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22 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit dissipointing, September 25, 2008
This review is from: Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity (Paperback)
I was fairly disappointed with this book. This book single handedly converted Andrew Atkinson, who is EXTREMELY well read on atheism and theism, into an atheist. So I was expecting some very heavy hitting arguments. David Ramsey Steele's book was by FAR a better book on atheism. It seems that the book should be titled "Why I became a non-evangelical" rather than atheist, because the book attempts to dismantle Evangelical Christianity as opposed to theism. However, he does spend a chapter discussing the standard arguments for the existence of God. His arguments are very unconvincing, and I suspect that his rejection of Christianity has informed his rejection of theism. A few chapters earlier he chastises Christian Apologists of chalking certain things up to being "at least possible," claiming that this should not be convincing. Yet in his dismantling of the standard arguments for God's existence (most notably from the fine tuning of the universe), the author does the exact same thing, proposing all sorts of other "possibilities" like infinitely many universes and multiple initial conditions that will give rise to life. This is not the only time the author falls victim to his own criticisms. In several places while discussing bible passages (for example when discussing the worship of the Golden Calf in Exodus), the author looks at the situation and claims that had he been in that situation at that time, he would have done something far different than the crowds. Yet this seems to me to be what the author earlier in the book defines as "chronological snobbery." Of course, being inconsistent does not at all address his arguments.

While I"m discussing things that annoyed me, I was baffled by the fact that the book quotes Dawkins and Harris so much. Surely the author must know that the new atheists are not to be taken seriously. That's not to say he didn't quote reputable atheists like Kurtz and Neilson. But Dawkins and Harris? Their books are complete junk, and a disgrace to atheism.

ore or less, I can sum up all his arguments against the bible. "This bible passage says X,Y, and Z. What reason is there to believe this? Is this based on science?" Unfortunately, the author has abandoned his faith in God and has instead accepted faith in science and his own intellect. He makes this known in many places through out the book, and it becomes tiresome to hear about how rational and good his arguments are.

I don't think it would be accurate to say the author has poor theology. Rather, I think it would be more accurate to say that the author is not familiar with basic tenants of theology. The author will be discussing something (such as the problem of evil) and proceed to ask dozens of questions, all rapid-fire like, as if the more questions one can pose for which one does not know the answers, the better the case. Many of his questions have been foreseen by men such as Aquinas. This is part of the reason I"m lead to believe that while a very knowledgeable philosopher, the author has little to no theological training.

I don't mean to go all "Seinfeld" on the book, but the author did tend to overuse the exclamation point. It tended to be used whenever the author thought he had made an especially good point, which seems to be quite frequent. Obviously that says nothing about his arguments. It just made the book a little more annoying.

I don't mean to say all negative things about this book. It is NOT the new atheism. In other words, the author does look rationally at the evidence and presents what are real objections and real problems that need to be addressed. I also appreciated the whole flow of the book, in the sense that the author argues for an a priori worldview, examines religion in light of that view, and comes to a conclusion. This is a good method, I think; one that I can agree with. I also appreciated the author's honesty and openness when discussing his deversion story. As Dr. Geisler said, almost anyone who goes through what he did would be an atheist at the end. I am very sorry that so-called "Christians" treated him the way they did.

The main problem is that for a Catholic who is semi-competent in his faith, this book poses no problems because it focuses mostly on the bible and because of the authors apparent lack of familiarity with theology. To be fair, there is absolutely no way you can undermine a good Catholic's faith by "exposing" the bible. The Catholic believes in the bible because of the authority of the Catholic Church, not because of the bible itself. But even reading this with my "evangelical glasses" on, I don't think it is too difficult to refute his criticisms of the bible, though I do need to learn my bible better. But to the Catholic, it's a moot point. As I mentioned before, the author seems to be quite knowledgeable about philosophy, but his knowledge of theology seems to be severely lacking. I have in mind his attempts to try and show that the concept of God (with certain attributes) is self-contradictory. Those who are slightly familiar with the writings of Aquinas on the nature of God should have no problem answering his objections. I'm not too familiar with Evangelical theology, so I wonder if in general it is weak.

