The bottom line: If you’re looking for new revelations, an intellectual challenge, or a mature argument, then look elsewhere.
Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of God is a disservice to both atheists and believers.
It does injustice to atheists by providing superficial, terse, and porous responses to common arguments for God’s existence. And almost all of the arguments for God that the author does respond to are purely subjective individual perspectives based upon no actual unique claims of the distinct religions themselves. Why There Is No God does an injustice to believers because, although the book may pretend to reveal how atheists think and help you plan a defense of your beliefs, in actuality, it is a marginalizing, prejudicial, and dehumanizing polemic aimed point blank against people of faith. Ironically, then, Mr. Navabi and religious fundamentalists share a common characteristic—they both seem to believe that their way of thinking is irrefutably correct and the world would be a much better place if others were made in their own image. As a result, this book ends up being a written crusade against all people of faith.
To be fair, the one advantage this book does have is that if you are a believer and are easily thrown off-balance by the responses (or are deluded into thinking that the chosen “arguments” really are arguments), then it is clearly time to define and elucidate what you believe and why you believe it.
In the introduction to Why There Is No God, the author makes clear why he wrote it: “This book is written for atheists, believers and the undecided who find the concept of God an important one to examine critically and worth discussing … Reading this book will allow you to see what many atheists believe and how some people may question the beliefs that you hold. If you plan to defend your faith in discussions, this book can help you understand the reasoning behind the lack of belief in your opponents.” After the introduction, each chapter begins with an alleged fallacy (e.g., morality stems from God) and then evidence is presented in an attempt to debunk it.
The pretense that the author is the “enlightened” who is educating the inferior, substandard, unscientific believers becomes quickly apparent. Mr. Navabi is very adept at segregating everyone who doesn’t think like him. I began reading the book honestly curious to discover what atheists were thinking, but a quarter of the way in, the author’s biased and smug arrogance became detestable. And, in his conceit, Navabi spends so much time arguing that the burden of proof rests on believers that he neglects the logical fallacies in his own responses.
For example, he makes the claim that for atheists, “the only necessary argument against believing in God is simply that there is no evidence that any gods exist.” The error in logic here is that passive skepticism in general is always the least scientific and the most unsophisticated path—the path of least resistance—that requires no investigation and erroneously imparts a sense of certitude to subscribers who are only certain of an unproven anti-assertion. In other words, passive skepticism assumes that because one isn’t aware of any evidence, no evidence exists, and therefore investigation is not required. If the burden of proof always rests on the assertion and not the anti-assertion (i.e., the disbelief of the assertion), then life would become very unlivable, and, for example, disbelieving in climate change would be the “normal” stance as would disbelief in the love of a spouse. In contrast, there is no evidence that God does not exist. The skeptical anti-assertion here would be for me to believe, placing the burden of proof on the atheist.
The Game of Life by John Conway is offered as one example of allegedly how complexity can arise from non-complexity just by following simple rules. Yet, the author never addresses the two 800-pound gorillas in the room: (1) the Game is a closed mathematical simulation, not a biological system subject to chance and all the standard environmental variables that creation is subject to, and (2) the Game had an intelligent creator and a designer who made rules to which the simulation adhered.
Ultimately, I agree with the author’s aim that scrutiny of one’s own beliefs is a sign of a mature mind. And while I’ve always maintained that a post-critical stance is much more advantageous than a pre-critical stance, Why There Is No God does not encourage healthy scrutiny at all but maliciously condemns anyone who even dares to approach the very idea of religion. The penalty for this error is quick, merciless, and cruel.
Navabi writes, “The truth is true even if no one believes it, and untrue claims are still untrue even if everyone believes them.” Amen to that.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal