29 March 2016

Quick update on "Is the Atheist My Neighbor?"

A couple of weeks ago I said I'd write a review for Randal Rauser's latest book, Is the Atheist My Neighbor?. I've got a post drafted; it may be into the weekend before it's done, but I'm just going to give a quick impression.

Randal's writing in Is the Atheist My Neighbor? is erudite, humorous, and provocative. He's uncompromising in his criticism of attitudes toward atheists — and atheism itself — in Western Christian culture. The culprit, he argues, is widespread belief in the Rebellion Thesis — the notion that atheists secretly know that God exists, but harbor a deep-seated resentment toward Him and/or seek to engage in hedonistic or otherwise immoral behavior without acknowledging their culpability to God's divine commandments. Any pretenses of an intellectually grounded rejection of God is just a cover — the evidence for God is, after all, overwhelming and without rational dispute.

We atheists have known this to be nonsense from the first time we heard it, but it's exceedingly rare for a book authored by a Christian academic theologian to direct such fierce criticism at the Christian community itself, both for its acerbic treatment of atheists and for its embrace of a false doctrine. Ironically, this was the reason for my own prior disinterest in the book: "Tell me something I don't know!"

It was a hasty judgment. Randal's done a fine job here supporting his thesis with good data and better argumentation, and his discussion in chapter 4 with Jeffery Jay Lowder of The Secular Outpost is definitely a highlight. I have to confess my interest waned a bit in chapter 3, in which Randal uses Biblical exegesis to argue against the Rebellion Thesis; as an atheist, I'm not particularly concerned with intra-religious interpretive discordance. Yet, particularly toward the end of the chapter in which Randal highlights doubts expressed by Christians themselves, his thesis remains engaging.

I'll have more to say in my review about the thesis of the book, which I can't get behind 100%. But I can for now say that while the book does skew toward a Christian audience, it's a worthwhile read for us non-believers and, at less than 100 pages in the Kindle edition, a brisk read as well.

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