Are atheists wicked … or just foolish? A review of James Spiegel, “The Making of an Atheist”

Posted on 07/23/13 46 Comments

The Making of an AtheistJames Spiegel. The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief. Moody Press, 2010.

If the new atheists distinguished themselves from the milquetoast atheism that preceded them by their honing of a sharper rhetorical knife, James Spiegel’s book The Making of an Atheist responds with the razor sharp edge of a Samurai sword. If the new atheists have specialized in sweeping assertions about the questionable rationality of Christians, Spiegel one-ups them with sweeping assertions about the morality of atheism. If the new atheists have berated Christians as a bit soft in the head, Spiegel returns the favor by leveling a charge of corruption in the soul.

Get it? The picture ain’t pretty.

Atheism, says Spiegel, is not really an “intellectual movement”. Rather, “It is little more than moral rebellion cloaked in academic regalia. The new atheists are blinded by their own sin.” Atheism shirks an “objective assessment of evidence” because of “stubborn disobedience” and “willful rebellion”. It is “the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequence of immorality. In short, it is sin that is the mother of unbelief.”

And that’s just in the first few pages of the first chapter!

While Spiegel believes that, biblically speaking, atheist are fools, he stresses that this is not foolishness as mere ignorance. Atheists are not “simply obtuse or feeble-minded”. Rather, they are in deep moral rebellion. He explains:

“When smart people go in irrational directions, it is time to look elsewhere than reasoning ability for an explanation. And Scripture gives us clear direction as to where we should look. Consider the psalmist’s declaration that ‘the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). The Hebrew term rendered ‘fool’ here denotes a person who is ‘morally deficient.’ And elsewhere in the Old Testament Wisdom Literature we learn of various symptoms of this moral deficiency. The book of Proverbs says ‘a fool finds no pleasure in understanding’ (Proverbs 18:2), that ‘fools despise wisdom and discipline’ (Proverbs 1:7), that ‘a fool finds pleasure in evil conduct’ (Proverbs 10:23) and is ‘hotheaded and reckless’ (Proverbs 14:16).” “It is not intelligence they lack so much as self-control and the right values.”

Spiegel provides other scriptures to support his provocative thesis. For instance, he observes of Ephesians 4:17-19: “The root of the problem, apparently, is not a lack of intelligence but rather a hardness of heart that is itself caused by immoral behavior.” He cites John 3:19-21, “men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”, and then observes:

“Note also Jesus’ point that evildoers do not simply ignore or reject the light but actually ‘hate’ it. If this is so, then we should expect some atheists to display a certain amount of bitterness and even rage toward the idea of God. And, of course, this is just what we find among many atheists, especially the leaders of the new atheism.”

But the most important passage for Spiegel’s provocative thesis is Romans 1:18-21:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

After quoting Romans 1 Spiegel concludes:

“In this passage Paul makes clear that the problem with those who don’t believe in God is not lack of evidence. On the contrary, God has made His existence and attributes so ‘plain’ and ‘clearly seen’ from creation that belief is inexcusable. He also explains how, in spite of this, some reject the truth, specifically through immoral behavior.”

A book like The Making of an Atheist is extraordinarily provocative, but it is really important in assessing it that we keep our wits about ourselves. A level head and a cool demeanor will serve us well if we are to weigh the extraordinarily robust thesis.

And that is the place to begin, with an appreciation of just how extraordinarily robust this thesis is. Spiegel seems to believe that anybody who fails to believe the proposition that God exists does so out of rebellion. I don’t dispute that some people fail to believe this proposition out of some sort of rebellion (or at least with rebellion as a contributing factor). This should be no surprise for there are many things we can fail to believe at least in part due to our own rebellion. According to a popular story, certain Catholic church leaders and philosophers simply refused to peer through Galileo’s telescope. Whether that happened or not, we all know that people can sometimes retrench in a position out of irrational obstinance, and the withholding of belief in God can certainly be an instance of that.

