

              I could be wrong. But I’m pretty sure I read a comment that revealed her gender.

              I liked her comments, too. Very direct. No nonsense. Unlike my comments, which are often brimming with nonsense: puns, flippancy, general frippery! :)

        • Sastra
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

          Raven is still a frequent contributor at both Pharyngula and Ed Brayton’s Dispatches From the Culture Wars, both on Freethought blogs. There are fresh posts this morning.

          And I’m pretty sure raven is male.

          • Posted March 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

            Oh.

            Oops.

            At least you can’t accuse me of assuming everybody on the internet is a guy.
            :)

            • Posted March 21, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

              “At least you can’t accuse me of assuming everybody on the internet is a guy.”

              I may have inadvertently contributed to some confusion here.

              I used to comment at Pharyngula a lot as “Raven” (I’m a woman), and then when the guy named “Raven” began commenting, I changed to “thalarctos” for clarity.

              And I appreciate your not assuming everyone’s a guy :) .

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

            So, it appears that Raven is the one of wise words and uncertain gender.

            I used to follow Pharyngula and Panda’s Thumb, but now spend most of my pro-science, anti-religion on-line time here. Easier to use, and I think this site fits me better. Which is not to say that I don’t appreciate a lot of really good things that I’ve learned at those two sites.

  26. Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam by Michel Onfray

    Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay on Kindness by AC Grayling

  27. James Walker
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Reading Karen Armstrong’s _A History of God_, just before Dawkins’s _The God Delusion_ came out, convinced me more than anything else I’ve read that God is a human invention. It’s what tipped me over from agnosticism into atheism.

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      dy-no-mite!

    • Marella
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Good choice. It’s an enormously think tome with the most disappointing ending of any book I’ve ever read. I really thought she’d have something better to say than that. Not that I expected to be convinced of god but I thought she’d have some kind of argument for his existence.

      • Achrachno
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

        I read that. She has some interesting things to say, but seems reluctant to follow certain lines of logic to their obvious conclusions. The book is disappointing — as I remember it trailed off into vapor.

        • Marella
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

          Exactly right. God evaporated into nothing by the end. I was sure she must be an atheist because she’d just conclusively shown that God is absent and we can know nothing about him. Sounds like atheism to me.

  28. peltonrandy
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    sub

  29. peltonrandy
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible and The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy provide some pretty good reasons not to believe, even though neither book is specifically a set of arguments against God or for atheism.

    • Tod
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Love Dennis Mckinsey, his collection of newletters with debates at the end were fantastic… he one got accused of nitpicking because of his meticulous detail which prompted a anon atheist to exclaim “keep on picking the nits!”

      • Tod
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        *once*

  30. Tod
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I would add Richard Carrier’s why I am not a Christian, it addresses every angle and is well referenced and historically devastating!

    • Sastra
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      And don’t forget his Sense and Goodness Without God. Carrier is nothing if not thorough.

  31. Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    What a great thread!

    And what a great idea, to turn them on their heads and require *them* to prove their extraordinary claim of an all-powerful invisible unknowable et al. god!

  32. JBlilie
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    WEIT of course
    The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Sagan
    The Bible
    The Koran
    The Hadiith

    Otherwise, you hit all my favorites.

  33. cremnomaniac
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I wish I were as well read as some here. There is a long list of books that I am apparently missing. Ive read many, butt in the case for po6, can it ever be anything more than a strained and convoluted exercise in defending the indefensible? I can’t see how any reasonable case can be made.

  34. Howard Replogle
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb

    Why People Believe Weird Things – Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer

    Natural Atheism by David Eller

    Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker

    Like Rolling Uphill – Realizing the Honesty of Atheism by Dianna Narciso

    The Atheist’s Way – Living Well Without Gods by Eric Maisel

    Sense & Goodness Without God – A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism by Richard Carrier

    The New Atheism – Taking a Stand for Science and Reason by Victor J. Stenger

    Don’t Believe Everything You Think – The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking by Thomas Kida

    Atheist Universe – The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism by David Mills

    How We Believe – Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael Shermer

    The Blind Watchmaker – Why The Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design by Richard Dawkins

    Quantum Gods – Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness by Victor J. Stenger

    The Varieties of Scientific Experience – A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan

    Atheism Advanced – Further Thoughts of a Free Thinker by David Eller

    The Christian Delusion – Why Faith Fails edited by John W. Loftus

    The Believing Brain – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer

    A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian

    • Cliff Melick
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Glad to see someone finally listed David Eller’s two books. For a while, I thought I was the only one who appreciated his work.

      • Howard Replogle
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        I feel the same way, Cliff. It must be his marketing because I think he’s brilliant.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      In addition to Losing Faith in Faith I’d add Why I Believed by Ken Daniels, and Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, two amazing deconversion stories. And, no one has mentioned the John Loftus books (which I haven’t read yet), but I understand they are equally good.

      In addition to Don’t Believe Everything You Think I’d add How We Know What Isn’t So by Thomas Gilovich.

      Oh, I see that you have mentioned Loftus! :-)
      I’m also happy to see the first mention of David Mills’ Atheist Universe, which I thought was excellent.

      • Howard Replogle
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Mark. “Infidel” is also on my long list, but I left it off the above short list because the list was getting too long! Hirsi-Ali is wonderful.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      Dan Barker’s Godless is also excellent.

  35. Bruce Gregory
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Mitchell Stephens, Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Help Create the Modern World.

  36. Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Mencken of course:

    H L Mencken: Treatise on the Gods.

    And a somewhat comprehensive book that includes a lot of modern theology (Plantinga etc.):

    Nicholas Everitt: The Non-existence of God

  37. Chak
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Nice photo Prof. Ceiling Cat!

  38. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I’ve ‘looked inside’ in the Kindle Store.

    I don’t envy Jerry.

    • Bob Carlson
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      I glanced over the lone one-star review by a dissatisfied Christian, who noted:

      …It’s hard to understand why anyone would worship Hart’s God. What would be the point? If God is the ultimate explanation of all without need of being explained in turn (p 116) there’s not much else to say and not much difference between Hart’s God and no God…

  39. Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Regarding:

    “One of the many virtues of theologian David Bentley Hart’s stunning new book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, is that it demolishes this facile, self-satisfied position [that of the New Atheists], exposing how completely it relies on a straw man account of God for its cogency.”

    What does Damon Linker mean by the term, new atheist? Other than a person who lately became a disbeliever in the supernatural, what could Linker possibly mean?

    • Sastra
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      My guess is that by “new atheist” Linker is talking about atheists who
      1.) consider God as a hypothesis;
      2.) see religion as mostly damaging and faith as a vice and
      3.) think it’s fine to try to argue ordinary people out of it.

      Being, Consciousness, and Bliss are apparently what God IS!

      • gluonspring
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        And what foul people atheists must be to reject being, consciousness, and bliss?

      • Marella
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        The title is enough to put me off. That we are here, that we are conscious, and that we can feel joy, are not cogent reasons to believe in Quetzalcoatl or any other gods.

  40. Michael Fugate
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained

    As a short discussion of Aquinas’ reasons for god, I like Peter Angeles’ The Problem of God

    • Eric David Ribner
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      I have reiterate the importance of this book. Pascal Boyers’ Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought was the book that made the biggest difference in my transition from theism to antitheism. I read it AFTER I had finished all the “New Atheist” books, and found in it the answer to a question that NONE of those books had settled for me: why, even though I accepted that my former belief made no sense; was inconsistent with my commitment to rationality and evidence; and as Hitch pointed out, implied a universe in which I was the puppet of a tyrant, did I still WISH that it were true. Why did I still feel that way, knowing what I knew? The answer came from Pascal Boyers’ book, and I was appreciative of that fact that I contacted him, and he even extended me permission to distribute my electronic copy of the book to my local atheist/skeptic group, because, as a scientist, it was more important to him that people KNEW about his thesis than that he get a few cents per copy for used books on Amazon. READ THIS BOOK.

