Criticism of Religion
David G. Myers (Wiley-Blackwell: September 2008), 160 pages.
A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists helps readers — both secular and religious — appreciate their common ground. For those whose thinking has moved from the religious thesis to the skeptical antithesis (or vice versa), Myers offers pointers to a science-respecting Christian synthesis. He shows how skeptics and people of faith can share a commitment to reason, evidence, and critical thinking, while also embracing a faith that supports human flourishing — by making sense of the universe, giving meaning to life, connecting us in supportive communities, mandating altruism, and offering hope in the face of adversity and death. ~ Product Description • "Social psychologist Myers adds to the numerous apologetic texts that have emerged since the neoatheist movement began. But this quick jaunt into potentially dangerous waters is head and shoulders above the rest. The author admits that many people throughout history who have claimed to believe in God have caused much evil in the world. He is respectful of his atheist interlocutors, like Richard Dawkins, preferring to discuss how "Surely, in some ways I'm wrong, you're wrong, we're all wrong." Believers and skeptics could learn much from each other, and the author's willingness to build a bridge between two sometimes hostile territories is what makes his work so welcome. Myers's psychological training enables him to grasp the human person in a unique way, and he is able to introduce an intellectual element into the God debate. While never attempting to prove that God exists, Myers works to show that religious people can be faithful and psychologically health." ~ Publishers Weekly
Peter S. Williams (Damaris: 2009).
This is an accessible response to the contemporary anti-God arguments of the 'new atheists' (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Grayling, etc). Atheism has become militant in the past few years, with its own popular mass media evangelists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. In this readable book, Christian philosopher Peter S. Williams considers the arguments of the 'new atheists' and finds them wanting. Williams explains the history of atheism and responds to the claims that: 'belief in God causes more harm than good'; 'religion is about blind faith and science is the only way to know things'; 'science can explain religion away'; 'there is not enough evidence for God'; 'the arguments for God's existence do not work'. Williams argues that belief in God is more intellectually plausible than atheism. ~ Product Description
"Atheism Libray" at Nowscape.com, originally accessed on December 15, 2004.
The following is a mirror of the reading list found at Nowscape. It is a diverse collection, recommended by critics of religion and of Christianity in particular. Short reviews or annotations for each selection are available at Nowscape, though obstructed by at least 101 advertisements. While the original list has no explicit structure, the books listed fall into several roughly grouped categories: the reliablity and moral acceptability of the Bible, histories of transgressions committed in the name of religion, philosophical critiques of theism, stories of loss of faith, exposés on theocratic aspirations (especially the religious right in the United States), and psychological reductions of religious belief. The list includes some authors with impeccable scholarly credentials, like Bertrand Russell, and many other lesser knowns. Now several years old, the list lacks some of the most notable and recent contributions to the case for atheism. For a more current list, see The Secular Web's "Featured Books". ~ Afterall
Basil Mitchell (Oxford University Press: February 16, 1995), 184 pages.
Faith and Criticism addresses a central problem in the church today — the tension between traditionalists and progressives. Traditionalists want above all to hold fast to traditional foundations in belief and ensure that nothing of value is lost, even at the risk of a clash with "modern knowledge." Progressives are concerned above all to proclaim a faith that is credible today, even at the risk of sacrificing some elements of traditional doctrine. They are often locked in uncomprehending conflict. Basil Mitchell argues that, not only in theology but in any other serious intellectual pursuit, faith and criticism are interdependent. A tradition which is not open to criticism will eventually ossify; and without faith in some established tradition criticism has nothing to fasten upon. This interdependence of faith and criticism has implications for society at large. Religious education can be Christian without ceasing to be critical, and a liberal society can espouse Christian values. ~ Product Description
David Fergusson (Oxford University Press: November 2009), 176 pages.
Heralded as the exponents of a "new atheism," critics of religion are highly visible in today's media, and include the household names of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. David Fergusson explains their work in its historical perspective, drawing comparisons with earlier forms of atheism. Responding to the critics through conversations on the credibility of religious belief, Darwinism, morality, fundamentalism, and our approach to reading sacred texts, he establishes a compelling case for the practical and theoretical validity of faith in the contemporary world. An invitation to engage in a rich dialogue, Faith and Its Critics supports an informed and constructive exchange of ideas rather than a contest between two sides of the debate. Fergusson encourages faith communities to undertake patient engagement with their critics, to acknowledge the place for change and development in their self-understanding whilst resisting the reductive explanations of the new atheism. ~ Product Description
Christopher Hitchens (Twelve Books, Hachette: May 1, 2007), 307 pages.
Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he's completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. And can he turn a phrase!: "monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents." Hitchens's one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers. Yet few believers will recognize themselves as Hitchens associates all of them for all time with the worst of history's theocratic and inquisitional moments. All the same, this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers' weaker arguments: that faith offers comfort (false comfort is none at all), or has provided a historical hedge against fascism (it mostly hasn't), or that "Eastern" religions are better (nope). The book's real strength is Hitchens's on-the-ground glimpses of religion's worst face in various war zones and isolated despotic regimes. But its weakness is its almost fanatical insistence that religion poisons "everything," which tips over into barely disguised misanthropy. ~ Publisher's Weekly
Rodney Stark (HarperOne: September 2009), 288 pages.
It always seems counterintuitive to moderns that warfare and religion can be consistent. Ideally, followers of the prince of peace are to avoid the sword and shield. Clearly, this has not always been the case. Frequently in the crosshairs of critics are the Christian wars against Muslims known as the Crusades, commonly viewed as the birth of European imperialism and the forced spread of Christianity. But what if we've had it all wrong? What if the Crusades were a justifiable response to a strong and determined foe? Stark, a prominent sociologist and author of 27 books on history and religion, has penned a compelling argument that these bloody encounters had less to do with spreading Christianity than with responding to an ever more dangerous enemy — the emerging Islamic empire. There is much to be learned here. Filled with fascinating historical glimpses of monks and Templars, priests and pilgrims, kings and contemplatives, Stark pulls it all together and challenges us to reconsider our view of the Crusades. ~ Publishers Weekly
John Lennox (Lion UK: Oct 2011), 248 pages.
Tackling Hawking, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and a newcomer in the field—the French philosopher Michel Onfray—John Lennox points out some of the most glaring fallacies in the New Atheist approach in this insightful book. Since the twin towers crashed to the ground on September 11, there has been no end to attacks on religion. Claims abound that religion is dangerous, that it kills, and that it poisons everything. And if religion is the problem with the world, say the New Atheists, the answer is simple — get rid of it. Of course, things aren’t quite so straightforward. Arguing that the New Athiests' irrational and unscientific methodology leaves them guilty of the very obstinate foolishness they criticize in dogmatic religious folks, this erudite and wide-ranging guide to religion in the modern age packs some debilitating punches and scores big for religious rationalism. ~ Book Description
David Brog (Encounter Books: July 2010), 376 pages.
Religious faith is under assault. In books and movies and on television, militant secular critics attack religion with a renewed vigor. These “new atheists” repeat a two-part mantra: that religious faith is hopelessly irrational and that those possessed of such faith are responsible for the hatred and bloodshed that has plagued humanity. Abandon religion, they urge us, and the world will at last live in peace. In Defense of Faith examines this proposition in the context of Western civilization and the Judeo-Christian tradition and asserts that, far from encouraging hatred and violence, the Judeo-Christian tradition has easily been the most effective curb upon the dark defects of human nature and our best tool in the struggle for humanity. From the Christian activists who fought to stop the genocide of Indians in South America and their ethnic cleansing in North America, to the abolition of African slavery on both sides of the Atlantic, and on to modern human rights activists from Martin Luther King Jr. to the rock star Bono — In Defense of Faith rebuts the fashionable arguments against religion and presents the strong and lasting record of the Judeo-Christian idea. History has not been as kind to the atheist model: every time it is put to the test, we have reverted to the most base, violent instincts of our selfish genes. ~ Production Description
Keith Ward (Lion Hudson Pic: September 1, 2006), 224 pages.
Although he lacks the glibness, arrogance, and fame of best-selling antireligionists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, Ward neatly cuts the ground from under such global-village atheists. He points out their definitional haziness about the key terms religion and the paltriness of the evidence for their claims, and their reliance on outdated, unverifiable anthropological and psychological speculations. And that's only in the introduction. Religion and violence, religion and irrationality, religion and morality, and whether religion does more harm than good are the topics of the short book's four parts proper, and in each Ward demonstrates that clear, consistent, and logical relationships between ill effects and religious motivations cannot be established. If religion is violent, how to explain Quakers and Buddhists? If irrational, then those philosophical reconcilers of reason and faith Kant, Descartes, and Aquinas must be refuted. Religious belief seems immoral only when scripture is cherry-picked, and whether religion harms more than helps the person and society has yet to be demonstrated. Ward argues with the findings of social science research and philosophy rather than scripture, and he concludes with boilerplate ecumenism only after having reassured readers that God-bashing celebs don't, perhaps can't, know what they're yakking about. ~ Ray Olson for Booklist