But it is quite another thing to suggest that failure to believe in God is always a matter of rebellion. Let’s start by making it clear that Spiegel’s moral rebellion thesis captures not only atheists but agnostics as well since on Spiegel’s view anybody who fails to affirm that God exists is in rebellion. In  “The night Dr. Z became an agnostic” I discuss a scenario of a Christian doctor who becomes an agnostic after witnessing moral horrors in the Congo. Does Dr. Z’s move to agnosticism indicate moral rebellion? Spiegel requires us to think so.

Spiegel acknowledges the problem of evil, but he insists that it doesn’t call theism into question. Instead, it only calls God’s goodness into question. He writes:

“The objection from evil does pack some punch, and it is a genuine problem for theists. But it could never count as grounds for atheism. Even if successful, it only undermines certain beliefs about the nature of God. It does not—nor could any argument—disprove the existence of a world creator and designer.”

“At most, evil should prompt us to reconsider what kind of God exists, not whether God exists.”

This analysis is deeply flawed. For one thing, the problem of evil cannot be separated so neatly from arguments for a world-designer as Spiegel seems to suppose. From kluges to carnivores, the structure of the world suggests to many people that if there is a designer then he is either inept or malevolent. Whether they are correct or not, these are most certainly not hermetically sealed categories. The boundary between the problem of evil and arguments for design is porous indeed.

And it is difficult to fathom how Spiegel could offer a meaningful critique of Dr. Z’s position. Who is to say that after attempting to repair the upteenth fistula due to a brutal gang rape, Dr. Z ought to have concluded “Maybe God isn’t good” rather than “Maybe God doesn’t exist”?

Even worse, Spiegel’s proposed resolution of the problem of evil offers a very strange take on Romans 1. According to this analysis it would be rebellious to become an agnostic but it would not be rebellious to conclude that God exists and is malevolent like Shiva or Molech. I highly doubt Paul would have been satisfied with such an analysis of his own words.

Note as well that even Mother Teresa comes out as rebellious on Spiegel’s analysis. You see, in her posthumously published journals we discovered that Mother Teresa frequently struggled with doubting the very existence of God. If such doubt is a sign of rebellion (as per Romans 1) then Mother Teresa was in rebellion against God. Essentially Spiegel has offered us a prosperity gospel when it comes to belief in God. Just as the conventional prosperity gospel chalks up sickness and poverty to a lack of faith, so Spiegel chalks up doubt and disbelief to the presence of rebellion. Perhaps this seems like a good idea when you’re targeting the new atheists. But Mother Teresa?

So let’s concede, pace Spiegel, that Mother Teresa did have some non-sinful doubts. What about other people? Might others have non-sinful doubts? Might others fail to believe God exists due to something other than sinful rebellion? The minute we concede this possibility the neat categories of Spiegel’s analysis begin to erode.

This brings me to Spiegel’s use of scripture which is little more than proof-texting. Many of the texts Spiegel cites talk about foolishness and rebellion generally and are not particularly germane to atheism. The texts that do seem to relate explicitly to atheism specifically are Psalm 14:1/53:1 and Romans 1. I address the Psalm passages in the article “Are atheists all fools?” (I also do so at more length in You’re not as Crazy as I Think.) There I note that Psalm 14 and 53 are not really talking about atheists at all. Rather, they’re talking about folks who purport to believe in God and then live inconsistently with their belief. So ironically enough, the Christian who quotes Psalm 14 to describe atheists may be oblivious to the indictment the text provides to that very Christian.

This is where things get awkward for Spiegel. You see, one would think that living consistently with one’s Christian beliefs would involve commitment to the Golden Rule. And the Golden Rule would surely oblige a scholar to present the views of his interlocutors with the greatest nuance and charity. As you might have guessed, Spiegel does not present the views of naturalists (where “naturalist” is a particular kind of atheist) with the greatest nuance and charity. For example, he asserts that “naturalists only believe in physical facts”  from which it follows that they can’t believe in evil. This is a caricature of naturalism which presents a clear violation of the Golden Rule since Spiegel most assuredly would not like Christianity to be caricatured in this way. And by professing belief in God while failing to follow the teachings of Jesus, Spiegel places himself under the condemnation of Psalm 14:1, an ironic conclusion to be sure.

