I’ve just finished reading “The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist” by Andy Bannister. The book is subtitled “or the dreadful consequences of bad arguments”, and that’s a pretty good summary of the book: examining various arguments made by writers such as Richard Dawkins (who else?) and the like to see whether they stand up. The point of the book is not to demonstrate the truth of Christianity per se, just to demonstrate the issues contained within the arguments made by these atheist writers.
The thing which makes this book stand out for me compared to the multitude of other books which have been written in response to Richard Dawkins and the so-called ‘New Atheists’ (not that they’re particularly new any more, but still): the scope. What this book does is distil a number of arguments and try to deal with the precise objection in each case. In many cases, he presents arguments in a clear and concise way, and they are well illustrated: for example, each chapter starts with an imaginary (and usually humorously absurd) conversation to introduce the topic.
For me the real strength of the book is its analysis of the logical arguments: Bannister is able to boil an argument down to its precise form and then examine it to see whether it stands up. I’d go as far as to say that this is the best book I’ve read from that perspective (although I haven’t read very many, so that’s not really much of an accolade). But I think too often Christians simply leap to the defensive when someone comes up with questions, rather than saying: “Well, let’s take a step back and look at the question itself. How would that logic work in other situations? Are you being consistent?”
I would recommend this book to a Christian who wants to be strengthened in their understanding of apologetics, or to an atheist who wants to examine some Christian answers to their objections. I think it would be hard to find a book which examines so many arguments so comprehensively and clearly – it’s very understandable.
The only downside? The constant footnotes! There are plenty of humorous footnotes throughout the book, but personally I found them something of a distraction. It’s a matter of personal preference, though – you don’t have to read them.
(Although, my blog is footnoted in one of the footnotes – brownie points to anyone who can name which post. It’s not the reason I read the book though – I haven’t seen a penny of royalties. Not one…)
One of the problems with the so-called ‘New Atheists’ is that they are strong on rhetoric but weak on actual argument. I hope this book is widely read and helps to illuminate the problems for many people.