Richard Carrier Highly Recommends My Book.

Carrier's review of both John Paulos and my books can be found on his blog. While he offers some fair criticisms of my book he also said some pretty great things about it like...

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[John's book addresses] almost every conceivable argument for Evangelical Christianity in extraordinary and sobering detail.

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[It contains] a treasure trove of sources...

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[John] essentially turns the same leave-no-stone-unturned approach employed by the new apologetics movement (which he was trained in, by Craig no less) against that very movement. He has clearly read extensively and has a firm grasp of contemporary Christian apologetics.

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Every important aspect of intellectual Evangelical Christian belief comes in for critique, and often in more depth than you'll find in any other pro-atheism tome. Indeed, unlike, say, Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, Loftus is a fully-informed insider who knows what he's talking about. He was fully immersed in making the very case for Christianity that he now tears down. He was trained by the best, is well-read in the field, and gets all the nuances that apologists accuse pop atheists (like Harris and Dawkins) of missing. In this regard, Loftus is even more in-the-know than I am, tackling issues I know very little about (like contemporary Evangelical doctrines of hell or the trinity--topics that simply don't interest me, but that certainly interest believers and whose intellectual coherence is essential if Evangelical faith is to have any chance at credibility).

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In a sense, Why I Became an Atheist is something like an ex-Christian version of J.P. Moreland's Scaling the Secular City. Where Moreland's aim was to tear down naturalism, Loftus' aim is to tear down Moreland's worldview. And yet, Loftus' work is denser and more erudite than Moreland's, by far. In fact, that may be its principal failing: it's so intellectual and thoroughgoing, I worry most Christians won't even be able to get through a fraction of it. On the other hand, for the more educated and intellectual, this is exactly what they need to read. Even though any Christian could pick at bits, the overall force of his case is, IMO, invincibly fatal.

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[O]ne of the best things that Loftus contributes to the field of atheist philosophy, which I think is required reading for everyone, on both sides of the debate, is his Outsider Test (here in chapter 4). Given that, and his thorough scope and erudition, I doubt any honest, rational, informed Evangelical can remain in the fold after reading this book.

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[It's] a serious scholarly treatment of Christian apologetics.

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Thanks Richard, coming from you whom I hold in high regard means a lot to me!

To read Richard's criticisms go to the link provided.

17 comments:

Steven Carr said...

Richard couldn't help but praise your book as it is very good and does exactly what it set out to do.

Even Christians recognise the force of your work.

mikespeir said...

"Richard Carrier Highly Recommends My Book."

That's a pretty fair endorsement in my opinion. I just got the book myself yesterday. I've barely opened it, but it looks good so far.

I'll admit to a moment of doubt when I saw Dr. Geisler's endorsement and that he is advocating it for his students. My thought was, Is he seeing this as a kind of voluntary straw man, something that purports to be the best of atheist thought but easy to knock down? I suspect not, but I know he views his mission as building up people's faith, not tearing it down. Why would he be so seemingly enthusiastic about this book, insofar it's goal is to accomplish the former.

But, as I've said, I've barely begun reading. I expect to be impressed positively.

Charlie said...

It's not a surprise that Richard Carrier recommended John's book; he's also recommended the Rational Response Squad.

And mike, I admit I also strongly suspect many Christian apologists are recommending John's book to students for practice, as it were. It seems like they want John's book to be the standard "case for atheism" text. (The God Delusion seems to have been serving this purpose as well; a personal friend of mine reported that nearly 140 copies were distributed in a single apologetics seminar, at a Christian college, so that students could "work on their critical thinking skills and knock down the arguments".) John's arguments not much more challenging than Dawkins's, so I'd imagine that students are encouraged to use them for such practice.

It may be that apologists think the arguments in John's book are too weak to generate any serious, long-term doubts among believers, so they're quite comfortable and even eager to recommend it. They may in fact want it to be representative of atheism, given the relatively poor case it makes.