  41. Latverian Diplomat
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Not a book, but Jonathon Miller’s Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief is a compelling three hour video series. It seems to only be available on youtube, but it is available there.

    It was compellng enough to give the accomodationists at PBS the heebie-jeebies.

  42. Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Another recommendation – Steve Shives’s “An Atheist Reads…” series on You Tube. He covers many Christian books in detail (Case For Christ, Evidence that demands a verdict, Reasonable Faith…) that would be far too turgid to read oneself. *And* you aren’t paying to facilitate more of this kind of drivel.

  43. Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Some lighter reading:

    1. For “Old Atheist” humor, Mark Twain: Letters from the Earth.

    2. For poetry, Stephen Vincent Benet: Western Star (not as well known as John Brown’s Body, but addresses religion more directly).

    3. For sci-fi/fantasy fans: Glen Cook: The Black Company series, where you’ll learn that sorcery and religion are Always Bad.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Hmm, Glen Cook was not on my “to read” list. Until now.

    • eric
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      I am glad someone tought to mention a novel, though that novel (and series) is not one that makes any sort of deep philosophical point about religion. At least, no more than any other fantasy book. Great story, though.

      I’d say that if you want sci-fi/fantasy with a more biting poke at modern religion, go for Iain Banks’ Surface Detail. Or perhaps Sherri Tepper’s Raising the Stones.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        Excellent; thank you for the recommendations.

        Another obvious addition: Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” which does a wonderful lampoon of the megachurch, long before megachurches existed. I understand his book “Job: A Comedy of Justice” does the same, but I haven’t read it yet.

        I can’t think of other anti-religious books in my science fiction and fantasy reading, but I do have plenty of quotes drawn from them; they are thick on the ground in Jack Vance’s books.

        And don’t forget “A Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood.

  44. Gareth Price
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Damon Linker writes “Atheism may well be true…. But until those unbelievers confront the strongest cases for God etc etc.”

    I am reminded of another philosopher/ theologian who said somwthing like “Dawkins may well be right – maybe there is no God. All I ask is that you take the idea seriously”.

    They seem to be saying something like this: “We are reasonable people and we admit that we might be wrong. Our only insistance is that you take our particular idea seriously”. This technique seems to allow anyone to espouse any idea, insist that people consider it seriously, while claiming to be perfectly reasonable about it all. It doesn’t seem quite right to me.

    If someone asks why he should take the idea of God seriously, some people would point out the terrible things that will happen on the day of judgement if you don’t. There is an inbuilt threat if you don’t take it seriously. But seeing as the sophisticated theologians seem to be distancing themselves from this sort of god, can someone tell me what the worst outcome is if we don’t feel obliged to give this idea sufficient attention?

    • Sastra
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      The problem here is that the atheists ARE taking the idea of God seriously. Why else would we be willing to put so much time and effort into the dispute?

      The accomodationists and faitheists who proudly announce that they’re fine if people believe in God as long as they don’t let their faith interfere in science or politics are actually the ones who aren’t taking the concept or question seriously. They’re treating religious belief like some sort of fandom.

      • kelskye
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        It’s an interesting point, Sastra. The question, though, I suppose is to what extent one should take the concept seriously. Are we meant to wrestle with the arguments, and the best arguments at that? Are we meant to comprehend and sympathise with those who take the “leap of faith” and understand the horror of the “death of God”? Are we meant to sumbit one’s will to God and wait for God to show us His truth? Or is it enough to simply show the incongruity of God in light of modern science?

        I’d agree that atheists do take the God question seriously, but I’d doubt it would be seriously in the right way such as to appease believers. Since there’s no one way to do theism, no one answer on what methodology works, it follows that any such attempts to take it seriously by non-believers will be generally inadequate. I’ve seen that if you appease one of the various facets of God belief, you’ll get praised for being “more sophisticated than those new atheists”, but at the same time you’ll be condescended to for neglecting another one of those facets.

        The more I learn about it, the less interested I am in taking it seriously. It’s nonsense, it’s self-evident nonsense, it’s pernicious nonsense, and all one does is indulge the delusions of believers by taking their claims seriously.

        • Sastra
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          Yes, the equivocation on what it means to take a religious belief “seriously” often takes place after that careful consideration of the reasons to believe in God fails to result in either belief or a longing to believe. So no, the atheist must not have really looked at the reasons to believe (as if belief in God was a rational scientific conclusion which any objective person need only understand to accept) … or no, a serious consideration would involve a deep respect for the emotional needs of the believer, so that nonbelief is never offered as a legitimate alternative.

          It’s interesting to look at the characteristics of what the theist considers to be a “good” atheist in order to get some insight into what is meant by “taking religion seriously.” Who do they hold up as the example to follow?

          It seems to me there are a lot of categories. To fundamentalists, the Good Atheist is apparently a “former atheist.” Or, perhaps, a “sincere seeker” who will become a former atheist.

          To more mainstream and liberal versions of theism, the Good Atheist seems to range from atheists who keep their arguments in philosophy journals to atheists who keep their arguments to themselves. Sometimes the Good Atheist is very, very sorry they lack the gift of faith, or exhibits all the signs of angst and depression the believers flatter themselves are entailed in a godless view of the world. The Good Atheist weeps.

          Although Good Atheists may be the ones who make “better arguments” it’s often difficult to tell what these solid but unconvincing arguments would have to be.

          • kelskye
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

            I really do think you’ve nailed the problem there, Sastra. I also think, sadly, it’s why the “new atheism” will never be regarded as anything other than reactionary antitheism that is simply inadequate to take on the grandeur of true religious faith.

          • Todd Steinlage
            Posted March 22, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

            I agree. I have several friends (including an ex) that were ok with my atheism as long as I seemed “open” to their views, and used hedge language. They accused me of being close-minded if I wouldn’t entertain their fantasies, accept their assumptions, or waste my time reading their literature.

            I’m done with that. I think (not feel) that I’ve done my due diligence and answered the question to my satisfaction. (As a side-note, I’m so glad to have found all you here!)

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted March 22, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

              Great post. And welcome aboard. :-)

        • Wowbagger
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          I’d agree that atheists do take the God question seriously, but I’d doubt it would be seriously in the right way such as to appease believers. Since there’s no one way to do theism, no one answer on what methodology works, it follows that any such attempts to take it seriously by non-believers will be generally inadequate. I’ve seen that if you appease one of the various facets of God belief, you’ll get praised for being “more sophisticated than those new atheists”, but at the same time you’ll be condescended to for neglecting another one of those facets.

          Hence why debating with ‘sophisticated theology’ is often described as a shell game/three-card monte; every time you come up with a rebuttal for their concept of god, they shift their belief to a difference concept – ground-of-being to loving god to source of morality to old-school literal bible god and back again.

  45. Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    These are not books, of course, but for shorter statements, the essay you recently referenced by Natalie Angier…brilliant: http://www.edge.org/conversation/my-god-problem.

    Also pretty much anything by Greta Christina.

    • Pete Moulton
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      I’ll second your suggestion of Greta Christina’s work. “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” is a fine read.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        Yes, both the Angier and Christina essays are “da bomb”!

  46. Stephen Pilotte
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    It’s been named in one comment but I’ll put it again cause I think it shows that inventing invisible being is “in” our genes : Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained

    And also because I like the title : Believing bullshit by Stephen Law

  47. TJR
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    As its not been mentioned above AFAICS, another non-book source is of course the complete youtube works of nonstampcollector.

