So, a few weeks ago, I posted about a book swap I was going to do with one of the people proselytizing on my campus–I would read a book of their choice, and they would read one of mine. I haven’t written about this in a while… because there’s not much to write about. I sent them an email at the address they gave me, and they haven’t emailed me back. I don’t know if they changed their mind, or if my email got sorted as spam, or what.
But I have put a lot of effort into trying to decide which book I ought to recommend, and I’m not going to consider that wasted effort, even if this book swap thing doesn’t happen. It’ll be good to have an idea of which books I would want to recommend to a theist, and which books I think make a good case for atheism. Here are some short reviews of the books I’ve read so far.
God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
by Victor J. Stenger
In his book, Stenger argues that the existence of God is a hypothesis that can be evaluated by science, and that hypothesis has failed. He look at various different attributes commonly ascribed to God (for instance, that God does miracles and otherwise interacts directly with the world), considers what we would expect to see if a god with that attribute existed, and then shows that what we actually observe is not consistent with the existence a such a god. Stenger addresses many of the common arguments used for the existence of God, such as the fine tuning argument or the intelligent design argument. He also briefly addresses how some of the various attributes commonly ascribed to God are inconsistent with each other.
Stenger argues against very specific conceptions of God rather than trying to tackle all the things people mean when they use the word ‘god’. For the most part, he concentrates on the Judeo/Christian/Islamic god. He does briefly address certain other conceptions of god, though. For instance, he concedes that science cannot disprove the existence of a deist god (who merely created the world and did not interact with it after that), but it can show that such a god is not necessary to explain the existence of the world.
Of all the books I have read that argue that God probably does not exist, Stenger’s is my favorite. He does a very good job of showing how some of the most common conceptions of god are not consistent with the data. I think that a theist reading this book would probably get a better idea of why many atheists do not find their arguments for the existence of God compelling.
Why Are You Atheists So Angry: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless
by Greta Christina
Atheists are often stereotyped as being angry people. Greta’s book starts off with a list of the many valid reasons atheists have to be angry, and goes on to argue that religion, on the whole, does more harm than good. While this book is not about whether or not any gods exist, there is one chapter, entitled “The Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Believe In God”, which lays out several concise, persuasive arguments against the existence of God. The latter part of the book is devoted to talking about atheist activism–what we want, why our activism is valid, and what we can do.
I like this book. A lot. It’s well written and engaging. At various times, it is entertaining, funny, or enraging. It not only answers the question “Why don’t you believe in God?”, it answers the question “Why do some atheists have a problem with religion?” It doesn’t speak for all atheists–nor does it claim to–but it says a lot more about my position than a simple book about why there are probably no gods.
The Happy Atheist
by PZ Myers
I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I didn’t really know what to expect from it except that, since it’s by PZ Myers, it’s going to have a lot of snark in it. I was not disappointed about the snark. But the book isn’t very organized. It’s mostly a bunch of random bits of snark and thoughts about religion and science. I generally prefer my random bits of snark in blog form rather than book form. And I definitely prefer the story of The Great Desecration in blog form (the blog version has pictures!). That said, this book did make me laugh. A lot. It’s probably not the sort of book I’d recommend to someone I want to have a serious debate about religion with, though. The main point of the book, if it has one, is that religion is absurd and should be mocked.