"Thank You For Your Book John"

I received an email today about my book from Andrew Atkinson who is a well read person, and you know I cannot resist:

I was raised in a Christian Fundamentalist home my whole life. From one through 12th grade I was home schooled, and was taught everything through the Christian fundamentalist lense. After High school I attended a hyper fundamentalist place called Honor Academy. At Honor Academy I gained interest in philosophy and Christian apologetics and decided to dedicate my life to Christian apologetics. I am 23 now and since then I have read hundreds of Christian Apologetics books. I have read all of Lewis, all of Schaeffer, all of Peter Kreeft, all of Dr. Geisler's books, including his encyclopedia A-Z twice, and his Systematic Theology twice, I have read Plantinga, McDowell, Craig, Ravi, Moreland, Holding, Swinburne, N.T Wright, Paul Copan Etc. I was until recently enrolled at Dr. Geisler's school to study apologetics and philosophy.

This year I decided in order to be fair and honest to read all the top skeptical books on religion. So I did some research and made a list of over 100 books. I am now at book 76 and consider myself a confident Atheist. Your book was one of the first I read. I was drawn to it since you were an apologist. Your book was the first skeptical book I read that made me seriously realize that I could be dead wrong! I strongly encourage you to keep on writing, the market is very strongly in need of literature like yours.

I think your book is the best overall refutation of Christianity written, especially at the popular level. I think your book is superior for multiple reasons.

1. Its scope and coverage is more exhaustive on issues crucial to Christianity then other books.
2. You anticipate objections from Christian philosophers and theologians that most skeptics do not, due to their lack of familiarity with the other side.
3. The book packs so much in such a little space, it has amazing brevity and at the same time brilliantly dismantles many core Christian beliefs and deals with many central issues that are left out of other works
4.Your familiarity with Christian Theology and philosophy makes you much better at drawing fine and important distinctions that other skeptics miss, due to their lack of expertise in the other side.
5. The personal Deconversion narrative woven through out the book gives it an informal and personal touch that makes it more fascinating to read than other skeptical books. Plus you are the only skeptical author that I know of that was a highly competent Christian Apologist and Philosopher, this of course is another unique feature.
6. Your non-abrasive style sets your book apart from many other skeptic books. You wrote the book in such a way as not to polarize the believer. The average believer would be much more likely to read this book than other similar books due to your respectful manner. This I congratulate you on.

There are many other noble things about your book. But basically what I am saying is that I think you have written by far the best overall refutation of Christianity in print, and that is something to be very proud of. This is the best book to give to a believer. Your book has changed my life, and for that I cannot thank you enough. Now I am going to spend my life helping to educate the public about the truth of religion, and do whatever is in my power to build bridges that would make society more conducive towards secular enlightenment.

Here is a list of books that changed me to a confident Atheist, I have not read all of them yet but will have by the end of the year. This is the list I give to many of my friends.

