The Irrational Atheist  by Vox Day

An author name like "Vox Day" (Latin for "the voice of God") on a theological treatise has to be a pseudonym. Wiki gives his real name as Theodore Beale. I have been reading about the so-called New Atheists off and on for a while now, with a growing concern for God's reputation (not unlike the disciples in Mark 9:38). I need not have worried. The Irrational Atheist (free download here) utterly destroys any credibility they might have. If you are not an atheist, it's a fun read. I laughed out loud (in the Psalm 2:4 sense) many times at his witty rejoinders. The author has done an awesome amount of research, uncovering and documenting facts that the atheists should have known, which completely demolish their arguments. His notes not only point to his sources, but they are often fascinating trivia in themselves. I learned a lot about both atheism and the reasons it is so ridiculous, as well as numerous fascinating incidentals.

The author begins by defining and distinguishing "high church" and "low church" atheism. Low church adherents do not call themselves atheists -- indeed they include many church-going Christians -- but they live lives in practical isolation from God. This book takes its most careful aim at the high church atheists, and in particular at their most vocal priests.

He devotes one chapter each to five modern atheists, "Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens" (the book's subtitle), in whom he finds nothing to praise, and also Daniel Dennett, who is in Day's view somewhat laudable in his restraint, and Michel Onfray, the only one of the five Day considers to be completely rational. He explains that the only rational atheists are sociopaths or suicides; Onfray is obviously not dead. The other atheists he examines have borrowed their morality from the (Christian) culture around them. He calls this policy "moral parasitism" or Somerset atheism after "Somerset Maugham's semi-rational atheism, which states 'do what thou wilt, with due regard for the policeman around the corner.'" Another label he gives to the same morality is "Christian atheism" and points out that a great many Christians accept the same policy of adopting all of God's morals except for a few they find inconvenient or distasteful.

Another chapter takes on the specific popular atheist arguments in turn, showing how they are intellectually bankrupt, or at best historically ignorant. Blaming religion for wars and human deaths is given a particularly devastating rebuttal, with numbers and sources for his figures. For example, 14 times more children die in bicycle accidents than the Spanish Inquisition killed each year averaged over its existence. And given the historical context of the Inquisition, it was remarkably mild, compared to the Muslim provocation at the time.

Only God makes no mistakes at all, but I found absolutely nothing to criticize apart from a few very minor typos in the first third of the book. Then it started to look like he might be approving Darwinism, when he made an argument against an atheist based on "valid assertions [including] ... 3. Natural selection is the mechanism through which evolution occurs." It could have been hypothetical, using their own beliefs against them, but there were other instances of similar apparent approval, before he openly declared "I am an evolutionary skeptic myself," and then said near the end, "psychology ... is one of the few scientific fields that makes even less use of the scientific method than evolutionary biology." It's probably a good idea for him to remain ambiguous in a book like this, so as not to detract from its main mission.

Chapter 14 (out of 16) is devoted to his collected refutation of the various atheistic arguments, but his treatment of the argument from the Golden Rule is weak and suffers from an inadequate understanding of what exactly the GR teaches. In the next chapter he bases his effort to refute the argument from the supposed contradiction between God's omniscience and omnipotence and the problem of evil, on an open theology that is the only place where his otherwise unimpeachable research falls down. Or maybe it's just because I am familiar with the Bible more than his other sources. However, I found his analogy from computer game design appealing, if only because it resembles my own thinking as a computer programmer.

In all, I would unhesitatingly endorse this book to anybody interested in what atheists believe and why they believe it. It's unlikely it will convince any actual atheists to abandon their faith, but it's a great resource for the rest of us in parrying their less-than-honest thrusts.

Tom Pittman
2010 July 10