Finally, I have to say that while I love my Evangelical brothers and sisters, the author is correct to reject Evangelicalism because it is not the true faith. The author found the holes in Evangelicalism, and was able to expose them. In this sense, I agree with him. However, he threw out the baby with the bath water. I don't think the author is at ALL familiar with Catholic thought. I only saw a few names of Catholic scholars in the book, and they were all dissenters (Brown, Kung, Rahner) except for Regis Martin. I think reading some of the great recent Catholic theologians and apologists like De Lubac, Congar, Garrigou-Lagrange, Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, Steven Ray, William Most, JPII (specifically Fides et Ratio), and BXVI while avoiding others (Kung, Rahner, and Raymond Brown) will give the author some fresh insight and show him what he has thrown away, and that there are answers to his objections. That goes for anyone else who has been influenced by this book. It is NEVER too late to come home. It ain't over till it's over.
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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 25, 2008 8:43:03 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2008 11:32:04 AM PDT
Thanks for the review, but you cannot fault a book for that which it isn't intended to accomplish. You can't fault me for narrowing my critique to evangelicalism, since one of the reasons people think the arguments of Dawkins are lame is because he aims at religion in general. If you want to debunk something you must specifically target a sect within a religion, and I did that. Besides, I did not name the book. The marketing guru's at PB did. You can't say I don't understand the theology I was criticizing either, since I repeatedly quoted from the very scholars I was critiquing. You're correct to some degree about the irrelevance of the Bible for the Catholic faith. Still, the Catholic church must deal with the Bible which was supposedly the original revelation from which God led the church into progessively better truths throughout history.

I maintained in a brief footnote in the Intro that I have no reason to think Catholicism is correct when she was incorrect about the Inquisition and the witch hunts. As a former Catholic and a former doctoral student in a program at a Jesuit University, I claim that if the Catholic church can be seriously wrong once then I have no reason to trust her. A more reasonable supposition is that the Catholic church is led by mere men, as the history of that church can and does show.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2008 9:22:14 AM PDT
Hi John. Thanks for the reply. My mentioning of the name of the book wasn't so much a critique as it was just an FYI for the potential reader. I suppose that it was a bit unfair of me to criticize your understanding of theology; this is why I made that comment about Evangelical Theology being weak in general. I don't know if it is or not. To be more precise, what I meant was that there are answers to many of the questions you raised in theology. Whether this theology is known in evangelical circles is another matter I guess.

I did take note of the footnote you mention in the beginning about why you reject the CC (as well as liberal Christianity). But it seems to me that you too dismiss it too easily. When you say it was "wrong in the past," I'm not sure if you're thinking that it was an official promulgation from the Holy See to go out and "kill the heathens" in the name of the church or what have you. Certainly there were many people doing evil things in the name of the Church, but that isn't the same as the actual Church herself. But I do agree with you that if the CC can be wrong once, then it is not worthy of our membership. What do we mean by wrong though? It has do be something that the Catholic Church herself officially taught. On the other hand, it also depends what level of teaching authority a certain decree was promulgated. I really think it is worth investigating. But thanks again for the reply, John. I appreciate talking with you.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2008 11:47:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2008 11:56:24 AM PDT
In my chapter on "Prophecy and Biblical Authority" I quoted extensively from Catholic Biblical scholar Joseph A. Fitzmyer's book, "The One Who is to Come," in which he finds little basis for Messianic prophecies in the OT. [See my review of his book here on Amazon]. What I find strange is that he can still believe given his arguments, and Evangelicals are quick to point this out. I think Evangelical scholarship more than adequately debunks Catholicism and I think likewise that Catholic and liberal scholarship more than adequately debunks Evangelicalism.

I understand why you think I dismiss Catholicism too easily. That's because I didn't focus on other versions of Christianity. Had I done so, and I could, you might think otherwise. To do so I would utilize Evangelical scholarship. While I can agree with the criticisms of brothers inside the family of Christianity I do not accept what each sibling affirms, you see.

I'm glad we agree that if the Catholic Church did wrong once then it is not worthy of our membership. But I find you to gerrymander what it means to do wrong. If three hundred years of witch hunting and two hundred years of heresy hunting doesn't qualify then I don't know what to tell you. Just as I asked Evangelicals why God did not condemn such things in the Bible I can ask you why the Catholic church did not condemn such things. Fair enough?