Many times all it takes is a simple distinction to dismantle one of John's criticisms. Even the few "deconversions" that allegedly take place after reading John's book are often overblown, overhyped, and written online by a random person whose identity we have no way of verifying. There have been several cases of atheists posing as Christians online, so it's not a stretch that some would be generating stories like this for illusory support. I personally do not know of any theist (or Christian, for that matter) who's read John's book and suddenly decided to "deconvert". (And to put things in perspective, for every single unverifiable "deconversion" story you find posted on this blog or some other, there are about a thousand (probably more) unbelievers who become Christian and go on to share their "testimonies" online or at megachurches around the world or at harvest crusades, etc., etc. It's sad, but true.)

Be that as it may, what you don't find is hordes of apologists recommending books like Michael Martin's The Improbability of God. Oh, no. You will never see that, since they know that most beginning students wouldn't be equipped to tackle the difficult issues therein. But John's book would be fine. It's a good little book for students to chew over, because they should be considering the kinds of questions John raises about their faith by the time they take an introductory apologetics course.

Lvka said...

John,

out of sheer curiosity, what was their reaction when You deserted the fold? Was it something like ``Loftus Left Us!``? :-) Did they speculate on how Your name might've been predestined all along? :D

John W. Loftus said...

Lvka, it's a long story, but uneventual. The reactions were varied. Sometime I may share more about it than I did in my book.

John W. Loftus said...

Charlie, I don't think you've read my book to know. I think you're lying. And I think by deflecting attention away from what Dr. Carrier wrote you're scared of my book. Martin's book, The Improbability of God, is an excellent book. But like most books its focus is on just a few questions and does not get at the heart of what a Christian believes. Most of these type of excellent (more or less) single issue books are not comprehensive, they don't understand theology, apologetics, nor the Bible.

To suggest even for a second that Christian scholars are recommending my book because of anything less than that my book finally offers them a worthy opponent is ludicrous to me.

And you make them out to be liars.

Is Dr. Mark D. Linville lying when he recommended my book? He's a Christian philosopher and contributor to the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. He wrote: “Of the spate of books coming from the so-called “New Atheists” that have appeared in the past few years—Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, et al—John W. Loftus’s critique of Christian theism is by far the most sophisticated. Where, say, Dawkins might be found attacking a man of straw, Loftus understands and assesses the arguments of today’s premier Christian apologists and philosophers. Evangelicals cannot afford to ignore Why I Became an Atheist.”

Is Apologetics and Logic instructor Neal Pumphrey lying when he thinks my book is a good one?

Why should anyone think you are more informed about the issues than thay are, especially since you show absolutely no awareness at all that you've read only bits and pieces of my book online or here at DC?

Chris said...

I've noticed that some reviewers have called the arguments in the book "superficial," simply because there are so many of them in one book. Maybe its a psychological thing, the apologetics professos can present it to their students in a way that tells them "this is the best the atheists can do. These seem like strong arguments, but we can see how superficial they are, because..." That way he students are already sure there are problems with the arguments, they look to find them without considering them objectively. If you're the type that would take an apologetics class, I don't think you look at things objectively anyway. You've already got your conclusion.

John W. Loftus said...

Chris there is no known person who has actually read my book who has said it was superficial. There are people who lie about having read it because they are scared of it. I have Christian stalkers who have promised to dog my steps by saying such things.

Come on now, just take this charge of superficiality up with Dr. Linville, Neal Pumphrey, and Richard Carried himself. See how far that flies.

John W. Loftus said...

Here is another review where my book is described as "head and shoulders above all others." Notice in the comments section someone who has not read my book called it superficial, too. See how I responded, okay?

I have fleas, that's all there is to it. There are people who show a definite awareness that they've read my book who recommend it highly, and then there are people who show no awareness at all that they've read it who say it's superficial. Who ya gonna believe? Do some Christians lie to defend their faith? Of course, yes.

Chris said...

I didn't consider your "stalkers" John, ha ha. But how do you think a respectable Christians apologist, like any of those who you've mentioned, would present your book to their students? I'd think they'd come with the attitude of "Ok, this is a very good book, but we know its wrong, who can tell me why." Or maybe not. I've never taken a theology or apologetics class.

kiwi said...

From what I have read of Norman Geisler (I'm thinking of a debate in particular), it's clear he is so convinced Christianity (and his version of Christianity) is true that I'm not sure any argument could make him change his mind.