  48. Myron
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Another important book:

    * Sobel, Jordan Howard. Logic and Theism: Arguments For and Against Beliefs in God. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

  49. Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The Necessity of Atheism by Shelley
    The Testament by Jean Messlier
    Superstition in the ages by Jean Messlier
    Joseph Lewis The tyranny of god
    Onfray Michel in defense of atheism
    Necessity of Atheism by Dr. D.M Brooks

  50. tubby
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    When Sophisticated Theologians tell atheists they have the wrong conception of god are they also sending out memos to the faithful? Or is it only the wrong conception if you don’t believe it?

    • John K.
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. Somehow the fundamentalists do not need addressing the same way the atheists do. Funny how that works.

      • tubby
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        It seems like an untapped market. You’ve already got a pool of people who believe. You just need to bring them up to the proper sophistication.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      God often seems to be defined as “not whatever the atheists happen to think it is.” Really, if that’s your starting position it isn’t surprising that atheists invariably fail to get what the faithful are driving at.

      An atheist who understands what God means would be crying because they can’t find the faith to believe in it, recognizing that this is a sad and frustrating sort of handicap they have.

      • Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        it’s a continually moving target, continually getting vaguer and vaguer. It the only way for theism to continue.

      • irritable
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

        God tends not to be defined by theologians, presumably because he consists only of transcendental ontological polyfiller.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

          transcendental ontological polyfiller

          I like it!

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink

          Theology… helps make you the expert.

          • Kevin Alexander
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

            Compatibilism : Flexes with the timba.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Oh, yeah, Hart’s book is just full of that shit. If you, as a nonbeliever, think that theism is about supernatural agents and events, your lack of understanding is simply beneath contempt. However, that judgment is never applied to traditional believers.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        Superbly noted! Or, to get a bit more Shakespearean, “a hit, a palpable hit.”

        Somebody needs to direct Mr. Hart’s attention to some recent Gallup poll results.

  51. Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I personally think the best argument against god is the fact that an all powerful god is a hypothesis of maximum entropy. Of course, that’s an epistemic argument and not an ontological one so that just makes me a militant agnostic.

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Don’t you mean *minimum* entropy? Entropy works like golf handicaps, i.e. the higher your handicap the more likely your ball is to take of in a random direction at a random speed. Similarly with entropy, the higher it is, the less ordered the system is. It’s easier to scramble eggs (increase of entropy) than unscramble them.

      • eric
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        Maximum entropy systems are in some sense very ordered. (In them…) Energy is distributed as evenly as possible amongst all available states, and will never spontaneously redistribute.

        • Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          Well in “some sense” scrambled eggs can be ordered to. In fact I ordered some in a restaurant the other day…

    • Larry Gay
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a “militant agnostic”. Agnostics in my experience tend to be rather indecisive, even wishy-washy. Maybe militant agnostics are the ones who come to your door and try to convert you to agnosticism.

      • Achrachno
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        I often call myself a hard core agnostic: “I don’t know what you, dear theist, are talking about and I’m quite sure you don’t either”

        My central contention is that theobabble is mostly meaningless. Not even wrong.

  52. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Having read nada books about atheism, I’m loving this thread.

    Bookmarked.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Likewise. Just the idea of them is sufficient to make an argument against god.

    • Dominic
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      The thing is, you don’t NEED to read a book about atheism to be an atheist. I have read some of them because I dislike religion & the rubbish it peddles, not to confirm my lack of belief in deities.

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:36 am | Permalink

        It’s not a question of need. It’s simply an interest in the subject….and a very good list to have as a reference when theists of various sorts wants us to read some theobabble.

        If Ant gives the green light, I won’t hesitate to provide them with the link to his list.

  53. Werner H Baur
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    An oldie, but goodie:
    Sigmund Freud: Die Zukunft einer Illusion, 1928

    A translation into English was republished
    recently:
    Sigmund Freud: The Future of an Illusion, 2011

    And even older but extremely good:
    Jean Meslier: Testament, 2009 (that is the first complete translation into English, the original was written before 1729).

  54. Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    “One of the many virtues of theologian David Bentley Hart’s stunning new book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, is that it demolishes this facile, self-satisfied position [that of the New Atheists], exposing how completely it relies on a straw man account of God for its cogency.”

    Hmmm, seems that this starts out already with a straw man argument against atheism. Facile? Self-satisfied? where are *these* positions? Same old baseless claims of theists.

  55. Robert Seidel
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous – De tribus impostoribus
    Anonymous – Traité sur les trois imposteurs
    Kant – Kritik der reinen Vernunft
    La Mettrie – L’Homme Machine
    Feuerbach – Das Wesen des Christentums
    Marx – Thesen über Feuerbach
    Nietzsche – Der Antichrist

    Of course, the sophistication of arguments only suffers in translation – so if they don’t read the original, we’ll refuse to listen (and we tell them AFTER they worked through the translations).

    • revelator60
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Good point, though I hope you won’t mind me pointing out that the most obscure of those works, “Traité sur les trois imposteurs” has been translated as “The Treatise of the Three Impostors,” by Abraham Anderson. The book is indebted to Spinoza but has a vitality of its own.
      The story behind it is equally fascinating, since the book “existed” long before it was ever written. The entire story is told in “The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed,” by Georges Minois.

      • Robert Seidel
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it was some sort of ghost story, wasn’t it, for sending shivers down the spine of any christian, and later somebody impersonated this never-existing book with his own text.

        There were also priests writing “debates” with imaginary atheists, because they had no real ones to argue with. Now they have, but they don’t seem happy about it.

  56. Chris McConnell
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I feel smart in that I’ve read most of them. Ordering the Spinoza one today. How about “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Bogossian? A different book, but absolutely worth the read. Also “Why I am not a Muslim” by Ibn Warraq.

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      Yes! Quite good on theism in general too, as I remember.

  57. Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Judging by the expression of your eyes, visible over the edge of the book, the Bliss part effects are already starting to kick in.

  58. Sean
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    –have been banned? — :-(

    The book that got me questioning everything and broke ‘the spell’ was “A Brief History of Time” by Hawking

    It just blew me away and left me wondering what on earth people are going to church for, reciting a book about sacrificing goats and people! Tell me more about black holes & time travel!!

  59. Matt G
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    They keep trying to prove god’s existence. Makes you kinda wonder how much faith they actually have….

  60. Sastra
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t seen Taner Edis listed yet, so I’ll mention both The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science and Science and Nonbelief.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Yes, one of the most underrated atheist authors ever.

      Also ST Joshi’s “God’s Defenders”

  61. John
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t read all the comments, but your article leaves out the great classic: Critiques of God: Making the Case Against Belief in God, by Peter Angeles. Covers all the critiques of the classic apologies.

  62. Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    “…it demolishes this facile, self-satisfied position [that of the New Atheists], exposing how completely it relies on a straw man account of God for its cogency. Atheism may well be true; a society of secularists might get along just fine without any form of piety. But until those unbelievers confront the strongest cases for God, they will have failed truly and honestly to rout their infamous enemy….”

    Damon Linker

    Ah, Damon, it’s not very good, is it? You have set sail upon rotten planks. So many mistakes in so few sentences. And you not noticing!

    The atheist view is simply a rejection of the idea that this planet is ruled by supernatural beings. How could that view possibly be facile, and why should anyone who does not believe in your gods be ‘self-satisfied’. C’mon, admit it. You are throwing rocks aren’t you? I have never believed in supernatural beings, and I don’t much care if you do. And I don’t believe in flying saucers or ghosts. Does that sound facile, and make me ‘self-satisfied, too? Clearly you are lashing-out, which makes you sound both angry and defensive, as if you already know that your gods don’t exist but certainly do not want clever people to laugh at you for your quaint beliefs.

    Since I do not believe in your gods no matter how you disguise them, how could that possibly be a straw-man disbelief? It’s nonsense, isn’t it? I don’t have to define your gods; you do. In that case it cannot possibly be a straw-man argument to disbelieve your invented gods, particularly the rather peculiar and deliberately obtuse ‘Ground of Being’ gods who are not mentioned in your bible, and are unrecognisable by the millions of Christians worldwide. You and David Hart’s gods are presented in this new way simply to play the ‘abstract scales’ where the more abstract the concept, the more truth and falsehood become the same thing. It’s a deliberate ploy, isn’t it? Like wiping your fingerprints off the doorknob.

    And what’s this about piety. It sound a lot like the awe felt by one of life’s perpetual servants in respect of his imaginary masters. Nothing to see here.

    We do not have to ‘confront’ the strongest case for your gods. How many plates of putrid stew do I have to consume before I come to the conclusion that the whole cauldron is off.

    Finally your gods are not my infamous enemy, simply because they do not exist. You seem to have some new ruse in which you pretend that I really do believe in your gods, but just don’t like them. That is clearly not the case. I have no opinion on imaginary beings except to comment that they are imaginary. After that, I cease caring about them. Your imaginary beings are not my enemy so please, knock it off.

  63. Jason
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know if people like Hart who argue for the ground of being god think that we have any moral obligation to go to church or tithe or anything? Does the ground of being care if I masturbate? Even if we accept that everything he says is true, that only gets us to deism. Why does the ground of being care about the bible?

    • Wowbagger
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Remember, sophisticated Christian theologians aren’t monotheists; they actually believe in two gods: 1) the nebulous ground-of-being god who gets trotted out for the sake of argument, and 2) [in secret, when alone with other Christians] the traditional god of the bible who is that father of Jesus, creator of Adam & Eve, proscriber of the ten commandments and granter of miracles.

      It’s profoundly intellectually dishonest, of course – but when has that stopped a Christian theologian?

      • eric
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        I’ll quibble a bit about the nature of their dishonesty. I think most folks like Hart actually believe what they’re spouting, and the dishonesty comes in how they address other theists. IOW they are lying to their fellow congregants, not lying to us.

  64. kelskye
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    “Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious Reason”
    I just finished reading this. This book gave me a lot to think about, though I’m a little surprised it’s in the “best arguments for atheism” pile, as Philipse really didn’t advance any arguments *for* atheism except in passing. 90% of the time was arguing against particular theistic accounts, and where arguments for atheism popped up where when theistic arguments encountered certain difficulties (such as accounting for persons), or theism was trying to defeat atheistic arguments (such as the problem of evil) in order to make theism more likely.

    In his exploration of Swinburne’s inductive case, for example, only 9a (problem of evil) and 9b (divine hiddenness) were addressed, and Philipse showed the failure of Swinburne’s case to account for these. It’s then (and then later briefly in the conclusion) that he mentioned Swinburne’s failure to take into account other potential lines of evidence which would affect the inductive case. But he doesn’t advance a particular argument, just outlines the kinds of things he thinks counts against the God hypothesis.

  65. Gordon
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I detest phrases like “the profoundest human questions” which seems to mean only those concerning the ineffable one. There are only two important questions: “What can I cook for dinner?” and “Is my partner in a frisky mood?” and neither is profound.

  66. grasshopper
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Oolon Colluphid is the author of the “trilogy of philosophical blockbusters” entitled Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person Anyway?. He later used the Babel Fish argument as a basis for a fourth book, titled Well, That About Wraps It Up For God. He is also said to have written two additional books entitled Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Guilt But Were Too Ashamed To Ask and Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Sex But Have Been Forced to Find Out.

    • grasshopper
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      The Babel Fish Argument

      Now it is such a bizarrely improbably coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful [the Babel fish] could have evolved by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.
      The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
      “But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED”
      “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Sex But Have Been Forced to Find Out.

      To witness this phenomenon as it plays out in nature one only has to google Rule 34.

      In fact according to determinism one has no choice once the seed is planted.

      And as always, remember your towels, folks!

      • Richard Olson
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        I googled Rule 34 expecting, maybe, A Hitchhiker’s Guide hit. This did not appear on the first page of stuff that came up. I was surprised at how many different things did. There is a fiction mystery book title set in Scotland I’m going to take a closer look at mixed up in there, and then there’s this funny business I’d forgotten:

        http://www.xkcd.com/305/

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          Wikipedia also have a fine entry regarding origin and usages: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_34_(Internet_meme)

        • Chris
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 4:21 am | Permalink

          It’s one of the few Charles Stross books that I haven’t read!

          But yeah, the Rules Of The Internet do actually exist!

  67. Larry Kitchen
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Jerry,

    Have you ever put together a more comprehensive reading list? I would like to see it, if you have. Over the last half century (plus), I’ve read almost all of the short list of books you inserted into this article and enjoyed them. The number of really good secular books has pyramided somewhat geometrically over the last decade or so. I enjoy your comments.

  68. Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    authored by women:

    Matilda Joslyn Gage’s 1893 Woman, Church and State: http://www.sacred-texts.com/wmn/wcs

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 1895 The Woman’s Bible

    Anne Nicole Gaylor’s Lead Us Not Into Penn Station: Provocative Pieces

    Anne Nicole Gaylor’s Woe to the Women, The Bible Tells Me So: The Bible, Female Sexuality and the Law

    Annie Laurie Gaylor’s edited Women Without Superstition: “No Gods –– No Masters”

    Ruth Hurmence Green’s The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide To the Bible

    Vashti Cromwell McCollum’s One Woman’s Fight

    Blue

    • Chris Mcconnell
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Yawn. It’s not about equality, it’s about profundity. I read important books by important authors, and I won’t be accused of misogyny or racism because I don’t read insignificant literature.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure why you think Blue’s list of female authors implies something about equality. Blue just listed some authors that are female and make some good points – I especially like Anne Nicole Gaylor’s Woe to the Women because it demonstrates how out of step the Bible is with modern ethics and morality vis á vis treating women as equals in society. This list doesn’t accuse anyone of misogyny.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

          👍👍👍^n
          :-)

        • Chris McConnell
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

          None of those books are on any well-read skeptics top 100 list and I resent the “why are no women listed” implication by the “books that women wrote” quip.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

            Jerry didn’t ask for “the well read skeptics top 100 list”. He asked what books we’d recommend. This was Blue’s recommendation. There is no evidence of implied misogyny if you don’t read those books. Simply listing a bunch of females isn’t misogynistic especially when survey after survey shows there are few female atheists. I don’t know why this is and I find it interesting to read from the minorities. If Blue listed a bunch of black authors, I’d be interested in this too as there are few black atheists and I wouldn’t see a list with the comment: and “some black atheists too as a hint that I might be a racist”.

        • Chris McConnell
          Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

          If something is good and pertains to the subject it doesn’t need to be qualified. I get enough of that crap on less intelligent websites.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

            I’ve written why I might see a female’s writing interesting. I think you’re over analyzing Blue’s comment.

          • Chris McConnell
            Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

            Every gender, race and species doesn’t need to be represented in every conversation. The best skeptic book by one-armed trans-gendered asian 25 year-olds should be included if it’s a worthy book, but he/she certainly doesn’t need to be identified as that. Thats exactly what ‘blue’ was doing by mentioning “authored by women” to introduce her/his list. I hate that crap. Just mention the book/s and ace the agenda.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

              As I said before. You’re over analyzing. There is no agenda. I myself liked Blue’s list of females. I like to read from a perspective sometimes.

              • Chris Mcconnell
                Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

                I’ll stop. I’m sure the authors listed make excellent arguments. I’m just tired of the “who will think of the children” garbage. I’m not trolling and not deliberately being an ass.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                :) Okay Chris. I was going to ask who hurt you if you got angrier. Cheers!

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

        WTF?

        What are you calling “insignificant literature?”

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that list, Blue, because I like reading important books written by important people despite the fact I am a self-hating woman. :-)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        I go by self loathing misanthrope. :)

  69. kelskye
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m quite disappointing that the Sophisticated Theology Argument Against Atheism is able to get a pass. It’s one of those arguments I really don’t understand.

    If there’s actually a good argument for God’s existence, then why isn’t it taught in every church and in every scripture class? Instead for most people it’s an act of faith to believe in God. Yet when you criticise God on the grounds of a faith, one objection is that there are, in fact, really good arguments out there for the existence of God that one must address before saying that God doesn’t exist. Yet if you address the arguments, it’s either that you didn’t address the right arguments, or that by addressing the arguments you missed the point that it’s a matter of faith.

    This is one reason why I tend to stay away from any theological discussion that isn’t about a particular argument anymore. I got sick of people telling me that it’s not right to dismiss God on faith grounds, that I should address the arguments. But when I did address the arguments, it came full circle and I was informed that it’s an act of faith to believe – which was my point from the beginning.

    I came to realise this reading John Loftus’ Why I Became An Atheist – a book I had recommended to me on the basis that it took the case for theism seriously. Yet the theism it took seriously involved staves turning into snakes, a man living inside a whale, and what it meant for Jesus to both be God and be separate from God. The arguments in the book didn’t convince me the whole thing was a crock, the very subject matter did. If that’s what theists count as the theism one ought to address, then I’ll wear any criticism about not addressing it on the chin.

    • Wowbagger
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      If there’s actually a good argument for God’s existence, then why isn’t it taught in every church and in every scripture class?

      Remember, Kel, the double-standard applied to differentiate belief from unbelief: believers accept others are believers as long as they answer in the affirmative to the question ‘do you believe in God?’, no matter how little you might actually know about history, theology, philosophy, and science; unbelief, on the other hand, requires an indepth knowledge of all those things and more.

      Hypocrisy, you say? How dare you!

      • kelskye
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:53 am | Permalink

        In one respect, it’s understandable. When someone dismisses what you hold to be true, you want them to dismiss it for “good” reasons. If you hold it as true and they cast it off without considering the reasons for why it is true, of course one would get upset and think that their belief deserves better treatment.

        Though that same sentiment can just as well be expressed by the astrologer or homoeopath.

        This is why burden of proof matters, rather than simply being a matter of rhetorical posturing (though it can quickly devolve into that). Since it is so easy to extrapolate from your own position as being the status quo, the question of burden of proof is one where careful consideration is required. I think a theist would be rightfully wary of an atheist saying the theist has the burden of proof rather than the other way around as we say it, though I think Flew’s parable of the gardener (or Sagan’s dragon in the garage) is fairly definitive on where burden of proof lies.

        It’s also interesting, at least to me, as this highlights the different kinds of reasoning that’s involved in our everyday life. When we debate about theism, it’s not really because we’re trying to get to the bottom of how the world works, but because we disagree with others around us. If no-one believed in God, there’d be no need to argue (and it’s true the other way around). So the question of burden of proof is going to sit inside how the question is looked at. So if you have a community of believers, the challenge is going to look like it comes from the outsider to that way of thinking, rather than from the challenger’s POV that the claim is far-fetched. It also matters about the other beliefs of the individuals involved, whether there’s a shared background of particular beliefs, and how all that factors into the various epistemology(s) in use.

        Part of what frames God in the way Flew and Sagan’s argument does is that we live in an age of science, where we have particular ways to answer questions. I think in this respect, believers have made life harder from themselves by not keeping God in line with the dominant epistemology of the day. They have conceded the burden of proof argument in modern times (e.g. the shift from the watchmaker argument to natural selection) that science trumps religious claims. It makes it much harder to call for a burden of proof on the unbelievers when belief is in question.

        • Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:00 am | Permalink

          Nice post. Give me good reasons not to believe that a man named Fromorsh who has telepathic abilities and lives in an undiscovered galaxy 32 billion light years away isn’t controlling our activities right now. Append a letter to his name to infinity and ask the same question. It is unambiguously clear where the burden of proof lies with any claim.

        • Richard Olson
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

          Today’s (weekly) Harry T. Cook essay is concerned with how the concept of god is framed and some implications from that for believers. Burden of proof is not included in the essay. I’m unable to figure out how to locate a link to this from my iPad — sorry — but here is what to google if interested:

          From: “Harry T. Cook”
          Date: March 21, 2014 at 5:01:50 AM CDT
          Subject: Harry T. Cook Essay 3/21/14

          Title: God the Blank Slate

  70. dhart52
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I just had a few minutes to skim the free preview on Amazon. It seems that his message to atheists is “You’re doin’ it RONG!”

  71. Wowbagger
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Is there a picture on the cover of goalposts on wheels, with someone pushing against them to make them move? If not I’d say it’s false advertising.

  72. Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    While not being anti-theological treatises, these two books certainly present well-supported arguments for why the hypothesis of god is unnecessary:
    Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man.

  73. Wowbagger
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, please let us know when (if) you get to the part where he goes into detail as to how the wafty, nebulous, ground-of-being, outside-of-science god they argue for can also be the biblical, father of Jesus and interacting-with-the-Israelites-on-a-regular-basis God – because that will be some interesting reading.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Spoiler alert: He doesn’t.

  74. Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    My LibraryThing list of these books.

    What did I miss?

    /@

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Out-effin-standing.

      Another bookmark.

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Extraordinary registry ! Thank YOU, AntAllan !

      re “ what missed”: Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

      Blue

      • Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        —- also bookmarked !

        Blue

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Not a lot, by the looks of it :).

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      Great list, Ant. Missing? How about Kaufmann’s Faith of a Heretic, which Jerry has mentioned numerous times.

      Jerry, I don’t know if you have any pull with the University of Chicago Press, but you’d make a lot of your readers very happy if you could talk them into reprinting Kaufmann’s book.

    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      You even included

      Lead Us Not Into Penn Station: Provocative Pieces, by Anne Nicol Gaylor.

      You can’t have missed much.

    • Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:12 am | Permalink

      Updated 2014-03-21 08:00 GMT

      /@

  75. stevenjohnson
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Anthropology has a great deal to offer on what “religion” actually is. Marvin Harris had some wonderful popularizations. A short one is Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches. A longer one is Our Kind.

  76. Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Another goodie acquired recently: “Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: the Disinformation Guide to Religion”, Russ Kick, Ed. c 2007, The Disinformation Campaign. (amazon link here)

  77. James Walker
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Should we nominate a pantheon of Sophisticated Atheists to counter the Whack-a-Mole board of Sophisticated Theologians?

  78. Jiten
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Well, I wonder if this new book tells us that the god that exists is the same god that the snake handlers believe in. Or why the case for Shiva or Brahma or Quezacoatl is poor and why all the evidence points to Jesus.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, Shiva and Brahma make the cut! (You’d have to read the book, which I don’t recommend.)

  79. Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with Jean Meslier’s “Testament.” He was a brilliant man who lived a simple life (as a clergyman, no less) more than a century before “Origin of Species,” yet came up with some of the strongest arguments against theism still used by the New Atheists today.

  80. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have time to do this because I spend it all here. :)

  81. Chris Strack
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    For a book that appears to be a cogent argument against God, how about ‘Mein Kampf’ by a chap called A. Hitler?

    • gbjames
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      As it happens, that book rather supports the deity.

    • Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:56 am | Permalink

      I don’t recall Herr Hitler ever making any argument/s against God – quite the opposite.

      However, if you’re pointing to the existence of Mein Kampf (and of Herr Hitler by extension) as a cogent argument against the existence of a benevolent God in and of itself, then you may have a point.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:15 am | Permalink

        Mein Kampf showed me that Hitler was a terrible writer. ;)

        • Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          :D

          Both Mein Kampf and the field of theology have shown me that poor writing (and bad ideas, for that matter) aren’t very big obstacles to selling books or having people agree with you.

          • Dermot C
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

            My line is that the Koran is the second worst book I’ve ever read: bit of a teaser for the worst book. To which the answer is obviously, Mein Kampf. Bejasus, his amanuensis Hess must have been so closeted.

            Slaínte.

  82. Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    When I was younger (late ’90s) and not really sure what I thought of This Whole Thing, I started to read Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations With God series. The premise is that the author, struggling with and exasperated by deep questions, sat down with a pad, asked God those questions, received replies and began writing. It was not, as you might expect from the title, a tour de force of evangelist thinkful-wishing.

    What CWG actually ended up doing was making a great case for abandoning organised religion, something I’d already done in my teens and encouraging readers simply to be mindful in their actions and behaviour toward others; to love freely; to be rational when seeking answers; to not turn away from truth because it made you uncomfortable.

    The effect CWG had on me was multiple: it started me actually thinking seriously about what I believed, what I might want to be true and the difference between them. My new train of thought eventually led, in 2006, to a video of R. Dawkins speaking at Macon Women’s College, reading from The God Delusion and answering questions. Intrigued, I hinted to my mother about getting the book for Christmas. Bang – my own conversation with God (more a conversation with myself about God) and chat with Dawkins led me to the realisation that I’d effectively been an atheist since leaving organised religion in my teens (my mother, bless her, had removed my brothers and I from Sunday School when I was six due to the church’s insistence on teaching children about Hell).

    I’d long held the opinion that organised religion (at least as I knew it) was a human construct designed (or at least retrofitted) more to control large groups and perpetuate its own existence than to represent divine will and “save” humanity, that morality was not a heavenly gift and that any god that would forgive Hitler but burn me, or my parents, or a friend just because we were of the wrong faith, had to be someone’s baffling and cruel idea of a joke. Before CWG and TGD I understood that not all religions could be right – but I did think that there was a kernel of truth in most of them, covered in millennia of dogma and human interference. After CWG and TGD – and after lots of contemplation – I realised that they could all be wrong and in all likelihood were. Bang – a new(ish) atheist.

    I realise this was long and off-topic but once I start typing it’s hard to stop. CWG might be a stepping-stone for many people, not necessarily to atheism but at least to a less constrictive form of belief. It might also provide some illumination to dedicated theists about the questions lots of people have that theism simply can’t or won’t answer.

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

      Off topic? You just put in more effort than most of us.

      • Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:54 am | Permalink

        Oh. Oh, that’s very good. I’ll use that in future :)

  83. Faustus
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Were I feeling slightly mischievous I’d suggest adding “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” by John Shelby Spong, a retired Anglican bishop, to your list. Though I have to say I don’t mind his brand of Sophisticated Theology at all.

  84. Mark Joseph
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Since I haven’t seen them mentioned, and because not everything has to be book length, please don’t miss two glorious collections of atheist essays:

    The Portable Atheist edited by Christopher Hitchens

    Atheism edited by S. T. Joshi.

    A fair amount of overlap, but since some of the very best essays (for example, Evangelical Teaching by George Eliot, An Agnostic’s Apology by Leslie Stephen, and Why I Am an Unbeliever by Carl Van Doren) appear in both books, the overlap is actually welcome.

  85. Brian Vroman
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Ok, there are a lot of comments, and I must admit I did not read them all, so I apologize if someone has already mentioned my recommendations. But what about Voltaire’s Candide? It may be that the book only touches on a certain type of theism, but it is the form of theism that I think most Christians adhere to. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, shouldn’t the world he created be the best that could have been created — in that sense at least, the Best-of All-Possible-Worlds? Well, Voltaire took care of that one.

    I also think it is very difficult to read the chapter of Fyodor Dostoevky’s The Brother’s Karamazov titled “The Rebellion” (I think it is chapter 10) and maintain a belief in a benevolent deity.

  86. Mark Joseph
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Nobody’s mentioned Paine’s Age of Reason yet…

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      Good catch! He should be more widely read by Americans these days. Especially Glenn Beck.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, but I’m a bit puzzled–does Glenn Beck know how to read?

        Great cartoon

    • Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:11 am | Permalink

      Already in *my* list (link elsewhere), however, along with a few others (including _The Portable Atheist_!).

      /@

  87. Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Here is my reading list: http://www.songlyricsexplained.com/secular-reading-list/

  88. Vaal
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Gawd, not Him again! I’ve had David Bentley Hart thrown at me many times in other forums. His writing always leaves me with the taste of rising bile in the back of my throat as I wade through his supercilious snipes at new atheism.

    There is always an absurdity in the attempts of people like Hart (and Craig, and Plantinga, and Feser and..) to present arguments for God that do not rely on the actual REVEALED RELIGION they are part of.
    It’s implicit how little confidence they actually have in their holy book. They realise just how little traction they have appealing to their holy book as evidence that would convince a discerning skeptic.
    I mean, in the most momentous chain of events that could probably ever happen, The Creator Of The Universe revealed Himself and his will to mankind…but did such a crap-assed job of it that Christians like these theologians
    have to go dusting off whatever ancient argument they can from old monks, ancient church authorities – and even pre-Christian Greek thinkers and others….to show that God exists!

    Could anything be a more obvious acknowledgement of God’s lack of success
    at doing the job Himself? God: “Sorry guys, I tried my best. I’ll leave the job of proving my existence to the world to a rag-tag team of apologists to produce the REALLY GOOD, CONVINCING reasons why I exist.”

    And of course David Bentley Hart plays the game of tut-tutting New Atheists for thinking that knowledge of God is derived a posteriori, from evidence, when, of course dear children, we know God a priori through philosophical inquiry into metaphysical necessity.

    And yet Hart is a theologian in the Orthodox Church, an organization whose specific beliefs are almost all derived a priori – from revelation as carried through tradition!
    You don’t get the god damned Nicene Creed or all the other biblical-specific beliefs a priori, by contemplating metaphysics!
    Hart doesn’t do this (because it can’t be done), his church doesn’t do this, virtually all the “sophisticated” apologists who are associated with the Abrahamic religions don’t do this, nor do virtually any of the followers of the religion.

    He is simply another version of the “Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain” school of apologetics and theology. What New Atheists keep doing when faced with these theological tactics is to keep pulling back the curtain, to point to the bible “uhm…aren’t you forgetting this little book? And all the divine information billions glean from it? Oh, and these creeds of your church which affirm strict belief in many of the claims within that book?” THOSE are the beliefs we are most concerned with because they are the most widely held and have the greatest impact
    on the world.

    The fact New Atheists don’t fall for smoke-screen arguments about God, and continue to rub their nose in the Holy Book at the center of their religion, richly pisses off the Sophisticated Theology crowd. Though, let’s face it, some of these people have no doubt confused themselves by their own smoke-screen logic.

    I expect Jerry will, as usual, do an excellent job of keeping his eye on the biblical ball as Hart tries his shuffling routine to hide it.

    Vaal

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      Superb comment!

      I take it you don’t think that bats are birds? ;-)

    • Vaal
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      Well thank ya Mark.