Don't misunderstand me here. I'm always interested in learning what people think of my book. Thank you for helping me understand the Catholic perspective.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2008 12:47:57 PM PDT
Ah OK. I was not familiar with Fitzmyer, so that is obviously an oversight on my part. I do agree that it is odd that he still holds to the faith, given what he knows. I googled him and learned that he is a Jesuit, and as you are probably aware, Jesuits in general don't tend to be too faithful to church teaching, so while I do find it strange that he still believes, I'm not all that surprised. I'll definitely check out your review of his book.

You wrote "I think Evangelical scholarship more than adequately debunks Catholicism." This is something that I love to talk with Evangelicals about. I know that many who have grown up in Evangelical households have verses like Romans 3:23, 1 Tim 2:5, Ephesians, 2:8-9 etc. drilled into their heads as verses that disprove the immaculate conception, meditorship of Mary, faith and works, etc. Obviously this is pushing the discussion in a somewhat strange place, but a lot of good Catholic work has been done to answer the common Evangelical objections to Catholic teaching. I've reviewed a number of wonderful books on this here on amazon. I suppose it's somewhat of a moot point for you, but if you're interested, I can point you to a number of resources that I think, give wonderful responses to Evangelical objections.

"If three hundred years of witch hunting and two hundred years of heresy hunting doesn't qualify then I don't know what to tell you." I guess what I meant is that we need to be sure about the distinction between an organization and her individual members. Was it the official teaching of the Catholic Church that we are to commit violent acts and even kill "heretics"? Or was it certain members of the Church who took it upon themselves to convert "in the name of Jesus"? I don't think this is the place to try and argue what I believe to be the answer to those questions; I just want to make sure that we understand this distinction.

Yes, you do ask a fair question above. The answer is that they should have earlier than they did (JPII apologized in March of 1999). These horrific crimes against humanity that were done in the name of the Church should have been condemned much earlier by the Church. However, I don't see that as necessarily approving of such actions. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus promised that the Church would never teach error; we do not believe that Jesus promised that the Pope would say the right thing, do the right thing, or act the right way. We just believe that when he (or the universal bishops) DOES teach something, it is free from error. This is what we call a "negative chrism." That's how I would answer that. But I am the first one to admit John, that there have been many horrible things done in the name of religion and by many individuals who have been given authority in the Church.

BTW, I was looking at some other reviews of your book and I'm really sorry that you have to worry about people making fake names and writing false reviews before your book even comes out. It's too bad. Take care, John.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2008 1:01:36 PM PDT
It's very interesting to me, Bobby, that the way you defend the CC from wrongdoing is the same as what Evangelicals do in defending the inerrancy of the Bible. Like you they gerrymander around what is plain to see in defense of a position that seems patently indefensible to me as an outsider.

Thanks for the reasoned discussion. I welcome such things.


In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2008 2:04:50 PM PDT
I appreciate the reasoned discussion with you too, John. Maybe I'll stop by your blog sometime and we can chat some more.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2008 3:23:57 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2008 3:25:59 PM PDT
J. Blair says:
It strikes me as strange that Dr. Geisler thinks that after what John went through almost anyone would give up. It sounds as if he went through some great tradgedy, as in losing his wife or family or something.

What happened was that he had an affair with an ex stripper, and does his best to place the blame on her; and his church, and almost everyone but himself.

Not very impressive. And, of course, he does not offer a lick of proof for any of it.

By the way, Bobby, notice that Loftus' post are getting more strindent, accusing you of gerrymandering etc.

Don't be suprised if the names get worse.