Of course, this isn’t just a slight on Spiegel, for there isn’t a Christian alive who consistently lives out the teachings of Jesus. We all live inconsistently with our beliefs, and when we do we find ourselves under the same condemnation that we apply to others.

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  • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

    See, this is an example of a book that is best ignored. I find it interesting that you had enough respect for this book to take it seriously and did not feel compelled to subject it to satirical ridicule, as you did with Jason Long’s essay.

    Again, my own preference would be to review this book as follows: “Since many atheists are obviously wonderful people, this is a book that in my own professional opinion, is so transparently ridiculous that it does not deserve a review. Those who disagree are free to show me why I am wrong.”

    • RonH

      If I were an atheist, I would ignore this book or simply subject it to ridicule. But Randal is a Christian, and Spiegel’s view (as represented here) is in fact quite common among Christians. It makes sense for Randal to engage it seriously, as a Christian, in front of Christians, for the sake of improving the dialog between Christians and nonbelievers. Which, as you may have noticed, is a significant concern for him.

      It would be nice to see an atheist treating Long’s piece similarly, for the benefit of other atheists. Don’t see that, though. In fact, we recently had a protracted discussion about how Science demonstrates Long’s point conclusively, donchaknow. In the meantime, it makes sense for a Christian to satirize it quite as much as for an atheist to satirize Spiegel (and they sound like bizarro mates, in my opinion).

      Disclaimer: I haven’t read the Spiegel book. All I know of it is based on Randal’s article here. But I’m familiar with the argument from other contexts…

      • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

        An argument’s worth is not relative to any person’s (or group of persons’) beliefs. If Spiegel’s argument deserves to be ignored, then it deserves this from everyone.

        If there is nothing in it but circular appeals to a 2500 year old text and unfounded innuendo, as appears to be the case from Randal’s review, then it is deserving of dismissal by everyone who is an expert enough to have an informed opinion. That includes Randal.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          Sure, Spiegel’s analysis (it isn’t really an argument) ought to be ignored. But that’s not the point. You seem to be conflating:

          (1) If a book is spurious it ought to be ignored.

          with

          (2) If a book is spurious and it reflects a widely held position it ought to be ignored.

          I agree with you on (1) but I sharply disagree with (2). We might agree that books like “Conversations with God” and “Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths” and “Evolution: The Lie” ought to be ignored. But if these books exercise great influence in certain populations, there is nothing at all wrong with refuting them to minimize their influence. Mutatis mutandis here.

          • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

            Do you think that your review has a real effect in that population that takes Spiegel’s view seriously? Maybe I am too pessimistic, but I doubt it. At the very least, I think that a review that said in effect, “Widely respected Christian philosopher and theologian Randal Rauser thinks that Spiegel’s view is so transparently ridiculous and contemptible that it is unworthy of expert review” would have at least as much positive effect.

            • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

              Looking at this from the perspective of an insider, Randal’s view will appeal to some in the Christian community. He tackles it with honesty and refutes Spiegel on Christian terms, that’s a big deal for non-conservative Christians.

              In some cases taking the approach you mention (disdain, dismissal, etc) may appeal to others, but quite frankly the majority of people who Spiegel’s work largely appeals to probably wouldn’t hold Randal in high enough regard for that sort of thing to work.

              I say this with absolutely no disrespect to Randal, but I’m sure he is well aware of the factions inside modern Christianity. I know very conservative Christians who have more respect for atheists than they do for “liberal Christians”, thinking the liberals are corrupting the church from within. They’re particularly fond of Revelation 3:15-16 when it comes to issues like this.