Also, perhaps it is not done intentionally, but he constantly makes a straw man of other people arguments.. He doesn't just do that with non-Christians, but with other Christians as well.

So... Why does he recommand the book? Probably because it simply does not shake his faith one bit, despite the fact that it attacks Christianity from many perspectives. (But again... nothing would!).

Also, I suspect that he would suggest that John's rejection of Christianity is ultimately emotional, rather than rational.

Jim T. said...

A quick question for Charlie:

Charlie, I sometimes have trouble understanding your perspective in your comments on this blog. Are you a deist, agnostic, type of Christian, or something else?

To what degree do you support John's agenda, if at all?

Thanks,
Jim

Darrin said...

That's nice John. NOW EDIT IT,

LOL ;)

Charlie said...

Chris, yes I think you're correct. I have witnessed seminars and debates where apologists speak. When they recommend atheist books (like Dawkins's) they do so with precisely the attitude you describe: "This book is one of the best cases for atheism on the market. And if you work through it carefully you'll see how bad the arguments are."

They would never recommend more advanced books. It's always the lightweight books that they're comfortable recommending.

John, I don't think any of the apologists you mentioned are "lying". I think they really want evangelicals to read your book. What I am saying is that they likely believe your book has done their Christian faith a good service, because now young Christians can work through it, "tackle the arguments", and improve their critical thinking.

You'd have to be naive to think they really believe the arguments in your book are sound and that they want Christians to come away "deconverted". Think it through, John, you'll see. Your book is no different than the other atheist books in the sense that they have all been used this way, as a proper apologetics tool. It's meant to give the impression that they've confronted "the strongest case for atheism" and come away unconvinced.

Charlie said...

Jim,

I do not support anybody's agenda. I think for myself. I'm agnostic on most days of the week; agnotheistic on Saturdays.

John W. Loftus said...

Charlie, you are confused when you say...They would never recommend more advanced books. It's always the lightweight books that they're comfortable recommending.

William Lane Craig calls Michael Martin's Companion to Atheism, and J. Howard Sobel's Logic and Theism "substantive critiques of theistic arguments." [Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, p. 95]. He does this on the same page where he calls Harris, Dennett, and Dawkins as "popular writers." [Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, p. 95]. He doesn't even mention Christopher Hitchens's book. That's right, he doesn't even mention Hitchens.

And Craig also says of Dale Allison's Resurrecting Jesus that "it's the best presentation of skeptical arguments against inferring Jesus' resurrection." [Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, p. 401].

In the most recent edition of the Philosophia Christi journal here's something else Dr. Craig said, this time about Graham Oppy's scholarly book: "Already reeling from Howard Sobel's hard left hand in Logic and Theism, natural theology is now staggered by Graham Oppy's smashing right in Arguing About Gods. [Vol. 10, No. 2, 2008: 425]

Listen up. Christians know the difference between popular works and scholarly ones, and they recommend them when they say things like he did.

If you think my book is a popular one written for popular audiences then you ought to read it. Or you can just take it up with Dr. Linville and Dr. Carrier.

Sheesh. What kind of idiocy is this for kiwi and you and others who have not read my book to tell others why Christian apologists and skeptics recommend it. It's clear to me, anyway, you really do not know what you're talking about here.

Sheesh.

John W. Loftus said...

In one sense, my book is written for popular audiences who are well-read, just as it's written for the college or university student. But so is Craig's book Reasonable Faith.

You see, books that are aimed at this same audience can both be known as popular and scholarly. If you read the reviews of my book you'll hear scholars in both camps saying that's what it is. It's aimed at a well-read audience but based on sound scholarship.

Here is what A.M. Weisberger said of me and my book: "His writing is admirable for maintaining conceptual accuracy while engendering accessibility for the non-technical reader. Highly recommended -- both as a valuable sourcebook for all involved in religious debate, and as a good read."

Here's what John Beversluis said of me and my book: "His scholarship is impressive, but he also knows how to write in a way that engages the non-scholarly reader."

You people who have not read it just shut up until you do.

Or you can tell us all why anyone should think you know more about it when you have no credentials and when you have not read it, when others with credentials who have read it say otherwise.

Idiots.