50 reasons people give for believing in a god

Ready for our next book selection?

50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God 
by Guy P. Harrison

Many books that challenge religious belief from a skeptical point of view take a combative tone that is almost guaranteed to alienate believers or they present complex philosophical or scientific arguments that fail to reach the average reader. Journalist Guy P. Harrison argues that this is an ineffective way of encouraging people to develop critical thinking about religion. In this unique approach to skepticism regarding God, Harrison concisely presents fifty commonly heard reasons people often give for believing in a God and then he raises legitimate questions regarding these reasons, showing in each case that there is much room for doubt.

Read more from the publisher here.  And here’s a review by Hemant at Friendly Atheist.

UPDATED to fix link and add this link to an interview with the author on Point of Inquiry. I can’t figure out where the book went on the publisher’s website and I’m too tired to spend much time looking for it, so here’s a link to the author’s MySpace page instead.


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. I think this looks like a really interesting book. Thank you by the way for telling us about Rapture Ready, it has completely changed the way I look at evangelicals. It is very well written and funny at times. I can’t wait to read this book.

  2. I heard an interview with this guy on one of the podcasts. [Which one? One advantage of being a farto viejo is that nobody expects you to have perfect memory…] The thing that I thought was profound was that the number one reason for belief, virtually everywhere in the world, was that… it’s *obvious*! Of course, what is obvious to the beholder of life and the universe is usually what he/she was taught growing up, the religion/philosophy that one was born into. That says a lot about the human condition… humans are mostly cows and sheep! ;)

  3. @factsdontmatter: Douglas Adams had a brilliant story about a sentient puddle, and how it would be “obvious” to the puddle that a hole which fit it so perfectly must have been built expressly for the puddle’s needs. You’ve probably read it, but if not, it’s genius.

  4. @LBB: A friend of mine used to have that story posted on his dorm room door when he was in law school. It is one of the best illustrations of our all to human delusion of superiority in the universe that I have ever come across. Plus it’s downright silly (in a good way).

  5. Here is part of a review from a reader at

    His essays are not formally philosophical and are not about splitting theological hairs. Instead, each essay is conversational common sense with statistics about religion thrown in. He does not capitalize god or gods, since he rarely talks about any specific deity, among the thousands that have existed. Several themes recur: He emphasizes that every believer is an atheist about every god other than their own preferred god. Which god a person believes in is almost always an accident of birth. Atheists don’t choose to be atheists – they just end up not believing. They are the fourth most plentiful group, after Christians, Muslims, and Hindus – and that only counts the ones out of the closet. The fifth most plentiful group is animism. Various religions make irreconcilable claims that can’t all be right, despite the zeal of their believers. This most likely suggests that none of them are true and that humans are good at inventing gods. The countries highest in atheism are the most peaceful and the countries highest in religiosity are the most violent. The same picture shows up in blue versus red states in the US. Although religions are capable of good things, on balance, they are bad for society.

    Harrison gives religion some direct hits, usually with a bit of humor:

    “…atheism is not a conscious act of turning away from all gods. It is simply the final destination for those who think…you will be pleased to discover that the sky does not fall down on your head…if you still want to pray, you can (the success rate of your prayers is unlikely to change).”

    “…it can be a wonderful life without gods…wise choices, hard work, being born somewhere other than an impoverished hellhole, good health, and a little luck can add up to a fine existence for just about anyone.”

    “…couldn’t natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and tornados be unintelligent and indifferent events that can strike down anyone anywhere, regardless of which gods are prayed to? …it matches the reality we see in our world.”

    A fine addition to the recent surge of non-believer books. This one is a kinder, gentler version, and fun to read – with this disclaimer from the author: “No gods were harmed in the writing of this book.”


  6. Like I said before somewhere, I find that ad copy interesting in an unpleasant way: it’s very much in the “I’m an atheist, but a nice atheist” vein (analogous to “I’m a Jew, but not a greedy Jew”).

    they present complex philosophical or scientific arguments that fail to reach the average reader.

    Not to hear the theology buffs tell it. Remember the complaint that Dawkins hadn’t read “Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope”? What a wonderful heads I win, tails you lose situation!

    In this unique approach to skepticism regarding God, Harrison concisely presents fifty commonly heard reasons people often give for believing in a God and then he raises legitimate questions regarding these reasons

    Unique? Don’t make me laugh.

    Hey, maybe the book is great, but the packaging is dreadful.

  7. I’ve been planning to pick this one up, or maybe even a few copies so I can proselytize a wee bit. :)

    Blake Stackey said: “Unique? Don’t make me laugh.”

    Blak, could you list some more titles that have the same approach? I’d like to build a collection.

    I like books like Dawkins’s God Delusion, but his anger turns a lot of people off, whereas this one seems quite gentle.

  8. Dawkins never came across as angry to me, but he certainly is a smart ass. This guy seems to be genuinely trying to engage in dialog, while the other books I’ve read have been making fun of believers or have taken a debate-style approach, where there is a winner and a loser, rather than two people actually trying to communicate and understand each other.

  9. Just so. I probably should have said attitude.

    So, it sounds to me like the book does take a unique approach, and I can’t think of another that takes an even closely similar approach, but Blake implies there are several. I hope a list is forthcoming. I know several people who are fence sitters on the god issue and who can’t handle Dawkins and the other, um, ravers. But something along the lines of this book, and others like it if they exist, might just turn the balance.

  10. “Tone” is a subjective thing which I won’t attempt to address, but the argument/response format is a common one. Just look at your standard atheist website. Sections of The God Delusion take that format, even, but John Allen Paulos’s Irreligion might be a purer example of what you’re looking for.

  11. Funny, I’m already reading that book. I’m about halfway through, and it’s pretty good. It’s engaging, easy to read, and isn’t overly complicated. I thought that Letter to a Christian Nation was the best way to explain atheism to the believers, but this is probably even better.

    If any of you in the St. Paul area were thinking about checking it out from the library, don’t bother – I’ve got the only copy! Mwa ha ha!

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