              EDIT: And I’m not saying I agree with those conservatives, or that Revelation 3:15-16 would even apply to liberal Christians or Randal on any rigorous reading/exegesis. My point is that to some Randal’s progressive positions would disqualify his review from holding much sway. To these folks he’s as “bad” as you or myself.

              • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

                But if they don’t hold Randal in high enough esteem wouldn’t they be inclined to either not read his review or else dismiss it?

                The more I think about it, the more I think that my point is a moral one. The things that Spiegel says (in his subtitle and in the quotes provided by Randal) are offensive, ridiculous, and potentially dangerous. His book (assuming Randal’s portrayal is accurate, and I think it is, because I trust Randal and because of the subtitle), does not deserve a thoughtful review. If it deserves comment of any kind it is a comment that points out that it is offensive, ridiculous and potentially dangerous. And it is contrary to my experience, your experience, and Randal’s experience. If we feel compelled to say something about this book, let it be that. AND, we might add, if a person is inclined to believe Spiegel’s thesis, then he needs to befriend some atheists.

                • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

                  But if they don’t hold Randal in high enough esteem wouldn’t they be inclined to either not read his review or else dismiss it?

                  So at worst they wouldn’t care what he says anyway, he has nothing to lose by putting the review out there and everything to gain if one of those people were on the fence so to speak and found some theological merit in his approach. EDIT: He also gains respect in the eyes of the progressive Christian, and if I understand his views right, this is the moral response for him to take to a Christian “getting things wrong” for what Spiegel probably things are good reasons.

                  There really is an internal struggle inside the broad tent of Christianity. The more progressive/liberal side that Randal is on has to deal with the fundamentalists. For that audience this kind of “loving correction from a brother in Christ” is the kind that is respected and what they believe is the moral, proper response.

                  What’s important, I think from Randal and other progressive Christian perspectives, is not only that Spiegel is wrong, but that they have a “solid theological basis” for concluding this. I’d imagine that providing this is pretty much Randal’s job description as a theologian.

                  If anything a response to this work isn’t really written for us atheists, if it is nice for us to see a Christian police “their own” for such abhorrent views. I read it as far more for the progressive Christian.

                  • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

                    But he didn’t really police it in the way that it deserved.

                    I think that a review that calls attention to the book’s offensive and potentially dangerous character and then declares it unfit for thoughtful commentary sends a pretty clear message. I could be wrong.

                    I have a longer response to your argument (which I admit that I find compelling) at the Secular Outpost.

          • Zeno

            Randal,

            You have distinguished the following:

            (1) If a book is spurious, then it ought to be ignored.

            (2) If a book is spurious and it reflects a widely held
            position, then it ought to be ignored.

            You say that you agree with (1) but not (2). The problem is that if (1) is true, so is (2). Let’s introduce some letters to stand in for the propositions above.

            S: The book is spurious

            W: The book reflects widely held beliefs.

            I: The book ought to be ignored.

            You seem to think that both of the following are true:

            (a) S only if I.

            (b) ~ [ (S & W) only if I ]

            But from (b) it follows that:

            (c) (S & W) & ~I

            And from (c) all of the following can be deduced:

            (d) S

            (e) W

            (f) ~I

            But from (a) and (d), it follows that

            (g) I

            But (g) contradicts (f). So I don’t see how you can
            consistently agree with (1) and reject (2).

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Thanks for this Zeno. I should have added “all things being equal” to (1). That was my implied meaning but it could have been clearer.

        • RonH

          Seriously? A theist writes a book saying “atheists are evil”, and Randal writes a review demonstrating to theists why they shouldn’t hold this view and you criticize him for it? I’m sure if he’d ignored the book at some point some wag would have pointed to that as evidence of how Randal is biased towards his own “in-group”.

          Your real position seems to be that any stick is good enough to beat Randal with.

