22 of 43 people found the following review helpful
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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