Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Does God Believe in Atheists? (1 of 5)

As a humanist, I am vividly aware that none of my knowledge is infallible. None of it. I must always be open to the possibility that any of my beliefs - from the most mundane to the most fundamental - could be wrong.

So, when a friend offered to lend me the book Does God Believe in Atheists? by Christian apologist John Blanchard, I was delighted to accept. The cover claims that the book "exposes the errors of secular humanism, materialism, relativism, determinism and existentialism", "traces the rise of Darwinian evolutionism and uncovers the weaknesses in claims made by its contemporary exponents", and "highlights the fundamental flaws in nine world religions and fourteen major cults."

What's more, a promotional blurb from Today proclaims that "John Blanchard masterfully engages both Christian and unbeliever alike." So I had every reason to expect a robust challenge to my ideas.

Well, not every reason.

Shouldn't a book that masterfully engages nonbelievers be able to muster at least one endorsement from an actual atheist for the cover? A quick web search throws up plenty of Christians' reviews of the book, but none by atheists (except some unimpressed reviews on Amazon).

And there's that quip about "Darwinian evolutionism". Something about people using non-standard terms for biology's grand unifying theory puts me on alert for misrepresentations of its substance.

Also, why bother talking about cults and other world religions when the thrust of the book is clearly to weigh the relative merits of atheism and Christianity?

Okay, simple solution. Before embarking on a cover-to-cover voyage through this good-sized tome (it's about the size of my hardcover copy of The God Delusion), I checked the three areas that I was worried about - areas where I would be able to judge from my own knowledge whether Blanchard was putting an honest effort into engaging my worldview.

In a series of weekly posts, I will address each of these areas.

I'll look at what Blanchard says about evolution; I'll look at how he characterizes humanism; and I'll look at why he's spending time on other religions.

I hope that, along the way, I can help my non-humanist readers understand humanism (and evolution) a little better. I also hope that we can get a better idea about how to actually engage people of opposing beliefs (or at least, how not to engage people).

First up: Does Blanchard understand evolution?

For readers who enjoy this sort of thing, I also recommend Ebonmuse's extensive and (currently) ongoing discussion of Lee Strobel's book The Case for a Creator, over at Daylight Atheism.

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