Monday, August 17, 2009

Thank you, babe, for that most horrible book

As a skeptic and anti-theist, I'm often confronted with the question "well, have you read this book?" or questions similar to that. Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for most people asking those questions the answer is either "yes" or, "no, but I will" (assuming they sincerely suggest it).

My wife bought me a wonderful book "The New Atheist Crusaders And Their Unholy Grail: The Misguided Quest To Destroy Your Faith". It is a wonderful book (and by wonderful, I mean, that it has a nice cover and is well produced) written by someone who claims to be a satirist but fails to show any skill in satire.

It is often that my wife will order me books - sometimes they are books that other people suggest or they are, seemingly, books that might interest me. She does her best to make sure I read books on both sides of "arguments" or from a different perspective. The claim, by the publisher, for this book is something that would interest me but the author failed miserably at following up the claim.

The "Publishers Weekly" review of the book isn't very impressive and the book even fails to live up to that review. Publishers Weekly claims that she scores devastating points against the "new atheists" and only gives a single example. That example, one would suspect, should be the strongest example of her "point scoring" and it is. It is, however, a weak one.

The book, itself, is written by someone who should avoid calling themselves an author. It uses such simple language that one would assume it was written for a sheep (and it may have been!) but it appears that the pages of the final transcript were randomly sorted. Becky fails to provide a coherent argument against the "new atheists".

Becky, to her credit, does accept that many points the "new atheists" make are valid when it comes to fundamentalists and the like but suggests that most people are moderates and don't subscribe to their views. Her arguments against "new atheists" however are weak - 'Richard Dawkins is really really really smart in biology but he knows little about religion' and 'There are millions of believers' and 'Contrary to studies, christianity is growing because I talked to a guy who was doing his own informal study based solely on anecdotes'...

People who are well read in the arguments for and against belief in a god have heard all of the arguments that Becky makes but I bet they've heard them told in a more convincing and effective way.

Would I recommend you read this book? Yes - for a couple of reasons. 1.) I don't think my review of the book was bad enough - it is a horrible book, and, 2.) You need to read it for yourself to see that I'm not kidding.

Do you have a book you think I should read? Post your thoughts in the comments!
(Note: I have read a number of books from "the other side" including:
Is God a Delusion - Nicky Gumbel (and other Nicky Gumbel works)
Case for Christ - Lee Strobel
Case for The Real Jesus - Lee Strobel
The New Atheist Crusaders... - Becky Garrison
Remedial Christianity - Paul Laughlin
Twilight of Atheism - Alister McGrath
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
Darwin's Black Box - Michael Behe
Finding Darwin's God - Kenneth Miller
Only a Theory - Kenneth Miller
Reasonable Faith - William Lane Craig

and countless others. I'll have to go through my bookshelf to complete my list.
(If you'd rather email me your suggestions, send them to


Call me Paul said...

My Brother-in-law once gave me a book he "thought I'd like." It was called Blue Like Jazz. Sure, it was written by a Christian, he said, but it wasn't preaching at all. It was just about life in general...or something.

I became somewhat suspicious later in the afternoon. We had gone to Home Depot to pick up some fence building materials, and when he opened his trunk, I noticed he had a case of the books in there. But it wasn't about preaching Christianity. No, not at all.

Still, I had told him I'd give it a look, so a few weeks later, when I'd finished a book I'd been reading, and didn't have anything else lined up to read next, I picked up Blue Like Jazz, opened it, and read the first page. And put it right back down again.

That's right, on the very first page of the book I was preached at. These folks plain don't understand. Preaching always sounds like preaching. I never read another word of the book, and my Brother-in-law has never asked about it.

corunna skeptic said...

I recommend this book to anybody, especially those prone towards superstitious belief.

sarniaskeptic said...

Corunna Skeptic - thank you, I'll have to add it to my list.

Call me Paul - That's pretty lame, really. I know some people who would be that way but no one in my family (even "in-laws") would try something like that. I'd take it as an invitation to discuss with them what I think is absurd about their beliefs.

What bothers me more than someone suggesting a book is when they haven't even read the book. I suggest that I'll read it and then have them over to discuss it or after I've read it, I'll ask questions about the book. Often they've never read it or, if they have, they're not sure they could support/defend/explain it.

Someone suggested "Case for the Creator" to me and said "He was an atheist journalist and he was just trying to find the truth and ended up finding much science to back god's existence". I read it and then asked questions and poked holes in the book only to find out that he had only heard about the book. Oh well...

NathanColquhoun said...

Hey Skeptic.

I love that you have read Lee Strobel btw, even I won't read that shit after looking at a few pages :) I did however read Mere Christianity and I'd be curious as to your thoughts on that one?

A few other that I'd recommend.