      The issue that has to keep being thrown back into Hart’s lap is that, that even if Hart is granted this amorphous god-of-the-philosophers we are STILL left with all the epistemological and experiential problems
      to deal with. That is: what is going to count as knowledge? How do we decide what caused an effect from among all the variables? How ought we go about coming up with explanations for experience and why? How should we adjust our confidence in one
      fact or theory over another?

      Would acknowledging this type of God entail that all miraculous claim are believable?

      In other words: What good reasons can we have to make sure we don’t have to take the next guy’s word that “I am God! Now start taking orders…”? How do we arm ourselves against being taken in by bullshit, and against being sucked in by our own biases and lies, let alone other people’s?

      We STILL get right off on the road toward certain basic epistemic virtues where one has been responsible in taking variables into account. The the very type of epistemic virtues that have led to the scientific method as the gold standard of reliability responsibility. Whether Hart’s God exists or not, we still end up being necessarily skeptical.

      And believing in the specific miracle claims via transmission in an ancient book, or telephone-lined down the centuries via a notoriously unreliable “church,” or believed as faith in a creed…the actual meat of what Hart and his church believes, just do not survive such necessary skeptical methods.

      This is why he wants to divert the conversation to generalized, amorphous concepts of God and cry that New Atheists are being naive should we point to the Bible or what other Christians say they believe. New Atheists are being sharp-eyed, keeping a laser-highlight on the beliefs that
      Hart is trying to place off the table.

      Vaal

      • Sastra
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        Even the arguments for the generalized, amorphous god fail as soon as you realize that God can’t really be just another word for “being,” “consciousness,” or “bliss.” That will cash out as atheism.

        And it won’t work to insist that God is really a “symbol of mystery” or “intuitions of transcendence” either. If you remove all the mental aspects from it then it’s not going to be considered “God” anymore, no matter how mysterious or transcendent it is (nobody worships superstrings.)The First Cause Argument, the Ontological Argument, and the Argument from Reason all assume that if we go back far enough or reduce everything to its essential nature, we’re looking at something which resembles our own minds. How surprising … and suspiciously flattering. It’s also supernaturalism — which Hart says doesn’t apply to God. Wrong.

        Maybe the definition of “God” has to be kept vague so that the struggle to convince yourself that it exists can be viewed as some wondrous self-defining task which never ends and is thus all the nobler for the effort. The worship is then reserved for the act of faith itself, and God becomes more or less superfluous.

        Silly atheists, not to see that.

    • Vaal
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      dammit, just realized a typo. My original post should have read: “And yet Hart is a theologian in the Orthodox Church, an organization whose specific beliefs are almost all derived a posteriori – from revelation as carried through tradition!”

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        Shouldn’t that be ex posteriori? :)

        • Vaal
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          Or (in the case of revelation):

          Exit Posterior….

          Vaal

  89. Achrachno
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Here are a few more that unbelievers will appreciate.

    Randel Helms [how the gospels came to be]
    Gospel Fictions
    Who Wrote the Gospels?

    Michael Martin [philosophers are sometimes quite OK]
    The Case Against Christianity
    The Big Domino in the Sky & other Atheistic Tales

    Bart D. Ehrman [not atheistic, but rationalist and thoroughly subversive of evangelical dogma about the Bible]
    Misquoting Jesus
    Lost Christianities

    B.C. Johnson
    The Atheist Debater’s Handbook [clear and concise!]

    Earl Doherty [why do we think Jesus ever existed?]
    The Jesus Puzzle

    G.A. Wells [why do we think Jesus ever existed?]
    Did Jesus Exist?
    The Historical Evidence for Jesus
    The Jesus Myth

    I. Finkelstein & N. Silberman [archaeology and the Bible]
    The Bible Unearthed

    Wm. Stiebing, Jr. [more archaeology and the Bible]
    Out of the Desert?

    I liked all of these and think you will too. The neighborhood preacher? … maybe he won’t be as amused.

    • Brian Vroman
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      With respect to Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted and God’s Problem are also quite good.

  90. James Chalmers
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Hart would add first to your list Mackie’s Miracle of Theism.

  91. Diane G.
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Does God Hate Women?–Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom

    The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought –Susan Jacoby

    • Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      O, yes, Mz Diane G.

      Thank YOU for reminding me of Mz Jacoby’s works: this one and her soooo, so NOT – insignificant Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.

      And another so NOT – insignificant work of which that history reminded me is the one by Ann Fessler of how America’s religionists, its theists, its “faithfuls,” particularly the roman catholic and mormon ones, treated / still FORCE certain individuals who happen to come up pregnant —- in her work = The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v Wade.

      Blue

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        History has been hard on women getting pregnant.
        Remember the story of Pharoah’s daughter who went visit her maiden aunt in Memphis for a few months and on the way back ‘found’ a baby floating in a basket.
        The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible,
        It aint necessarily so.

        • Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          Oooo, exactly, Mr Alexander: ‘found’ the babe on her way back … … months and months later, of course !

          IF home off of the schoolbus in 1964, my mama had heard that evening that I happened to be pregnant, just like in my sophomore class ‘angel’a and ‘chris’ both came up so — and who the two of them then returned back into the high school an entire academic year later entirely and utterly … … DEADENED, why … … why, I would have been FORCED — THE very next morning — onto a Greyhound stat bound for a west Texas desert border town and my ‘maiden’ auntie who lived there.

          FOR AS LONG AS IT WOULD TAKE ‘THEM’ ALL between there and the relatives back in the Midwest — TO FORCE ME TO GIVE UP MY BABY.

          And, today anymore, ‘who’ is the ‘maiden’ aunt, for that matter ? the one with the ‘maiden’ name ? Is SHE the … … maiden ?

          Who is the ‘maiden’ uncle ? Who, in history over ALL OF THE DECADES (before Roe v Wade, for example) over ALL OF THE WORLD, was .EVER. … … the ‘maiden’ uncle ?

          Blue

          • Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

            When religionists who are christian ones or of judaism or of ANY of the other so – called “Great Religions of the World today,” express horror and outrage over the so – called “honor killings” and such similar atrocities within the islam / muslim religion, I express horror and outrage at the patriarchy that IS ALL of these other religions AS WELL.

            As similar to the “honor” – disciplining of female adults within the muslim / islam religions, why, check out any church or temple or hand – fasting mawwiage ritual … … as ‘handled’ by religionists: the ‘handing – over’ from one male, the (female) adult’s daddee, to the next one, her to – be husband.

            Same manner of disciplining explicitly FOR: HIS / HIS family’s ‘honor’.

            —- reference: the 1911 work by Charlotte Perkins Gilman entitled Our Androcentric Culture, or The Man Made World.
            Blue

            • Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

              ” They ‘ust gotta “protect” HER fertility, not ? ! ”

              cuz THAT, HER fertility, is at where HIS ‘honor’ … … exists.

              Blue

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        I’d have added Jacoby’s Freethinkers but wasn’t sure it fit the rather limited category of this post–which I took to be, “what would you suggest believers read to explain the reasons for atheism.” But the scope of the recommendations has indeed expanded, so let’s include not only that but also Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason.

        Otherwise, you saved me the trouble of posting Ann Nicole Gaylor & Annie-Laurie Gaylor’s work, and the other FFRF-touted volumes.

  92. Tom M
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    I am a bit surprised that so many choices in the post and on the comments for the best books on secularism are popular level books — with, well, engaging but less than rigorous arguments, given their nature and audience.

    Most of the best arguments for nonbelief, or religious skepticism, it seems to me are to be found in journal articles. (Though Mackie, as suggested here, is good).