1. Why I Rejected Christianity; A Former Apologist Explains, by John W. Loftus (Loftus was a professor of apologetics and philosophy, he has three master degrees from conservative schools and he studied under William Lane Craig! And to top it off even Geisler recommends his book! My number one recommendation, absolute must read!) [Update: see below for the extensively revised edition of this book]
2. Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker
3. Atheism: The case Against God by Smith( This is the best selling Atheist book of All time!)
4. The Case Against Christianity by Martin( This I consider A must read, it has many interesting points.)
5. The Empty Tomb,( This book is a DEVASTATING critique of The resurrection, it Critiques all the Top Christian Apologetic Arguments in Detail concerning the Resurrection and other Historical issues, a must read.)
6. Jesus is Dead, by Robert Price( This guy has A PHD in New Testament studies, and a PHD in Systematic Theology, he used to be a conservative Pastor and Apologist and now He argues Against All the Top Apologist about historical matters. He has debated William lane Craig , and most other top defenders, here he confronts and attempts to refute all the top defenses of the historical issues. So he takes on Mcdowell, N.T Wright, FF Bruce, Montgomery, Craig, Habermas, J P Holding and other top defenders. An absolute must read. )
7. The incredible Shrinking Son of Man by Robert price ( a very good critique of The Gospels)
8. The Born Again Skeptics Guide to The Bible( This one is very fun to read. The writing style is witty and she makes very many good points.
9. Sense And Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier( this is the best overall defense of naturalism that I have ever read at the popular or intermediate level atleast. This book shocked me with how many good points and answers he had to Scientific Apologetics and many other issues Concerning Christian Theism. This is an absolute must read. Very important book, very brilliant.)
10. Atheism a concise introduction ( Considered by many to be the best intro to Atheism.)
11. The Jesus Puzzle
12. "Challenging the Verdict: A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ" by Earl Doherty
13. Natural Atheism by David Eller
14. The Blind Watchmaker by Dawkins.
15. The Secret Origins of the Bible( Must Read)
16. C.S Lewis and The search for Rational Religion
17. The God Delusion by Dawkins
18. God is not Great by Hitchens
19. Bible Prophecy Failure or fulfillment?
20. What is Atheism?
21. God the failed Hypothesis by Stenger
22. Deconstructing Jesus by Robert Price
23. Breaking the Spell Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Danial C Dennet
24. In Gods We Trust by Atran
25. Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer
26. Has science found God? The latest results in the search for the purpose in the Universe by Stenger
27. Value and Purpose in a Godless Universe by Erik J. Wielenberg
28.How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God (second edition) by Michael Shermer
29. Gospel Fictions by Randel Helms
30.The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Neil Asher Silberman
31.Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
32. The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy by C. Dennis McKinsey
33.Biblical Nonsense: A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians by Jason Long
34.Atheism & Philosophy by Kai Nielsen
35.Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam by Michel Onfray
36.An Intelligent Person's Guide to Atheism by Daniel Harbour
37.Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing The Honesty Of Atheism by Dianna Narciso
38.God's Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong by S. T. Joshi
39.The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris
40. The Age of Reason Thomas Pain (MUST READ)
41.Treatise on the Gods (Maryland Paperback Bookshelf) by H. L. Mencken
42.Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness by James A. Haught
43. Kens Guide to the Bible(This one is funny)
44. The reason driven life by Robert Price
45.Russell On Religion (Brilliant)
46.Dialogs on Natural religion by hume ( absolute must read)
47. God and the Reach of Reason: C.S. Lewis, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell
48. Why I am not a Muslim
49. The Jesus Mysteries Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God?
50. Critique of Religion and Philosophy by Waulter Kaufmann
51. Leaps of Faith: Science, Miracles, and the Search for Supernatural Consolation
52. looking for a Miracle Joe nickell
53. Doubt: A History
54. The Quotable Atheist: Ammunition for Non-Believers, Political Junkies, Gadflies, and Those Generally Hell-Bound
55. Why Atheism? by George H. Smith
56. The Necessity of Atheism by David Marshall Brooks
57. Atheism: A Beginner's Handbook: All you wanted to know about atheism and why
58. The Faith Healers
59. The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself
60. The faith of a Heretic
61.The Atheist Debaters Handbook
63.God The Devil And Darwin by Niall Shanks
64.Critiques of God; making the case against God
65. The Dark side; How evangelical teachings corrupt love and truth
66. Walking away from faith; unraveling the mystery of belief and unbelief
67. Dictionary of Atheism
68. Philosophers without Gods
69.The essence of Christianity Ludwig Feuerbach
70. Believing in Magic; The psychology of superstition
71. The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
72. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
73. The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule
74.Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
75. Putting away Childish things
76. Transcendental temptation by Paul Kurtz(Good overall defense of skepticism towards religion and the paranormal)

Here is a list of the best advanced skeptic books.

