Book Review: Why I became an Atheist: Personal Reflections and Additional Arguments by John W. Loftus
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Trafford Publishing (November 7, 2008)
I think this book is for Christians, or recent Christians. Its discussion concentrates on the flaws in the Christian argument, rather than any substantial justification or expansion of atheist ideas. So, the arguments presented are of limited interest to a long-term infidel like me who is not interested in the details of Christian theology or their refutation.
To be fair, I have not yet read Loftus’s “Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains.” This current volume supplements that book in providing a collection of personal reflections and additional arguments. Some of these presumable originate from his popular blog “Debunking Christianity.”
He covers topics like his personal motivation for his blog, religious funerals, the plight of the preacher, advice for people leaving a faith, various arguments advanced fro Christianity, the problem of evil, virgin birth, reincarnation and Pascal’s wager. On the other hand he does deal with an atheistic ethic, freethinking and “new atheism.” However, my feeling is that even with these later subjects his perspective is still strongly influenced by his recently rejected theology. So I find his idea of “new atheism” more of the caricature normally presented by apologist opponents. He seems to accept their argument that “new atheism” is about evolution, not capitalising the word “God”, or referring to “God” with masculine pronouns. He appears to accept the argument the “new atheists” are militant and lack respect for the opponents. I think this is inadequate. Similarly I found his description of the scientific process inadequate.
But that’s my perspective. I grant there will be much here for the Christian or ex-Christian with an interest in theology.
Changing beliefs like divorce
Mind you – I am interested in the processes involved in changing ones beliefs – especially where the beliefs have been strongly held. It is obviously a significant event in one’s life – a bit like a divorce. Just as with a divorce, there are people who transfer to a new belief system (or spouse) rather rapidly. Others may take time to find themselves and not rush to formalise new beliefs (or relationships).
I think there is much to be said for the more gradual process. Perhaps our personal inadequacies will make us prone to the same mistakes. Simply transferring our dogmatic tendencies to a new ideological outlook –as we can fall into new relationships with the same attitudes of dependence, etc., which screwed up the old one. Sometimes we can learn and change if we move slowly but contemplatively.
Personally, I think that changing beliefs is healthy, if at times confusing or painful. Loftus does reveal a little of the personal influence of attitudes and their effects on friendship in this book, but I am sure there is more that could be said.
As a collection, rather than a narrative, this book is easy to ready. Just dip into wherever your interest takes you. The short sections mean that one can pick the book up, think about the passage, and not come back to it for several days. Ideal for holiday reading, perhaps.
So, in summary. A useful book for those interested in Christian theology and debates in this area – especially from someone who has recently left the belief system. But not a book for someone who wants to get an understanding of atheism or of the personal side of the journey from Christianity to atheism.