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Ultimate Truth-Seeker Challenge

My inner struggle

Inspired (copied) from Luke Muehlhauser’s Ultimate Truth Seeker-Challenge blog post, posted in January 2010. After beginning to read through Luke’s writings, I became inspired to gain a deeper understanding of a question that I had considered pretty much settled since my college days, and I began reading intently beginning November 2010. My reading was slightly out of order, but for the most part I read as Luke had suggested. I didn’t skip a single book, although in retrospect, there may have been quite a few worth skipping entirely.

The links below for each book bring up all the corresponding blog posts.

Introduction via a flurry of arguments

1. Guy P. Harrison – 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God (354 pages, beginner, skeptical – completed 12/?/10)

2. Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli – Handbook of Christian Apologetics (406 pages, beginner, apologetic – completed 12/?/10)

Intermediate cumulative cases

3. John Loftus & others – The Christian Delusion (385 pages, intermediate, skeptical -completed 12/13/10)

4. William Lane Craig – Reasonable Faith (416 pages, intermediate, apologetic – completed 2/18/11)

5. C. Stephan Layman – Letters to Doubting Thomas (240 pages, intermediate, apologetic – completed 12/?/10)

6. John Loftus – Why I Became an Atheist (428 pages, intermediate, skeptical – completed 4/11/11)

That Jesus guy

7. Greg Boyd & Paul Eddy – The Jesus Legend (480 pages, intermediate, apologetic – completed 4/29/11)

8. Bart Ehrman – Jesus, Interrupted (304 pages, beginner, skeptical – completed 5/12/11)

Comparing worldviews

9. Richard Carrier – Sense and Goodness Without God (444 pages, intermediate, skeptical – completed 12/?/10)

10. J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig – Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (653 pages, advanced, apologetic – completed 7/9/11)

Getting serious now

11. Michael Martin – The Case Against Christianity (256 pages, advanced, skeptical -completed 7/13/11)

12. J.P. Moreland – Scaling the Secular City (288 pages, advanced, apologetic – completed 7/18/11)

13. Robin Le Poidevin – Arguing for Atheism (184, pages, advanced, skeptical – completed 7/22/11)

14. James F. Sennett & others – In Defense of Natural Theology (336 pages, advanced, apologetic – completed 9/7/11)

Is God a good explanation for the world?

15. Richard Swinburne – The Existence of God (376 pages, advanced, apologetic – completed 9/21/11)

16. Gregory Dawes – Theism and Explanation (222 pages, advanced, skeptical – 9/29/11)

Getting seriously tired here

The final slog

17. Nicholas Everitt – The Non-Existence of God (352 pages, advanced, skeptical – completed 10/15/11)

18. J.L. Mackie – The Miracle of Theism (278 pages, advanced, skeptical – completed 11/3/11)

19. Michael J. Murray & others – Reason for the Hope Within (429 pages, advanced, apologetic completed 11/30/11)

20. Michael Martin – Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (541 pages, advanced, skeptical – completed 12/22/11)

21. Paul Copan & others – The Rationality of Theism (304 pages, advanced, apologetic – completed – 1/6/12)

22. Graham Oppy – Arguing About Gods (472 pages, advanced, skeptical – completed 1/17/12)

23. William Lane Craig & others – The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (704 pages, advanced, apologetic – completed 3/9/12)

24. Jordan Howard Sobel – Logic and Theism (676 pages, advanced, skeptical – completed 3/22/12)

25. Alvin Plantinga – Warranted Christian Belief (528 pages, advanced, apologetic – completed 4/10/12)

Not surprisingly, I started the project as an atheist, and ended it as an atheist as well. While I wasn’t convinced by any theistic arguments, I did gain a huge amount of respect for the scholarship, expertise, and clarity of writing of some of the apologists, especially William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland in Philosophical Foundations and the Blackwell Companion. I ended up losing some serious respect for some of the theistic arguments though, especially after reading what seems to be the most advanced versions. The moral argument is the biggest loser, relying on what I think are tenuous assumptions and rhetorical tactics meant to play on our unfounded intuitions. The incoherence of libertarian free will also seems to falsify cases from the cosmological argument to the design argument, and is never addressed successfully.

The best, most useful books on the atheist side were Richard Carrier’s Sense and Goodness, which provides an incredibly well thought out (if imperfect) worldview in a box, and Gregory Dawes’ Theism and Explanation, which I think succeeds in showing how empty God is as an explanation for pretty much anything, from the existence of the universe, to consciousness, to reason, to morality. It undermines nearly every case theists make, all in less than 200 pages. Lastly, John Loftus’ books are always worth reading, and are some of the best collections of thoughts out there to introduce readers to atheism.

I still have some questions remaining. While I think that morality, reason, and consciousness are really bad reasons to believe in God, I still don’t know how they fit into a naturalistic worldview, and I am typically unimpressed by atheist versions of morality. I’m also pretty bad at evaluating the historical claims surrounding the Bible and resurrection. I find Ehrman’s case straight forward and convincing, but I couldn’t make the case without reading the book again. There’s just too much factual information I’m missing or forgetting.

Please let me not be like this guy

Overall, I’m a more confident atheist, although I’m well aware of large gaps in my knowledge, and I would probably still lose any spoken debate with any professional. I doubt that the gaps are large enough to fit anything like a God, especially a Christian one, but the door is open.

Extra Credit:

Of course I’m too interested in the subject to be done with it after a measly 25 books. I expect to do quite a bit of reading in the future as worthwhile books come out. Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism was nice enough to send me a copy of his book Daylight atheism in exchange for a review.

Adam Lee – Daylight Atheism (255 pages, beginner, skeptical 12/13/12)

A.C. Grayling- The God Argument (288 pages, beginner, skeptical 6/7/13)

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