1. The Wisdom to Doubt; A justification of Religious Skepticism. (This book is very profound. It lays the foundations for complete religious skepticism better then I thought possible. An absolute must read. A unique book. By The way this one is not that hard to read.)
2. Arguing About The Gods (Considered by Many to be the best and most sophisticated discussion on arguments for and against God so far!)
3.Atheism: A Philosophical Justification By Martin (Was The most Comprehensive Atheist book before Oppys came out.)
4.The Impossibility of God by Martin (Important Top Notch collection of Articles discussing the apparent logical Incoherence of the Concept of God)
5. The Improbability of God by Martin by Martin(Another important collection of articles on God)
6. The Miracle Of Theism by Mackie (was considered the top defense of Atheism ever, until oppys book, but this book is shorter and easier to read.)
7. Nonbelief and Evil (Argues powerfully against the Existence of God as Traditionally conceived.
8. Logic and Theism by Sobel (Hear Is what A professor from Calvin College said about this book)
"A time-line of the currently relevant skeptical books on the philosophy of religion that, at the time of their publication, became the skeptical book most fruitful to study would begin in 1975 with William Rowe's THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT, if the time-line included both specialized books and comprehensive books. In the interests of brevity and relevance to Sobel's book, a time-line only of the comprehensive books can be described. In 1982, John Mackie's book, THE MIRACLE OF THEISM, became the comprehensive, skeptical book most fruitful to study. In 1990 Michael Martin's comprehensive book, ATHEISM, took prime of place, followed almost immediately in 1991 by Richard Gale's ON THE EXISTENCE AND NATURE OF GOD. In 2004 a new, comprehensive book became the most important of the current skeptical treatises, Howard Sobel's LOGIC AND THEISM. A reader of this book may justifiably finish it with the belief there is a high probability Sobel's book will retain this position for many years to come."

9. The Non-existence of God by Nicholas Everitt ( Very Good book, a must read)
10. The Nature and Existence of God by Richard M Gale
11. God and The Burden Of Proof by Keith Parsons
12. The Cambridge Companion To Atheism
13. Atheism, Meaning and Morality by Martin
14. Suffering Belief: Evil and the Anglo-American Defense of Theism
15.Can God be Free? By William Rowe
16. Arguing for Atheism by Robin Le Poidevin (Intermediate)
17. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief edited by Tom Flynn ( What Geislers Encyclopedia is too Apologists this is to skeptics. This is an absolute Must have.)
18. The Evidential Argument from Evil (Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion) by Daniel Howard-Snyder

Please do not stop writing, the world needs to hear your thoughts. Thank you for all the effort you have made on behalf of the truth.
Thank you very much. It helps me to know I've helped others. To answer your question, the Prometheus Books edition is a massive revision of this one you now recommend.

19 comments:

Hallq said...

Whoever this guy is--I'm impressed. I'd hope to see him doing some writing himself, since with his reading background he could quite confidently anticipate every move an apologist might throw at him. The new Prometheus book also sounds like a good read.

ChrisKG said...

That is the best recommendation I have read yet. I even copied his post for a list of additional books to read, although I have most of them there a quite a few new titles listed. I also found the book “Leaving the Fold” by Edward T. Babinski (there are several books with the same title so be careful to pick this one) to be very useful as well. Fortunately, for me, I was never very religious at all, I was more of a skeptic and never knew it even had a title (agnostic, freethinker, etc.) but I did have some nagging questions about the Bible I was raised to believe. These were answered by John’s book. After I read the section about the flood, it because painfully obvious to me that the only way to believe this material was to turn off your mind and as I read more, I could hear the sound of a mind cranking over like an old car. Finally it started and I was off and running.

Kevin H said...

Ravi Zacharias and others often refer to the "apologetics renaissance" in the Christian church. It is traceable to McDowell's ETDAV. That book launched multitudes into apologetics in the 70's - including me.

The movement grew in the 80's with the John Ankerberg Show. He introduced Norm Geisler and others to the layperson.

The 90's saw the internet and Hugh Ross come on the scene along with William Lane Craig's debate with Frank Zindler.

Recently, the Case for Christ series from Lee Strobel, and a boost for C.S. Lewis via the Chronicles movie, has further solidified Mars Hill among the lay Christian.

Therefore, I fully expect to lose a few apologists exponentially. In what seems to be either a growing or more vocal "Ex-Christian" movement, there will be apologists among them.

I also expect "ex-apologists" to be as passionate for their changed view.

