Religious belief is almost incomprehensible to those of us who do not believe. Guy Harrison has spent a lot of time talking to people around the world about their beliefs, and the reasons they give for those beliefs. The reasons are familiar: ‘our holy book says god exists’, ‘god answers my prayers’, ‘I need something bigger than myself to make sense of the world’, ‘morality derives from god’, and on and on.
Harrison is an atheist. He seems quite tolerant and understanding of religious belief, and thinks that atheists would do well to be less arrogant and condescending when talking to and about religious believers. Fair enough. He still manages to take it as given that skepticism is the correct approach, and suggests that simply asking hard questions of religious believers may be more effective than confronting them directly; perhaps some of the questions will stay in their minds for a while and make them actually think about the basis of their beliefs.
My own view is that religious belief is so irrational that there is almost no hope that an adult who ‘has faith’ will ever change. Religious belief seems impervious to reason. People who insist on evidence in every other part of their lives will leave reason at the door when it comes to their religion. Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe it’s cultural. Or, for some, maybe it’s pure cynicism, since it is hard for non-believers to gain social acceptance in fundamentalist societies such as America.
No matter. This is an interesting and useful book. If you are a religious believer I think you will be able to read it without your feelings being hurt. Or not. Whatever.