Surprised by Hope by NT Wright

I don't Believe in Athiests by Chris Hedges (admittedly I havne't read this book, but if you read it, I'll read it at the same time, I really like Hedges, so if you do have me over, which I hope you will, I can actually talk about it :)

Call me Paul - I've read Blue Like Jazz, it's not a book I'd ever give to someone outside of the Christian Faith, it would be irrelevant and annoying for anyone else to read. Christians are awesome btw. always trying to sneak in a read to someone not of the faith to try and get them saved, but don't feel weird, they do it to eachother too to try to get someone else to be convinced of their theological views.

sarniaskeptic said...

Nathan - I would really like to discuss Mere Christianity - I think C.S. Lewis has done more for atheists than believers will ever admit. Having said that, I'll save my deep thoughts and criticisms for a more suitable environment for discussion. I've made references on this blog or other sites I participate in regarding my feelings on the book.

When it comes to people recommending Mere Christianity as a means of suggesting conversion from agnosticism/atheism to Christianity, I would suggest they have never read the book. I think the book was written more for current believers (either to support their beliefs, encourage more liberal approaches to other faiths or to soften them from literalism to help their faith sustain when evidence demolish their firmly held beliefs).

(So much for keeping my thoughts for later.)

To choose an option from C.S. Lewis' list, I'd select madman (but follow it with "that likely never existed").

On to the other books, I'll get "Surprised by Hope" and (despite my dislike of the phrase "new atheists") "I don't believe in Atheists". (Why did you suggest "I don't believe in atheists" if you have not read it? Because of the author's writing style and the title of the book?)

NathanColquhoun said...

For starters, don't get surprised by hope if you are looking for a debate against athiesm. It is written by a bishop of the church of england of why the resurrection is important for Christians and why they need to believe it for their faith to make any sense at all. I just say that because he probably won't answer everything you are asking and will make assumptions. however, I think NT Wright is a perfect example of some logical, intelligent people out there who still land on a faith in Jesus.

I picked the Chris Hedges book because I enjoy him quite a bit (seen him in interviews and doing a few presentations) and when someone i like write about something I'm interested in I try and pick it up for a read. That being said, it could suck....and I could always give you my copy (i purchased it today along with the Clear thinking book recommended above)

I'd agree about Mere Christianity, after the first few chapters of going through his naturalism arguments, a lot of the book is dedicated to christian morals and theories. Nevertheless, his ideas at the beginning can't be completely tossed aside?

sarniaskeptic said...

Nathan - I want debates against atheism. I really want some intelligent arguments against atheism or for religious belief. Now I'm really interested in that book!

I'm often curious to know what parts of the bible (or Christian story as much isn't in the bible or is a compilation of different things in the bible) people feel are critical to their faith.

Your comment about NT Wright being an example of an intelligent person still in the land of Jesus is somewhat concerning, too. I don't think that intellect, alone, is a determining factor of belief. (Yes, however, many beliefs are absurd.) I often find that people who are intelligent will use that, along with dogma, to oppress, control and abuse - and that is a serious problem in the church.

I'll get the Chris Hedges book though the reviews of it aren't really good. The one that says it is better than Alister McGrath's offers some hope but there can't, really, be much worse than Alister's book so it wouldn't have to be "great" to be "better".

Mere Christianity, apparently, deserves a re-read. It wasn't a book that I read in a big hurry so maybe the later chapters ruined any value of earlier chapters for me. I'm not convinced, as I recall, that C.S. Lewis was an atheist or agnostic however. C.S. Lewis "becoming" a believer is not near as strong as someone like Bart Ehrman losing his faith (see "God's Problem").

Actually, on the note of losing faith. Dan Barker's book "Losing Faith in Faith" or his later book "Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists" is a good read. "Godless" has much of what Losing Faith in Faith has so you're probably better off just reading that one.

NathanColquhoun said...

I'll get to some of those other books when I can. We are doing a month in the new year on the God Debate at theStory, so I'm trying to compile a few good books on either side, we are actually bringing in a few athiests to dialogue with, maybe you'd be interested?

You also have to keep in mind with Mere Christianity, that it was from the 50s. So plenty of the arguments you'll read will seem old and washed up I'm sure. (It won't be anything new) I do think they were good sound arguments and aren't completely irrelevant.

Many of the people you criticize on your site are not smart people. Which is why I would point you to someone like NT Wright. Most people you critique are brainwashed and unable to even attempt at seeing the world objectively apart from their core beliefs which not even them can tell you why they have them.

sarniaskeptic said...

I'm really interested to know more about your "god debate" in the New Year. I suspect a number of people I know would be really interested in that. Most "churches" fail to acknowledge real "arguments" against god(s) so it'd be nice to have people who are believers actually hear some of it - in a setting that they would feel to be less threatening (a church).

I'm not so sure I'm ready for public debate - much of what I do for a living is scrutinized enough by the public without people throwing the "AND AN ATHEIST" on the end of it all :) As I've said before, if Christians were more Christ like, I would have nothing to worry about.
(One reader of my blog emailed saying that my statement about "christ like" is illogical if I don't believe in "Christ" ever having lived and he's right - but, either way - if people were more like they claim Christ was or if, like Christ, they didn't exist, I wouldn't have to worry about them either!)