I told John that we Christians are getting a dose of our own medicine. We have paraded "ex-atheists", "ex-satanists", and "ex-everything-else" on our platforms for years. Sadly, this has probably been due to sensationalism rather than content.

Jennifer said...

Is there an atheist equivalent to Peter Kreeft's "The Best Things In Life"? Or any Socratic type of argument?

exapologist said...

John,

Have you asked this person to contribute to this blog? That would be great if he came on board.

EA

Joseph said...

All I can say is that I envy Andrew's prodigious knack for reading so many books so quickly (I have to fight being skeptical, but then I remember Good Will Hunting. Or perhaps Andrew just knows some good speed reading techniques!). I almost lost my love for reading by the 2nd year of my MBA program. With my faith crisis, I've rediscovered the love of reading again (and Borders Rewards)! Here are the books that are currently in rotation on my toilet seat:

"Doubt" by Jennifer Michael Hecht
"A History of God" by Karen Armstrong
"Jesus in America: A History" by Richard Wightman Fox
"The Passion of the Western Mind" by Richard Tarnas
"God Against the Gods" by Jonathan Kirsh.
"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins

All of them great reads so far.

RMCM said...

From the looks of it, I'll be the one blogger here going against the grain. Excuse me.

I would like to pose one question to you all. How many of you have spent 1/100 of your time you have spent in reading in actually trying to talk to God about your doubts, fears, questions and anger?

I know thoughts like this seem simplistic, but that is who our creator is, simple. Able to create a universe we are only beginning to get our minds around, yet simple. Who is the one making things complicated?

John W. Loftus said...

Ea, I have indeed asked him to join DC. I'm waiting for a response.

Shygetz said...

I would like to pose one question to you all. How many of you have spent 1/100 of your time you have spent in reading in actually trying to talk to God about your doubts, fears, questions and anger?

I did. Shouting into the void just gives you laryngitis.

Joseph said...

rmcm, a question in return: which God should we be praying to? The Christian God? The Jewish God? The Muslim God? The Mormon God? The Zoroastrianism God? The pantheon of Greek gods? (hey, just because they are out of style doesn't mean they are any less valid, does it?)

Once we've determined who to pray to, how long should we pray? With what words? How do you even know this god or these gods hear and respond to human petition?

There seems to be an assumption that if someone like myself just seeks God hard enough and long enough he will find a god who is identical with conservative, Protestant theology. And correct me if I'm wrong, but to be a Christian, believing in God is the bare minimum that is required (doesn't James say, "Even the demons believe and tremble"?). After belief in God, you must believe that Jesus is God, then that God is triune, then that the Bible is God's revelation, that the church is his temple...there is a whole chain of dots that a person must try to connect.

I guess I just came to a place in my Christian experience where I realized that the lines didn't connect. The dots themselves are an artificially created map that doesn't fit with reality.

GordonBlood said...

This reminds me somewhat of Dan Barker, at least if I understand Barker at all. The story is familiar, a former fundamentalist who never actually questioned his faith (this seems implied by the writing but I may be wrong) becomes an atheist. Perhaps the biggest problem I had was a. Reading books does not mean absorbing the aruguments and implications contained within. I say tis especially becauseof hte massive disparity of views the authors held, Richard Swinburne is far more scholarly and rational then Geisler. Second, and more importantly, he listed some works which any scholar of any religious inclination would laugh at. Earl Doherty is a joke and Robert Prices arguments (yes, ive read them) are only subtly better. I think all this proves is the famous pendulum effect (a person goes from one extreme to another in an extremely short period of time). He also fails to tell if he was actually a fundamentalist all along as, frankly, most of the Christian scholars he mentions are very much not fundamentalist and many are not evangelical.

GordonBlood said...