          Don’t you get it: Christians are doing your dirty work for you! Here’s a Christian defending the premise that atheists aren’t necessarily immoral. The target audience here is Christians, which atheists have heretofore sucked at convincing. A Christian stands a much better chance of getting through to them. It’s the same story with YECism. Dawkins can rant till he’s blue in the face, but it’s not atheists by and large that are causing the shrinkage in the YEC ranks — it’s other Christians like Francis Collins or Denis Lameroux (sp?) or John Walton or the BioLogos guys. And still they get nothing but crap from atheists. C’mon, atheists! Wise up! Your PR sucks and you can’t recognize a good deal when you see one.

          The only irrational thing Randal does here is expect fair treatment by atheists on the grounds that fair treatment is what he accords them.

          • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

            I don’t have any dirty work to do. Randal and I are advocates of the same thing: pursuit of the truth. Randal thinks that Christianity captures it. I disagree. But we both are committed to understanding the truth.

            When someone writes a book as ridiculous as this one appears to be, anyone is committed to rational inquiry should point out how absurd it is. That does not amount to giving it a thoughtful review.

            Giving Spiegel a thoughtful review (from a respected and influential Christian philosopher) also sends the message that Spiegel’s position is worthy of respect and subject to debate. It is neither.

            • RonH

              As an apologist, Randal is committed to helping others understand the truth as well. Blowing Spiegel off helps no-one.

              I really don’t get how refuting a position demonstrates that it is worthy of respect, since refuting it demonstrates how it’s not worthy of belief in the first place. You’re reaching, dude. But if you really think that, you should get the TalkOrigins.org folks to take down all those wasted pages…

              I can’t understand why you have a problem with someone attempting to refute an idea that you disagree with in the first place. Color me well and truly baffled.

              • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

                As I said to Randal, I am probably a pessimist, but I do not see that responding with nuance and subtlety to arguments like this is really that helpful. What is probably equally helpful is for experts to summarily dismiss them and to heap ridicule upon and call into question the motives of publishers who choose to publish such nonsense.

                • RonH

                  I don’t think it’s pessimism so much as naivete. As someone who was once an ardent YECist, I can tell you that heaping scorn and ridicule on YEC propagandists and their publishers did nothing but entrench me further and inure me to counterclaims. It was the nuanced, subtle, and winsome arguments (overwhelmingly made by Christians) that persuaded me otherwise. My experience is that your approach just leads to further trench warfare.

                  Fortunately, this is Randal’s blog.

                  • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

                    YEC is not a contemptible position. It is false and demonstrably so. But it is possible for a rational person (albeit one who is ignorant of modern science) to believe in a young earth.

                    The claim that all atheists are atheists because they are immoral is contemptible. And it should be described as such. It is tantamount to claiming that all homosexuals are homosexual because they are in open rebellion from God.

                    That Randal does not at least explain that Spiegel’s view is so contemptible is a problem. Nobody should get the idea that Randal Rauser thinks that Spiegel’s position is open for debate or serious consideration.

                    Furthermore, I suspect that Spiegel is smart enough to realize how ridiculous his arguments are. I don’t know that this is true, but I don’t see how anyone who has critical reasoning capacity necessary to earn a PhD in philosophy can believe what he claims to believe. That can be pointed out as well. Spiegel is almost certainly playing to the ignorant prejudices of his audience. Again, that is contemptible.

                    • RonH

                      Since your comment was basically a list of assertions that things are contemptible, I’m afraid there’s no argument for me to engage with. I see your conundrum, however. “That is self-evidently contemptible” isn’t an argument that works unless your interlocutor can agree with you on a definition of “contemptible”. Good luck with it, though.

                      @Randal_Rauser:disqus: Randal, for both using satire and for not using satire, for both criticizing extremists and not criticizing extremists, and for being both an intelligent philosopher with a professional responsibility and an irrational shithead, I hereby confer upon you the “Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t” award for 2013. You are, sir, both a greater and lesser man than I.

                    • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

                      Ron,

                      When you say of someone that their position is contemptible, almost certainly you are not trying to convince that person. You are, assuming the position really is contemptible, merely giving the position its proper due. It is not an appeal to reason. It is an appeal to moral sensibilities.

