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Unbelievable Paperback – August 23, 2015
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Unlike the militant 'New Atheists', Rob's approach to the subject is measured, diplomatic and at times almost understated. He is careful not to offend religious sensitivities as he sifts through the miriad of reasons why Christianity cannot be true. His background as a university professor of statistics gives him an expert's viewpoint as he weighs the statistical likelihood that Biblical passages may or may not be telling the truth.
The book explains the psychological reasons why humans believe in extraordinary things that have no credible supporting evidence, and why they find it almost impossible to challenge their own misconceptions and beliefs. Rob discovered how to think objectively about his own faith and as a result he came to abandon it as ill founded.
The reader is left to decide for themselves if they want to continue to believe that the Bible is the work of a divine creator, or that it is a collection of books intended to fool people into belief in a complex myth invented by humans.
The book is not intended to deconvert Christians or Christadelphians. It's primary purpose is to help the reader to think rationally and objectively about faith based religion. It does not seek to dictate what people should think about these issues, but rather it explains a better way to consider the probabilities.
People have to deconvert, or choose to believe, themselves. No one could or should make up their minds for them. But after reading this book they will be better equipped to make an informed decision.
Throughout this book, Rob's integrity and honesty shine through. This led him to making his faith clear both at church and at work, and made him share his beliefs in new and different ways. But these same characteristics also led to him exploring the reasons for his faith, changing many of his beliefs over time, and ultimately leaving his faith.
He repeatedly stresses the importance of evidence over faith. For example:
Whatever your beliefs, it is well worth asking “What piece of evidence would convince you to change your mind?”
Section B offers an analysis of some common reasons to believe, how his views changed on them over time, and why he no longer believes them compelling. Time and again he demonstrates how things he thought were divine are actually consistent with human action. Some of the areas covered include probability, prayer, prophecy, archaeology, the problem of evil, the inconsistencies of the gospel records, Biblical inerrancy, and morality. I liked how he integrated his professional expertise (statistics and forecasting) into discussions of probabilities, prophecies, and miraculous healings.
One of the most hurtful accusations against former believers is that their moral standards disappear. Rob addresses this with one of my favourite chapter headings, "I am not an axe murderer", showing that he retained most of the same moral standard, as well as explaining why he had changed in a few areas. He comments that you can't present a "Biblical standard" for morality without cherry-picking, and that many moral standards come from society, not religion, anyway.
My favourite section was the letters section. As a prominent Christadelphian teacher, he received a lot of letters from believers and unbelievers, and he presents a selection with wide-ranging comments on his new life philosophy, choices made, and the present and future Christadelphian community.
Where many books stop at intellectual reasons, this section allows Rob to talk a little about what life as an unbeliever looks like for him: leaving a life-long community, being open to new ideas, and valuing life in a different way. Again, it's a short book, so none of these are treated in detail, but there are many valuable insights in this section. And for those in trouble with their faith, his story acknowledges the pain while offering hope that there is a way to get through it. For example:
"Yet, in the end, I am much happier as an unbeliever."
"One unexpected consequence of becoming an unbeliever has been the increased awareness of my own mortality, and a heightened desire to try to enjoy the time I have. I am consciously enjoying the wonder of living more than I ever did as a believer."
In short, I found this little book extremely useful when at the cross-roads similar to Rob, have referred back to it many times since reading it, and would highly recommend it. Final quote:
"Like it or not, I am an unbeliever because the evidence strongly suggests that the Bible is a book written entirely by men thousands of years ago, and that God (if he or she exists at all) has no personal interactions with human beings."