Posted on Sep 25, 2008 4:43:51 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 25, 2008 4:52:35 PM PDT]

Posted on Sep 25, 2008 4:44:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2008 10:13:31 PM PDT
I would like to clarify some things. This great book by Loftus was the first skeptic book I read that made me realize and take seriously that it was a viable possiblity that I was wrong about Christian Theism. It did not "single handedly" deconvert me. I read over a 150 skeptic books this past 14 months, and it was the cumulative effect of many books and arguments that made me deconvert. I think John Loftus hase written the best case against Christianity you can find between two covers. I think if you only read one book against Christianity this is the one to read. I was thoroughly immersed in Christian Apologetics and I tend to be an obsessively thorough person, so it took many different books and arguments for me to fully deconvert. I think the point of Johns book, was not to write the best Single volume case Against Theism, but against Specifically Orthodox CHRISTIAN THEISM. Steels book is a Good intro to dismantling Theism and Defending Atheism, but it says little about Christianity in particular, and For a Christian Theist I think Johns book poses a much stronger and direct challenge. If the arguments in this book are valid, then the implications would be DEVASTING for Orthodox Catholicism. If the bible is not an authority and cannot be rationally justified then all catholic statements that infer the bible in their statements, creeds, or doctrines are without authority and rational justification. Of course something could have no rational merit and still be conceded to by blind trust in authority, but this is obviously irrational. If you choose to take a blind leap, you still have to choose to what to blindly leap to. If you concede to a multitude of philosophical and historical claims without rational justification, then you would have no right to critique anyone on any similar claims in nature without being inconsistent. So when it comes to claims of this nature, you either base them off good reasons, bad reason, or no reasons at all. The only type of faith worth having is that of your intellect only making assent to the best and most plausible verdict rendered by reason! This is the only type of faith that is respectable by any rational standard. Any other type of faith or definition there of is always guilty of a double standard, for when it wishes to arbitrate between the superiority of their object of faith and that of anyone Else's they always appeal to something besides that of which they formerly prescribed as justification for themselves, which would be the function of reason they use to critique there opponents! And therefore they are doomed to inconsistency and hypocrisy and can never walk by the same standard they so willingly prescribe! The only alternatives to thinking and deciding the merit of a proposition based solely upon reason, are thinking unreasonably and not thinking, in other words the only other alternative is to choose the path of the fool. As George Santayana said "To be boosted by an illusion is not to live better than to live in harmony with the truth; it is not nearly so safe, not nearly so sweet, and not nearly so fruitful. These refusals to depart with a decayed illusion are really an infection to the mind. Believe certainly; we cannot help believing; but believe rationally, holding what seems certain for certain, what seems probable for probable, what seems desirable for desirable, and what seems false for false." If you want detailed critiques that specifically focus on Classical Theism or specific arguments for Classical Theism there are plenty out there. Two great Books that critique Classical Theism are Graham Oppys book titled "Arguing about the Gods" and Everitt's books "The non-existence of God" , but of course there are many others. The problem with incoherency among the attributes of God is not sufficiently answered by Aquinas, a great book to read if you want a in depth look at many of the problems involved with the attributes is "The Impossibility of God by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier". I think if you read this you may realize that these problems are more serious then you think . A great place to go that has free resources that are of high quality, is There they have many different papers that critique all the different theistic Arguments. When it comes to Loftus knowing Theology I think it is obvious that he does. He is trained in Theology. It is impossible to master everything about Theology because there are almost as many different theologies as there are people, maybe more(:. But he is fully competent to critique the targets he is aiming at in this book. On average there are two to three new religions created every day, most do not become popular, and most die out fast, but almost all of them are based off similar claims and produced by similar procedures. The claims usually involves a person saying they are getting special revolution or authority by some special force, be it a God or a special energy. Based off things like this they start building castles in the sky and start using this knowledge to interprete reality. I cannot master all these new beliefs created every day, but I know the methods by which virtually all of them are arrived at are poor and futile epistemological procedures. And when it comes to the Major world religions, they either suffer from a lack of sufficient positive evidence or fairly damning negative evidence, or both. If there is a Loving God that wants me to know the truth. I dont see why he would not find me and tell me the truth, instead of him expecting me to decipher it for myself, and believe in him despite all the evidence to the contrary.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2008 12:27:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 26, 2008 12:29:22 AM PDT
You say you were "thoroughly immersed" in Christian apologetics? If so, I would think that you could suggest a few very persuasive anwers to the very questions you raise. Perhaps your "immersion" was not as complete as you think?

After all, you claim to have read over 150 skeptic books in the past 14 months, so I wonder how critically you really looked at them.

Sounds a little like an indoctrination program.

That said, I am not saying that you did not accomplish what you claim, I simply "lack belief" in your unverifiable claim.
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