                      So, in calling Spiegel’s position contemptible, I am not offering an argument. Not surprising you couldn’t find one to engage with.

                      Look, I do not know what the proper response is to books like Spiegel’s, but I think Randal agrees with me that the main thing is that since Spiegel is trying to justify a patently absurd position, it is important that people are dissuaded from adopting that position. Maybe the best thing is to calmly and rationally show that it is a faulty argument. That strikes me as not a very productive use of time since we could just as effectively show that it is a horrible argument by explaining that experts in the field do not believe that it is worthy of review. I think that some arguments are so bad that they do not deserve to be given a thoughtful review by an expert. I admit that I could be wrong.

                      If the book had been peer-reviewed by Randal, he would have said (and I hope that I am not being too presumptuous) “I recommend that this not be published” not “I recommend that it be published along with my critical review of it.”

                      By the way, as for me offering criticism of Randal. I am a professional philosopher; offering criticism is my primary job and one of the few things I am good at.

                    • RonH

                      That strikes me as not a very productive use of time since we could just as effectively show that it is a horrible argument by explaining that experts in the field do not believe that it is worthy of review.

                      For an awful lot of people — including most likely people who find Spiegel’s argument persuasive, or at least difficult to rebut — the fact that professional philosophers do not believe his argument worthy of review does not at all show that it’s a horrible argument. When I was a YECist, I wasn’t ignorant of scientific evidence. And the fact that the overwhelming majority of natural scientists radiated nothing but contempt for YECism did little to convince me that YECism was false.

                      Perhaps you’re right that among professional philosophers, disdain is the proper course of action when confronted with a position like Spiegel’s. But a hallmark of Randal’s books and blog is that he’s aiming at a much wider population and with a larger goal than merely expressing his opinions. How his negative review could somehow be less effective with that population than a backhanded dismissal eludes me.

                      I, for one, greatly appreciate his efforts to improve the quality of discourse between believers and nonbelievers, and will happily wear the “I’m with Shithead” t-shirt.

            • John

              “I don’t have any dirty work to do. Randal and I are advocates of the same thing: pursuit of the truth. Randal thinks that Christianity captures it. I disagree. But we both are committed to understanding the truth.” – Jason

              I suspect the realm you are sincerely willing to explore in your search for truth is larger than the realm he is sincerely willing to explore.

    • RayIngles

      Say, Randal, why do you satirize some things and ‘seriously engage’ with others? Whim, or is there a principle involved?

      • RonH

        At risk of sounding presumptuous, I think this is a post-worthy question.

      • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

        Why do you think satirization isn’t serious engagement (or at least that it isn’t aspiring to serious engagement)?

        • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

          Why not reply to Ray’s actual point? I take it to be this:

          You expressed absolute derision for Long’s essay but you did not of Spiegel’s book. Instead you engaged with Spiegel as if he had something interesting to say. It is one thing to point out that Spiegel is wrong; but to do so without saying that his view is contemptible is, I think, an omission.

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  • Malachi Prosper

    Superb critique but I fear it will fall on deaf ears. Bible-thumping fundamentalists like Spielgel cannot be reasoned with. You’d have an easier time trying to reason with the Taliban.

  • David_Evans

    I think atheism quite often is a moral rebellion – against the Old Testament God and against those who claim to know what’s best for all of us in his name. The difference is, we think it’s a justified rebellion. The concept should not be totally unfamiliar to Americans.

    • R0c1

      Except the Americans were pretty sure that England existed.

      • David_Evans

        True. No analogy is perfect. But I imagine they would have rebelled even if they had thought King George was a myth.

  • cyngus

    It is laudable that Randal posted an example of an awkward criticism of atheism. Sure, Spiegel is provocative, he provoked my laugh when I read that I may be a “rebel” because I disbelieve a God existence.

    At least I am a rebel with a cause. If God exists, I rebel against his negligence he has shown in his creation, and also his superficiality in showing his existence to only a bunch of men, incapable of making themselves credible.

