Book Review: Is Belief in God Good, Bad, Or Irrelevant? A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism, and Christianity edited by Preston Jones

Click here to get a really good idea of the value of this book., or read more to see what I have to say...

When reading this book, pay close attention to the introduction.  The “conversation” between Preston and Greg is not what we are used to reading, at least not in format.  In his introduction, what Preston says may happen to the reader is easy to fall into, and it ruins the intent of the book... 

The discussion is considered a starting point for more discussion, to be picked up by readers.  It is easy for me as an atheist to become frustrated with many of Preston’s validations as they do not have any solid validity in what I consider reality.  Preston points out in the intro that readers may find themselves saying, “Greg should have said...” or, “Preston could have used...”  I sympathize with people of any belief reading this book.  Most of us want a final, case-closing point to be made for our beliefs.  We want to finally burst each other’s bubbles and get everyone on the same page.  This book does not do that.  It isn’t even really a debate, instead it is a civil, friendly conversation.  I avoid saying it is an intelligent conversation, because Preston’s point of view still seems delusional to me.

But, given that this book can be considered by both believers and non-believers to have excellent points for their respective “sides,” it is valuable because it is unbiased.  A book which only points out how ridiculous and dangerous religion is would probably not be read by a great number of religious people.  A book which only points out the validity of religious beliefs is not likely to be read by a great number of atheists.  In both cases the strong points presented would be wasted and the books would essentially be “preaching to the choir.”  At least Preston and Greg’s conversation is more likely to be of interest and curiosity to both sides, which exposes the points of each side to those who wouldn’t normally come across them.

Beyond the book...

I have felt a sense of purpose, as if I am here to do something special.  Well, duh, I am not living up to my full potential!  It is no wonder I feel as if I am supposed to be doing more.  This has nothing to do with God’s plan, it is simply knowing that I could make a difference in this world of suffering if I applied myself.

I had a discussion with someone who genuinely felt sorrow that I did not believe in God.  This is the same sorrow that I feel for people I care about when I see them smoking cigarettes.  In light of all the “evidence,” this man can’t understand how I could possibly not believe.  In light of all the warnings, I can’t understand how anyone could continue to smoke.  The man knows that I, a person he likes, is going to suffer damnation.  I know that the smokers, the people I really care for, are going to suffer early, long, painful deaths.

I have never felt or seen the presence of God.  I have never felt or seen the influence of God.  Everything good about religion is entirely possible without religion.  Religion undeniably gets in the way of real-world solutions that could save millions from suffering and untimely deaths.  Religion has been the cause of countless barbaric acts of torture and murder.  I see the hypocrisy of the religious who cherry-pick what they want to follow because it is convenient to their lifestyles.  I can’t deny the evidence of our origins and our evolution, and I can’t believe something strictly on faith or intuition.  Not when the stakes are as important as the reality I face every day. 

If I am wrong and there is a god, and I will suffer eternal damnation because I didn’t believe, I think it would be my choice had I known anyway.  I have a hard time respecting a man, being, entity, or deity who, regardless of the exceedingly moral life I live, will take away the reward because I didn’t live that moral life under his name.  Someone who needs that kind of validation is flawed and weak.  When the person who lives an entire life of greed and wrongdoing can simply, at the end, ask for forgiveness and get the prize, I want no part of that system.  Even at risk to my eternal wellbeing.