Book Review: 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison June 20, 2008

Book Review: 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison


50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison is a fantastic book for any new atheist — or for anyone standing on that border between theism and atheism.

It’s not very philosophical, it’s not very theological, and it’s not over your head.

Perhaps like many of you, when I first became an atheist, I had to think about every reason for believing in God that I had previously held. If I didn’t have a strong response to each of them, my case for atheism would be weakened. Some of those reasons were easy to knock away. It’s relatively easy to learn about evolution and why there’s no need for an Intelligent Designer. It’s easy to understand why we don’t need a God to be moral.

But it was much more difficult to convince myself that my prayers were in fact not being heard by anyone when I was so sure they were being answered. Or that so much of the deep history of my faith was really a history of perpetuating a series of myths. Or that all those intelligent people I had met, who were also religious, were just plain wrong when it came to the God question.

Harrison answers these and so many other reasons believers often give for believing in God. He does it succintly (devoting a few pages to each) and painlessly. There are no insults or harsh words. No one can accuse the author of being arrogant. And unlike other similar books on the subject, he doesn’t make this too complicated.

Right up front, he writes:

Most of the Christians I have encountered around the world… don’t give much thought to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas or C. S. Lewis. They will tell anyone who asks, however, that they believe Jesus is a real god because the Bible says so or because they feel his presence when they pray. Out in the real world I found that believers have little interest in convoluted arguments for gods that involve imagining perfection, irreducible complexity, or the laws of thermodynamics…

It is those believers’ reasons that he is responding to.

For atheists who have long conquered those reasons, you can step away.

For the rest of you — especially those who are just beginning to walk in atheist shoes — this is a great resource.

The conversations about religion that I have with friends involve many of the questions Harrison raises in this book. And all atheists should be able to respond to every single one of the 50 reasons contained in it. If you can’t, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

This book is also one I would love to pass along to religious friends. I want to know how they respond to Harrison’s essays. And, as opposed to many other recent books by atheists, I have no fear that they’ll shy away from this one.

The book is available at Amazon and your local bookstores. You can read more of Harrison’s essays by going to his own site.

(This review was solicited by a publisher; however, the opinions expressed are my own.)

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Ken McKnight

    It just so happens that I am in the middle of Harrison’s book right now, and I agree completely with your review. When I ordered it from Amazon I was a little hesitant because I thought it was just another gimmicky “list” book, but as I began to read it I saw how brilliant his concept was. These are the arguments that most people cling to, and he quickly and logically dismantles each one.

  • UKShell

    Roll on payday…. That book will be mine!
    Sounds good, I can’t wait to read it!

  • Well, this one looks interesting! I’m probably nott Harrison’s intended audience, but I’d probably enjoy it anyway. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Richard Wade

    And, as opposed to many other recent books by atheists, I have no fear that they’ll shy away from this one.

    I think many will shy away from it. They’ll shy away by pretending they never heard of it, and then when you hand it to them they’ll shy away by not getting around to reading it. A book like this with a reputation for being simple, powerful and civil will be too scary to read.

    If it has simple and straight forward arguments they’ll not be able to hide behind obfuscation and convoluted logic. If it is free of arrogance they’ll not be able to side step the arguments by objecting to the tone. If it is not burdened with erudite philosophy or theology they’ll have no excuse that it’s too high brow for them.

    But a few will take it on. To the simple, strong arguments they’ll respond with intricate, fragile arguments (proving that complexity can arise from simplicity. 😉 ) To the lack of arrogance they’ll still object that it’s rude in tone simply because they think that effectively challenging their cherished beliefs is a rude thing to do, regardless of how gently and respectfully it is done. Finally to the lack of erudite philosophy and theology they’ll dismiss the book as being simplistic.

    Needless to say I’m buying it today.

  • I’m going to need to quit my job just to read all the books on my list. I’m excited about this one. I remember listening to Peter Kreeft’s talks about the philosophy of religion and thinking that none of the arguments for God were even remotely convincing to me, and I was a Christian at the time!

    Thanks for the recommendation.

    I just ordered it from Amazon and saw John W. Loftus had reviewed it as well. If both of you recommend it, it must be good!

  • Looks interesting.

    Is anyone else’s Firefox 3 causing the essay list here to blink?

    What the heck is that about?

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