  • Bsquibs

    Thanks Randal. I was vaguely familiar with the book and I recall that at the time of its release I was considering buying it. After reading your criticism I’ll be sure to give it a miss. There are simply too many good books out there to be read. By the way, I’m currently half way through The Swedish atheist… and I’m really enjoying it.

    In light of the impact that this review has had on me (and potentially any other Christian out ther) I can’t quite fathom why Jason is spending so much time complaining about your post. But RonH has addresssed this better than I could and typing on an iPhone is tedious. So I’ll leave it there.

    • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

      Would you consider buying a book that was subtitled “How immorality leads to Buddhism”? or “How rebellion against God leads to Judaism”?

      Would such a book be worthy or a serious review by a respected scholar, a review that does not even draw attention to the contemptible nature of the thesis?

      • Bsquibs

        Given that I’ve already stayed that I once considered purchasing the book I fail to see the point of your question. Other than to say that Randal’s critique has convinced me that this is not a book that I could enjoy, my purchasing history – actual, intende or imagined – is of no consequence. You are, in my opinion, unfairly holding Randal’s feet to the fire for offering a critique of this book.

        I remain mystified by your reasons for objecting to this post.

        • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

          And I am mystified by your mystification.

          Do you think Randal would (or should) write a thoughtful review of a book subtitled “How ignorance, insular thinking, and stupidity lead to Christianity”?

          I would find such a book offensive. And, on the basis of the subtitle alone would be inclined not to purchase it. Furthermore, if asked to review it I would indicate how offensive and transparently ridiculous the subtitle is. I just wonder why you (and apparently Randal) don’t see that the subtitle of Spiegel’s book is as offensive and ridiculous.

  • Fox

    Thanks! Now can you review I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist? :)

  • being itself
    • R0c1

      In case others are not familiar with this podcast, the host Luke gives his guests like Spiegel a lot of time to explain themselves.

  • Marc Fischer

    Great post Randal! By the way, James Spiegel is a staunch Calvinist, which means he should have written:

    “Atheists don’t believe in God because they are wicked individuals in rebellion against him BECAUSE God predetermined them to be so. His revealed will for them is to repent and convert to Christianity, but his secret will for the majority of them is that they remain in their darkness so that he will cast them into the lake of fire at the end of time.”

    This undermines his moral indignation, doesn”t it?

  • AdamHazzard

    Spiegel’s thesis is as old and ugly as it is absurd.

    But… This book bears the imprint of a major Christian publisher, and it has apparently been received enthusiastically in some Christian circles. (The Amazon page shows approving quotes from Christian thinkers like Greg Ganssle and Chad Meister, for instance).

    That in itself makes an interesting moral point, one which surely warrants further discussion…though it’s hardly the moral Spiegel would like us to draw.

  • cyngus

    I would like to read a book titled “The Making Of A Christian” by Richard Dawkins. I bet it would be a very provocative book, less Spiegel’ awkwardness.

    Then I’d like to review this book in a post titled: “Are Christians morons or just simply mad?”

    But it would lack Randal subtlety :)

    • David_Evans

      It would be a very different book. Dawkins would, I think, say that most Christians inherit their views from their parents and their society. The relatively rare cases where an atheist becomes a Christian would not provide any unifying theme around which to build a book.

      I could be wrong, of course. Dawkins might actually ask a number of converts and come up with something interesting, which Spiegel appears not to have done.

      On second thought, Dawkins is rather grumpy these days. Perhaps Dennett ought to do it.

      • cyngus

        I’ve just read an article written by Dennett. It was abut believers in believers. In other words, I may not necessarily believe in God, but surely believe that in God believers are on the right path, unlike believers in disbelievers.

        I am a disbeliever but I don’t seek believers for my disbelief. I guess Randal is a believer in God believers, so he explains at lengths why in God believers are better than disbelievers. Randal does not target a specific Christian group of in God believers who are better than others inside Christianity.

        That allows him the liberty of sustaining a theist idea without getting caught in a specific Christian group.

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