50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison is a fantastic book for any new atheist — or for anyone standing on that border between theism and atheism.
It’s not very philosophical, it’s not very theological, and it’s not over your head.
Perhaps like many of you, when I first became an atheist, I had to think about every reason for believing in God that I had previously held. If I didn’t have a strong response to each of them, my case for atheism would be weakened. Some of those reasons were easy to knock away. It’s relatively easy to learn about evolution and why there’s no need for an Intelligent Designer. It’s easy to understand why we don’t need a God to be moral.
But it was much more difficult to convince myself that my prayers were in fact not being heard by anyone when I was so sure they were being answered. Or that so much of the deep history of my faith was really a history of perpetuating a series of myths. Or that all those intelligent people I had met, who were also religious, were just plain wrong when it came to the God question.
Harrison answers these and so many other reasons believers often give for believing in God. He does it succintly (devoting a few pages to each) and painlessly. There are no insults or harsh words. No one can accuse the author of being arrogant. And unlike other similar books on the subject, he doesn’t make this too complicated.
Right up front, he writes:
Most of the Christians I have encountered around the world… don’t give much thought to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas or C. S. Lewis. They will tell anyone who asks, however, that they believe Jesus is a real god because the Bible says so or because they feel his presence when they pray. Out in the real world I found that believers have little interest in convoluted arguments for gods that involve imagining perfection, irreducible complexity, or the laws of thermodynamics…
It is those believers’ reasons that he is responding to.
For atheists who have long conquered those reasons, you can step away.
For the rest of you — especially those who are just beginning to walk in atheist shoes — this is a great resource.
The conversations about religion that I have with friends involve many of the questions Harrison raises in this book. And all atheists should be able to respond to every single one of the 50 reasons contained in it. If you can’t, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
This book is also one I would love to pass along to religious friends. I want to know how they respond to Harrison’s essays. And, as opposed to many other recent books by atheists, I have no fear that they’ll shy away from this one.
(This review was solicited by a publisher; however, the opinions expressed are my own.)