I’m not religious. I don’t think much about God, except when I am in a pinch and need some special favors. I have no particular reason to think he’ll deliver, but I sometimes take a shot anyway. Other than that, I’m just not that interested in God. I’m definitely not interested enough to go out and buy books explaining to me why I shouldn’t believe in God, even when they are written by people like Dennett and Dawkins, whom I greatly admire. If I were religious, I think it would be even more likely that I would go out of my way to avoid books telling me that my faith was misplaced.
So who is making these anti-God books best-sellers? Do the people who despise the notion of God have an insatiable demand for books that remind them of why? Are there that many people out there who haven’t made up their mind on the subject and are open to persuasion?
Let me put the argument another way: I understand why books attacking liberals sell. It is because many conservatives hate liberals. Books attacking conservatives sell for the same reason. But no one writes books saying that bird watching is a waste of time, because people who aren’t bird watchers probably agree, but don’t want to spend $20 in order to read about it. Since very few people (at least in my crowd) actively dislike God, I’m surprised that anti-God books are not received with the same yawn that anti-bird watcher books would be.
Personally, I read the books to see what arguments the authors are using and to get information to use for when I “debate” religious people. They also helps me think more clearly about ideas that I may have already had in my head, though in a slightly disorganized way.
Religious people may read the books to find out what the “atheists are saying” so they can try to rebut the arguments.
There is also more to the books than just: “Atheism is right. Religion is wrong.” You learn about several other issues (like Morality, histories of other religions, etc.) and find out many not-so-well-known statistics.
I presume there are also many people who are neither conservative Christians or dyed-in-the-wool atheists who just find the arguments in the books intellectually stimulating.
And Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have their own fan bases who read anything they write.
(One more thing to point out to Levitt: The atheist books are not automatically “anti-God” books. Hitchens’ book, maybe. But it’s hard to be “against” something you don’t believe in.)
Levitt also mentions one book I’m looking forward to reading: Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up by John Allen Paulos. It comes out the day after Christmas.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Steven Levitt, Freakonomics, God, religion, Christian, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, John Allen Paulos[/tags]