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A Book for Believers

Image Credit Kenneth W. Daniels

Thank you for the excellent responses to my post sounding out the idea of a book for believers. With such a great many excellent suggestions, I got fired up and ready to go. I made a little list of points, and then figured I’d best see what’s out there already, so I fired up the Fire. I’ve downloaded and read a ton of samples from various books on atheism. Many of my fellow FreethoughtBloggers were authors or contributors. This has convinced me of two things: 1) I am in distinguished company, and 2) I had probably better get off me arse and write a book on atheism. So it’s in the works.

Even though I think I found the book.

Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary seems perfectly suited for handing to those believers in your life who can’t handle The God Delusion and other atheist classics. Ken was the real deal. He was a child of missionaries. He was conservative evangelical. He became a missionary himself. He went to Africa in order to bring the word of God to tribes that didn’t have a written language yet, and hadn’t heard the supposed good news. Then doubt came crashing in. He followed the evidence, read the Bible closely, read all the apologetics he could get his hands on, considered what various freethinkers had to say, and in the end, became an atheist.

This book was written for believers, by a former believer. He’s married to a believer, many of his friends are believers, so he’s had all the experience he needs showing respect for the person while defending freethought. He’s faced all the questions and comments from believers who just can’t quite grasp why he lost his faith. He’s confronted the No True Christian fallacy head-on. You know, the variation wherein the believer-told-atheist is told they were never a true believer to begin with: he eviscerates that argument. Politely. This gentleman has a way of staying unfailingly polite while thoroughly destroying the myriad arguments and apologetics believers throw our way.

While he’s not quite a new or Gnu atheist, he doesn’t throw any of us under the bus, either. Early in the book, in a section entitled “My approach to my readers,” he gives a spirited defense of Dawkins – by quoting Isaiah of all things! Gorgeous.

This is a long book, but it didn’t really feel long to me. It was a fascinating journey through various trails of doubt, all leading up to the conclusion that Christianity isn’t the truth, there is very probably no god, and the life of an atheist isn’t filled with horrors, but wonders. This is a man who’s read the theologians, too, so he can’t be tarred with that “but you haven’t read X” brush. The courtiers can try their reply on him all they like. He has studied Imaginary Fabrics in depth. He has even read On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat with a mind that wished to be convinced of the magnificence of same. And in the end, after years of study, after considering pretty much every argument for the classic yet cutting-edge fashions of the Emperor, he has determined that the Emperor is, in fact, nekkid. Only I don’t think he’d put it quite like that: more along the lines of, “I’m afraid the Emperor is unclothed” would be more like it. As I said, unfailingly polite whilst standing firm on the facts.

There are times when I squirmed a bit – Ken sometimes seems to miss the godly life a little too much – but then I hit the end this evening, and it’s a megadose of pure awesome. Sort of a one-two knockout: he just annihilates the goodness of a religion that preaches hell, then invites the believers to come on in to the secular waters – they’re fine! He concludes with a secular dream that had this Gnu Atheist standing up and applauding.

This book, I think, is the one you can hand to that true believer in your family. I don’t know if they’d read it all the way through. I don’t think they’d come away feeling any better than if they’d read Dawkins or Hitchens or Harris or Christina. In fact, I think it’ll be worse – with us icky new atheists, they can other the hell out of us. But against Ken, they haven’t got a defense. He knows all the verses, all the apologetics, and he speaks their language intimately. He knows precisely where the cracks are, and while his crowbar may have a velvet cover, he’s still busy wedging it in and splitting the whole edifice of faith apart. He explains exactly what atheists are and why while never failing to respect the believers. Their only defense against this is going to be not reading it. But they should. So should we.

The book is available on Kindle, Nook and a variety of other e-book platforms for $.99. Ninety-nine cents. You can get a paper copy for $9.95 for the luddites in your life. And if you were planning on donating to charity, you can tick off two tasks at once: he’s donating the proceeds to Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and PATH.

Why, you may ask, am I still planning to write a book for believers after this? A few reasons. This is a long book. I’m going to do up something short. Also, I found all sorts of awesome books on atheism I need an excuse to read. I can be all like, “Yeah, this isn’t for pleasure, you know. It’s totes work!” And then I can stick them in a bibliography, so that believers who truly want to understand this atheism stuff can go on to read about how we can have Sense and Goodness Without God, how we go about Raising Freethinkers and Parenting Beyond Belief, and how we navigate holidays with The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. Among many, many others. And, last but absolutely not least, you all came up with some excellent suggestions, and I think together we can come up with something brief yet awesome. A gateway drug to all the other atheist goodness, if you will.

But if you need something immediately, and you’ve got a believer in your life who will at least read a few pages before screaming “SATAN!” and running away, Why I Believed is an excellent choice.

