Winter Reading

Posted: Nov 26, 2007 12:00 AM
Winter Reading

It has been some time since I recommended books to my readers. Since many will begin Christmas shopping soon (or have already) I thought I would respond today with some recommendations. Here are four books I did not enjoy and four that I think offer good rebuttals:

1. God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens.

I read this book after I found out it was required reading next semester in our Sociology of Religion course at UNC-Wilmington. I wanted to see whether it was sociological or even scientific. It is neither. This anti-religious screed is a highly prejudicial selection of bad things done in the name of religion, which seeks nothing more than to get the reader to adopt atheism. A better sub-title would have been “How Bad People Sometimes Poison Religion.”

Nonetheless, I recommend the book because it reminds me of what a miserable person I used to be as an atheist. I also believe that Hitchens’ attack on Mother Teresa irreparably harms his credibility.

2. Come Be My Light, by Mother Teresa.

I read this book right after reading Hitchens’ book. It is an inspirational account of a wonderful life and a strong rebuttal to those who would see religion as a crutch. Christianity is a tough religion. No wonder so many, like Christopher Hitchens, are unwilling even to concede that Christ was a real historical figure. After reading this book, consider what the world would be like if we all chose atheism. Would you rather live among six billion Christopher Hitchens or among six billion Mother Teresas?

3. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins.

The final sentence of Chapter One of this book reads: “I shall not go out of my way to offend, but nor shall I don kid gloves to handle religion any more gently than I would handle anything else.”

The next sentence of the book reads: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character of all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Interestingly, I made a decision that all people are created equal after reading the epistles of Paul of Tarsus. I am often curious as to which source the atheist relies on to draw the same conclusion. Is it possible that we (Christians) have taught the atheists the very principles they use to condemn us?

I also wonder how one who considers himself to be the product of random mutation simultaneously believes that he is morally superior to others? If I win the lottery and you lose, I may be luckier than you. But how am I morally superior to you?

4. The Dawkins Delusion, by Alister and Joanna McGrath.

My favorite part of this book is the reprint of the first sentence of Chapter Two of Dawkins’ book. The McGraths rebut each and every accusation with Old Testament Scripture. I also am pleased that they are much more respectful towards Dawkins than he is towards them - and to Christians in general.

5. Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dupner. This book has raised quite a stink with its assertion that legalizing abortion in the 1970s greatly reduced crime on the 1990s. The book also makes claims about the effects of right-to-carry laws on crime rates, which are contrary to what I have been saying in speeches on college campuses including Ohio University and, more recently, Bucknell University. Nonetheless, I always encourage my readers to seek contrary opinions.

6. Freedomnomics, by John R. Lott, Jr.

In this enjoyable book, Lott offers an intriguing argument about the true effects the 1973 "Roe" decision has had on crime. This argument alone makes the book well worth the purchase price. But Lott also offers a strong rebuttal to the assertion that right-to-carry laws have not reduced crime. Levitt and Dupner suggest that Lott may have fabricated data and that there has been a widespread inability of others to replicate his results. But, why then, are there more refereed studies (fifteen) showing that CCWs reduce homicide rates than refereed studies (ten) showing no effect? And why are there no (exactly zero) refereed studies showing the CCWs are increasing homicide rates? Was that not the principal argument against right-to-carry laws in the first place?

Lott also makes a strong case for the deterrent effect of the death penalty, which is causing this lifelong abolitionist to reconsider his position.

7. Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris.

There are two types of opponents to Christianity - those who misunderstand Christianity and those who understand but misrepresent Christianity. Sam Harris is in the latter group. Harris intentionally lumps "old world" creationism with "new world" creationism in an attempt to falsely portray Christians as opponents of science. He also lumps adult stem cell research (responsible for curing 73 diseases) with embryonic stem cell research (responsible for curing zero diseases) in an effort to make Christians appear to be sadistic in their supposed opposition to science.

I want everyone to read Harris' book to get a good glimpse at the depth of his intellectual dishonesty and his anti-religious bigotry.

8. What's So Great About Christianity, by Dinesh D'Souza.

Dinesh offers a brilliant rebuttal to the likes of Harris (and Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins). If you did not see D'Souza destroy Hitchens in a recent CSPAN debate, please take the time to read this great book. It is one of the finest Christian apologetics since "Mere Christianity," by C.S. Lewis.