My apologies for making two posts, i had to leave. My point is this however. Yes, if he is being honest in his readings (which though their are many liars on these blogs, religious and no, I will accept as a matter of "faith") then he has read much. But this proves nothing. There are plenty of Christians who have obviosuly done the same amount of reading and come to opposite conclusions. Nevermind the massive amount of bad scholarship in the atheist sections (again, if you want to argue that Earl Doherty or Robert Price are good scholars you better go knock on the door of a secular scholar like Ed Sanders and get ready to be dissapointed). Ultimately an atheist and a Christian must go straight to the heart of the arguments themselves; not list a large section of books and act as though that means anything. Ive read plenty of secular books and plenty of Christian books and I come to the position of Christian theism? Does it prove anything? Nope. If he read all these works presupposing inerrancy or something however then of course such a deconversion would make perfect sense. However, if he does join im sure his viewpoints would be interesting.

John W. Loftus said...

GordonBlood as I said elsewhere, "it is what it is." I don't make too much of it, nor do I discount it. Andrew has been persuaded to believe differently even though he was well read in Christian apologetical literature. Does it prove anything? To him it does, and it reinforces my beliefs. I'd like you to do likewise. Read through 100 skeptical books. Give it a try. Start with mine. See if your faith can withstand the onslaught. He tried it and he lost his faith. Can your faith be maintained if you do the same?

GordonBlood said...

Oh John your such a drama queen sometimes. Ive read some of the books listed, others I am not going to waste my time picking up. Ive read Dawkins and Mackie and ive certainly withstood the "onslaught" (this is where the drama queen comment comes in) of your various comments and statments over the months. The problem is that many of the people on this website held a very emotional, fundamentalist form of Christianity and once the brittle foundation of that fell then the entire house of cards caved in with it, at least from my observation of statements made. Many people lose their faith for many different reasons, but at least from my perspective as a convert to middle-Anglicanism the reasons usually are far more emotional and irrational than individuals would like to allow. I also think Kevin H makes a very good point, if many people are going to try to defend the faith we cannot expect some to lose it for (what I consider) bad reasons, especially because some people offer bad reasons for holding it. It is one of the down-sides of being fallible.

Dave M said...

Hi, folks. Fascinating to find a book called "The Necessity of Atheism" by a chap named David Marshall Brooks. My name happens to be David Brooks Marshall, and I just wrote a book called The Truth Behind the New Atheism, refuting these guys. Happy to see lots of my victims strewn across this young man's list; also good to come across a site for better-informed atheists. I guess that means the next generation of anti-God books will be more of a challenge than those produced by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens?

Pardon the banter; I do take truth seriously, and those who search for it. Best wishes to you all.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks for visiting, Dave M. Come back often. I look forward to you trashing my book. ;-)

BTW: Amazon doesn't tell us much about your book or you. I'd like to know about both. Sounds like a good book.

Eric Sherman said...

Whatever became of the MERE ATHEISM (working title)?

nearenough said...

Overlooked is Ted Drange who wrote "The Argument from Evil....and Non-Belief."

gnosiskaisophia said...

I'm a Christian who has been reading atheistic and theistic books back and forth since 2006 or so, actually because I was questioning my faith. I think it is important for anybody really searching for truth to consider both sides of things. Yeah, it's great and all to read 100 atheistic books, but its also important to read books that are theistic and possibly counter some of the arguments put forward in the atheistic books. This way you get both sides of the story.

if one doesn't do this, chances are they will end up believing what they read because it sounds so convincing without anybody saying otherwise. It would be like having WLC have a debate with an atheist but WLC wasn't allowed to talk. Who would win? Obviously the atheist because he gets to speak freely without reply. But the whole point of finding truth is finding the best explanation, which means considering everything, even Hinduism or Islam or Zoroastrianism.

I try to practice what I preach, as the saying goes, and here's where I am today: much stronger Christian than before, but still a lot of unanswered questions and a long way to go. Philosophically, I have come to believe that Christians have the edge (Plantinga is quite a philosopher, even if he is a Christian). But it seems that the field of biology is stronger on the atheistic side, thanks to the theory of evolution by natural selection. In the area of biblical studies, it seems pretty even. Ehrman is very knowledgeable, although he seems to leave out some of the details that are against his view.

So my recommendation is read everything about the topic, pros and cons, for and against, and then make a decision. reading only one leads to a semi-brainwash, and that goes for Christians, atheists, and agnostics alike.