    I recommend the work of Paul Draper on the article front; but Michael Tooley is also good.

    If one is looking for books, though, Schellenberg’s Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason is a classic.

    • Tom M
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      p.s. Russell and especially Hume were of course great selections!

    • irritable
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:14 am | Permalink

      For a technical take on the philosophical arguments try “Arguing about Gods” by Prof. Graham Oppy – Cambridge University Press.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:06 am | Permalink

      Having just discussed the French Revolution, you’re bringing out my inner Jacobean Radical. ;)

  93. Steve Gerrard
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    It just makes me want to quote some Nietzsche:

    After Buddha was dead, people
    showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a
    cave,—an immense frightful shadow. God is dead:
    but as the human race is constituted, there will
    perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which
    people will show his shadow. —And we—we have
    still to overcome his shadow!

    – The Gay Science, Section 108

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      I love it when Nietzsche takes little shots at Plato (which I assume is the shadow reference).

  94. Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    I finally read The God Delusion, 2nd edition, last month. Anyone criticizing it totally missed the point; it’s aimed at fundamentalists, but does speak a bit towards “sophisticated theology.” I thoroughly enjoyed it as I got more reinforcement that the questions I asked as an inquisitive child have been asked by many others now and in the past. It is amazing how many people come to the same conclusion about religious claims independently (much like scientific discovery). Exactly how many religious people would arrive at similar conclusions without indoctrination?

    • Chris
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 4:43 am | Permalink

      When I first read The God Delusion I was actually a little disappointed in it. I much preferred his more scientific books.

      However, going back over it, I had already read books by Loftus, Barker, Smith, Russell and others so I don’t think that I was the target audience.

      I would definitely recommend it as a primer to the arguments. Dawkins is a very clear writer, and he does a good job of pointing out why Sophisticated Theology is nonsensical.

      • Posted March 21, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        I have read a lot of Loftus on his blog too and have browsed the stories from the clergy project, many of which I’ve found fascinating.

        The thing I enjoyed most about Dawkins though is, as you pointed out, his writing is very clear and he does an excellent job dissecting the beliefs of I’d guess 80% or more of the devout theists out there. Even in the denominations that one is most prone to finding more sophisticated theology in (think Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican), the fact is that when it comes to the laity, most people don’t spend time reading abstract theological stuff. The Vatican, for example, is just fine with Catholics taking Adam and Eve literally and thinking the Earth is 6000 years old. I grew up with plenty of Catholic people who thought just that. In fact, having lived in a strictly religious environment, I cannot think of one person I knew who didn’t believe in an anthropomorphic God who intervenes daily, cares whether we eat meat on Fridays in Lent, cares about a single sperm being intentionally wasted, occasionally morphs Eucharist wafers into actual flesh, and made the sun dance in Fatima (but somehow only for the people who were there). The Church remains uncomfortably silent on disproven claims such as the origin of the Shroud of Turin and the Incorruptible saints, and absurd claims like Padre Pio and his ability to levitate. For an organization claiming to be after absolute truth, they sure do go out of their way not to objectively analyze claims such as these unless their hand is forced, and then they make no comment and leave it to the individual and his or her personal faith.

        But back to the main point, Dawkins nails common belief dead on in his book, and when you pull the more sophisticated believers into the mix, most of them also believe some number of the claims above. There’s simply a massive disconnect in tying the unfalsifiable Ground of Being claims together with the central claim of Christianity that God became human and resurrected up into heaven with his body fully intact.

        Precisely where did this fully intact body go? There’s numerous grotesque violations of all the science we know going on with this claim, yet every sophisticated Christian theologian of any stripe will state they believe it fully and it isn’t a question of science. I would say it’s overwhelmingly likely that the common belief of all early Christians was that the resurrected body of Jesus was to a real physical place, but in light of modern cosmological knowledge, this claim may actually be more absurd then the idea that Jesus went to “another realm.”

  95. Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Having read and reviewed Hart’s book on my blog … you won’t like it. And Hart doesn’t actually do all that great a job arguing for God anyway; he spends most of his time arguing against naturalism, and while he does raise in my opinion problems that naturalism really does have to solve, it would have been better if he had spent more time arguing his own case. Additionally, his writing can be awfully dense at times, meaning that it was difficult to understand what his points were a lot of the time. If I hadn’t read Feser’s account of classical theism, I think I would have been completely lost.

    I think the book does demonstrate that the God atheists tend to criticize is not the one that most people believe in, and that classical theism is different than the forms of theism that atheists focus on, but I don’t think it does it in the best way possible.

    As for the list of books, interestingly considering my background I didn’t read Russell or Spinoza, but read Dawkins, Harris and Dennett, as well as Kaufmann and Hume, as well as assorted other essays and many criticisms of Plantinga (including the exchange between him and Dennett as well as “Naturalism Defeated?”, a collection of attempts to refute that contention). I also read Smith, which in my opinion is the best of the lot, while Kaufmann is the worst.

    Since philosophy of religion is something like sixth on my list of philosophical interests (after luge), I think that’s actually pretty good.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      I think the book does demonstrate that the God atheists tend to criticize is not the one that most people believe in…

      In my experience, most people are utterly incoherent as to which God they believe in. Polling data, of course, can only tell you about very superficial aspects of people beliefs, but even superficially atheists know more about religion than “believers”. I think that many people understand, without daring to acknowledge that understanding, that if they look too closely, their “belief” has a foundation of sand.

      • Sastra
        Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        More than a few atheists have noticed that — aside perhaps from the fundamentalists — the typical believer really, really, really hates to have to define or describe God to an atheist. They’ll do almost anything to get out of having to do anything other than give the briefest of definitions.

        Ask for more explanation, more explication, more detail, or more depth and they tend to get angry — or amused. If they can, they will change the subject. If they have to, they will fall back on mystery bafflegab. If they think of it, they may simply state that God is like jazz — if you have to ask, then you’ll never know.

        Generally speaking, I think many believers think of God pretty literally but believe in God as a Ground of Being. The inherent contradiction is dismissed as an indication that they’re in deep waters indeed.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

          God is not like jazz; jazz is enjoyable.

  96. richardwkc
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Add this:

    God or Allah, truth or bull?
    ISBN978 1 60976 813 3
    Author: Richard Woo

    The author [that's me] would like to pass on, gratis of course, a pdf copy to anyone who is interested in reading the book. Email me:
    rwookc@singnet.com.sg

  97. Charles Dye
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    The simplest argument against God(s) is that the believers I know say God can do anything. I want God to prove (his) existance and characteristics to me on my terms. Should be easy to do for him, it will only take a moment. I’ve been patient, but God has not delivered. Until I see that evidence, I don’t budge. The true believers can write all the books they want. There’s no God out there.

  98. KP
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I’d be happy if theists just read ONE of those books

  99. KP
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Nevertheless I got a personal (i.e., in person attack about atheism the other day. I feel like I should read this too because “Experience” arguments are all people have had left against me.

  100. Dermot C
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    OK, if nobody is gonna acknowledge Jerry’s pop reference to the little purple one from the twin cities in the title of this post, I will. You sho’ nuff do be cookin’, in my book.

    Slaínte.

  101. Posted March 22, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Added several titles to the secular reading list based on this article. Check it out and add your suggestions here: http://www.songlyricsexplained.com/secular-reading-list/

  102. Posted March 24, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I really like what you’ve saying …

    Especially this one:

    “Don’t open your mouths until you’ve read the following:…”

    Yeah! Right!


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] I got the book! You know, the one with the best arguments for God […]

  2. […] Make believers read about unbelief before you listen to them. This one I’ve suggested before. Tell believers that we won’t pay any attention to their superstitions, or their criticisms of […]

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