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The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist Paperback – February 7, 2013
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Each chapter is short (I got the Kindle version, but expect in book form chapters are generally no longer than 6 pages, maybe 5), so do not be deterred by the fact the book is 400 pages. A chapter can easily be read in 5-10 minutes and is not difficult reading, though there are parts you may choose to chew on a bit longer. This was my first reading of anything by Dan, and after approximately 100 pages, I was finding for the next 50-100 pages that there seemed a bit of repeating the same things. But I continued reading at least a chapter a day (the short chapters I found were helpful for being able to continue on without feeling bogged down in it), and after a week or two got back into the book; looking forward to each day's reading, and often reading multiple chapters a day.
For those who are skeptics (he does well differentiating skeptics as "doubters" of truth claims, while cynics "reject" truth claims) I think reading the book in the sequence it comes is the best way to read the book, as he first looks at his skepticism. For those reading the book who are more believers than skeptics, if early on in the book you are turned off, I recommend reading the last two sections first as this will affirm to you the believer that Dan is.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the book to me was his point that "belief" is a story lived out, not a theoretical belief. This comes through often, but not in a preachy way at all, and never wearisome. Either commit to the story wholeheartedly, or faith will never be real. So true, and so challenging.
At the end he calls his story a "mystery story" and a "love story." I like how he describes them both, and here is what he says about the mystery: "My story is a mystery story. Faith is not a puzzle to be solved, but rather a mystery to be plumbed and lived. In a mystery story we have enough information to fully engage us, but not so much as to fully satisfy us. We want very much to know more, and we spend whatever time the story takes to uncover that information. In a fictional mystery story, that information comes after a few hundred pages, in a mystery film after a couple of hours. In the story of faith, it comes only through and after a lifetime."
I especially like the fact he does not avoid the difficult intellectual challenges to this faith story. He does not attempt to give precise apologetic answers to these arguments but he does explain how he handles them with his own personal story. His “inner atheist’s” comments are very good at copying my own thoughts as I ponder some of his ideas.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone like me who has a skeptical disposition.
If you are honest in your questions and doubts about the Christian story then Taylor must be on your reading list. Have friends who no longer believe, or have yet to believe the Christian study? Thus volume may help you in your conversations with them.
Well worth reading and pondering.
This book is not an invitation to relativism or a "soft" approach to evidence in dealing with religious questions, but it is a reminder that the well of doubts is bottomless, and all of us must come to terms with that. Even the atheist can take this lesson to heart, I believe.
I have the Kindle edition, and there are some inconsistencies in the fonts. Most, but not all, of the Inner Atheist's comments are italicized, to set them apart from ordinary parenthetical material. This should be made uniform. Ideally, the Inner Atheist's remarks might be in square or curly brackets, to accomplish this more clearly. But it's no big deal. The writing is sharp and fast-paced and, as other reviewers have mentioned, it works well as a book read in many short sessions, with time in between to think.
Top international reviews
Those of a skeptical frame of mind want proofs and reasons - preferably in an indivisible whole. But these are dry bones - and skeletons don't live. Faith is not unreasonable - its the way we all live life no matter the object of our faith. Daniel Taylor has presented a winsome, effective challenge to committed living of a Christian life. "Faith is not a puzzle to be solved, but rather a mystery to be plumbed and lived"
Take a risk - this book is readable (short chapters). It just might help you to look at living life differently from any way you've ever considered before - maybe even as a Christian. I found it to be immensely helpful.