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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review - 'Answering Atheism'

Book Review – Answering Atheism

Trent Horn has been studying the phenomenon of atheism for years.  In his new book, Answering Atheism, published by Catholic Answers Press, he makes a clear and charitable response.

The book is broken into three parts.  The first clarifies the terms and positions in the debate.  He also analyzes its tone in recent years, and promises that his work will not sink to the level of insults and name-calling.  In reading the rest of the book, one finds that he keeps his word.

The second part of the book analyzes and critiques the arguments for atheism.  Often we find that in talking to atheists, they will debate our positions for theism and see atheism as a default position.  It is as if atheism is the starting point and as long as there is any conceivable answer to our points (reasonable or not), then atheism must be assumed.

But of course this position is unreasonable.  An atheist should be able to give clear reasons for being an atheist.  Horn looks at the most common reasons in this section of the book, most notably the ideas that the concept of God is a logical contradiction, and that the existence of God is incompatible with the existence of suffering and evil.  Horn very thoroughly and fairly presents the atheist arguments, and very charitably and completely shows them to be false.

The third and longest part of the book includes the reasons to believe in God (theism).  Horn is not specifically an apologist for Christianity in this work, although there are a few points at which he shows that the Christian conception of God makes the most sense out of reality.

Horn delves into the recent advances in physics that prove the universe (space-time) had a beginning, before which there was nothing.  And, of course, something can not come from nothing.  He looks at the improbable fine-tuning of our universe that makes it capable of supporting life.  Finally, he puts forth the moral arguments for the existence of God and takes a look at personal experience.

In the spirit of Thomas Aquinas, Horn gives voice to every possible objection to his arguments.  Much of the book, in fact, is spent answering these challenges.  The result is that when the reader is finished, it is very likely he will have any points of disagreement left untreated.

My criticisms of this book are few.  The first was touched on earlier this week in my article about evolutionism.  The only other thing to watch out for is that because Horn goes through so many difficulties people might have with his arguments, at times the main point can get lost in the technicalities.

This technique, I’m sure, is very helpful to the skeptical reader and he does well by leaving some of the more far-fetched objections to the appendices, allowing the main text to flow more smoothly.

Overall, Answering Atheism is a worthy book to add to one’s library.  It is intellectual but not difficult to read.  It can also serve as a powerful reference tool when challenged by an atheistic argument whose answer is not readily on the tip of the tongue.