(And I swear to you, the next book I review will be Victor Stenger’s God and the Folly of Faith. If you have any questions about it, ask them here, because answering reader questions will be far more fun than just babbling about it. What do you want to know before you decide whether to buy it or not?)

Comments

  1. says

    This is a man who’s read the theologians, too, so he can’t be tarred with that “but you haven’t read X” brush. The courtiers can try their reply on him all they like. He has studied Imaginary Fabrics in depth. He has even read On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat with a mind that wished to be convinced of the magnificence of same.

    Oh, naive woman. You say he’s read “On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat,” but has he read both the book of that title by Scotus and the one by Eriugena? Because if he hasn’t, then whichever one he hasn’t read, that will turn out to be the real one you need to read.

  2. says

    It looks like a really good book for me too. I’d love to read about his experiences coming from such a strong religious background.

    Have added it to my wishlist :)

  3. otrame says

    Yeah, I do believe DWB et al. will be getting a dollar from me. Sounds interesting.

    I think the fact that he does not require monetary compensation for the work he put in to writing his book says a lot. It says even more about all those preachers who claim to be channeling a god but still charge you an arm and a leg to read all about it.

  4. Graham says

    On Stenger’s book.

    As far as I know, Susan Blackmore was the first to investigate NDEs scientifically in her 1993 book Dying to Live: Science and the Near Death Experience. (I haven’t read that book but I have read her book Consciouness which among many other things, summaries the earlier work.) There’s one female atheist Stenger should have listed. I hope he at least credits her on NDEs…

    “Stenger makes a convincing case that Christianity held back the progress of science for one thousand years” (from Amazon). How does he deal with the case of China?

    What does he say about Penrose’s ideas about quantum theory and consciousness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadows_of_the_Mind)?

  5. Aliasalpha says

    I do hope that your book will have at least a few paragraphs dedicated to Doctor Who, especially given the Doctor’s tendency to puncture myths with rational explanations

  6. Crudely Wrott says

    You ask,

    Why, you may ask, am I still planning to write a book for believers after this?

    to which I answer, because you care?

  7. Jeff Thompson says

    O.K. Dana, I busted out the $.99(!)downloaded and read “Why I Believed” this weekend. Highly recommended! I agree that this would be a great book to give to someone who was having doubts about theism, but would be turned off by the harsh tone of some other writers. Also, Mr. Daniels has an extensive list of references, many of which I’m looking forward to checking out. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention!

  8. says

    Dana,

    Thanks so much for your generous review/plug of my book! I would have responded earlier, but I was in the middle of the Carribean on our 20th anniversary cruise when you notified me of the review, and my subsequent e-mail reply to you bounced back for some reason.

    My hesitancy to wear the Gnu Atheist badge is probably due more to my desire to avoid making unnecessary waves with my family than to any real objection against the Gnus’ position. I do enjoy reading and learning from just about anything that comes out from Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Stenger, et al, but I’ve found there’s a niche for wrapping the Gnus’ crowbar in a little velvet (as you so aptly put it) before wielding it against the beliefs of some believers. It seems that different approaches are needed to suit the variety of personalities and stages of belief of our common target audience, so I have nothing against the Gnus–it’s just that a certain subset of believers won’t ever deign to read them (the same could be said for my softer approach, for that matter).

    A small point of clarification–I actually haven’t read that many theologians, though I have read a number of apologists (perhaps I’m making an artificial distinction). Counter-apologists like John Loftus, Richard Carrier, and Robert M. Price are more technical and better read than I am, and I don’t present a great deal of new ground in my book, but I do hope my story and my approach will continue to serve as a gentle but effective guide for those groping their way out of the fog of faith.

    Dana, I look forward to your book–do let me know when it comes out! I’ve read through a few of your posts and enjoy your poignant prose–you know how to turn a phrase!

    Thanks so much again!

    Ken

  9. Ann says

    Hi Dana,
    I do have some questions for you, because I do believe in God. And am curious how you would answer them. But in all fairness before I send them I felt like I should read this book first. It nice that it can be had on Kindle for 99 cents. I’m looking forward to what Daniels has to say. I plan on keeping an open mind, and they claim this book should be read by believers and nonbelievers so it’ll be interesting to see what is written.

    I know I read Richard Dawkins ‘The God Delusion’ and found most of his was really against the catholic religion and really wasn’t true for some other religions. He struck me like a magician bringing up a topic and then getting sidetracked to something else and not answering the topic to my satisfaction, and like you said his stuff is inflammatory – which was a turn off for me.

  10. redpanda says

    I just wanted to say I bought this book because of this review (and the reviews on Amazon), and my wife and I absolutely loved it. We’re definitely going to be letting some of our family members borrow it.

    My father-in-law, for instance, balked pretty hard when I asked him to read The Greatest Show on Earth, simply because it was written by Dawkins. I can’t even begin to imagine him reading something like God is not Great or The God Delusion, but I think this book has a good chance of making an impact. So thanks :)