Which Atheist Books Do I Recommend?

Having previously linked to some reasons why philosophical apologetics is not changing very many minds, especially the most sophisticated philosophy that every serious philosophical apologist loves to recommend, because it says that they understand it! Congrats to you!! A lot of it is obtuse and obfuscationist though. As it's practiced today, it isn't that helpful if one wants to change minds. After all, the more sophisticated that philosophy is, the more sophisticated the reader is. At that level it doesn't change the minds of sophisticated readers because they are already entrenched in what they think. It also has a way of being turned around as a pat on the back! Just see how William Lane Craig responds to a very detailed and knowledgeable question about philosophical apologetics at his website, Reasonable Faith. Craig wrote:
I include your question here for the instruction and encouragement of our Reasonable Faith readers. You have masterfully surveyed for us the current philosophical landscape with respect to atheism. You give our readers a good idea of who the principal players are today.

I hope that theists, especially Christian theists, who read your account will come away encouraged by the way Christian philosophers are being taken seriously by their secular colleagues today.

The average man in the street may get the impression from social media that Christians are intellectual losers who are not taken seriously by secular thinkers. Your letter explodes that stereotype. It shows that Christians are ready and able to compete with their secular colleagues on the academic playing field.
To see this you need to read my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. This is the first book I'm recommending, with others to follow below. If nothing else, consider the recommendation of atheist philosopher Nick Trakakis, co-editor with Graham Oppy of several important philosophy of religion books, and the author of his own book on The End of Philosophy of Religion, plus The God Beyond Belief: In Defense of William Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil. He even wrote a chapter in my book, God and Horrendous Suffering. He said this of my book Unapologetic:
I am in wholehearted agreement with you. I actually find it very sad to see a discipline (the philosophy of religion) I have cherished for many years being debased and distorted by so-called Christian philosophers. Like you, I have now finally and happily found my place in the atheist community. I’m slowly making my way through your "Unapologetic book", it’s quite fascinating, loving the Nietzschean hammer style.
In Unapologetic I'm taking up the late great Dr. Hector Avalos's call to end biblical studies as we know them, in a book he wrote that I highly recommend, just as I recommend all of his works! You can read though excerpts of his book here. I am making that same call when it comes to the philosophy of religion. Hector approved of it, telling me (per email):
My proposal is "to end biblical studies as we know it" (The End of Biblical Studies, p. 15), which means in its current religionist and apologetic orientation. So I am for ending the philosophy of religion if its only mission is to defend religion and theism. So, akin to my vision of the end of biblical studies, I would say that the only mission of the philosophy of religion is to end the philosophy of religion as we know it.
He also wrote this blurb for it:
Unapologetic is probably my favorite monograph by John Loftus. It deserves a gold medal for undertaking the Olympian task of explaining in clear and accessible prose why the area known as Philosophy of Religion should be ejected from modern academia and our intellectual life. Pretending that we have good arguments for God is about as useless as pretending we have good arguments for Zeus.
Here is a link of excerpts to Unapologetic, and more. [Skip the first post as you're reading it now]. Since I'm calling for ending the philosophy of religion as we know it, you should know that even a few top philosophical apologists reject the force of traditional arguments to the existence of God. Since that's true, why shouldn't we do the same?

It's even worse when we consider what some atheists say, like Seth Andrews above. Massimo Pigliucci, a professor of philosophy at City College of New York, who holds Ph.D.s in both biology and philosophy, tweeted: “I’m sorry but I can’t any longer take seriously any essay or paper that itself takes talk of god seriously. It’s simply a non starter” [March 28, 2023]. In response, “The Real Atheology Podcast” tweeted “given the serious work done by many Theistic philosophers, I have to disagree with your comments here.” Pigliucci responded: “I don’t consider any theologian to be ‘serious.’ They may be, and often are, analytically rigorous. But so is the concept of p-zombies. And yet I think it’s a waste of time.” Pigliucci again tweeted: “Consider, for instance, the Medieval Scholastics. They were rigorous and did a lot of work. But it was, as David Hume famously put it, only a bunch of sophistry and illusions. Why? Because it was based on indefensible assumptions and lack of empirical evidence” [March 30, 2023].

For a few years Keith Parsons called it quits regarding the philosophy of religion, saying:
Over the past ten years I have published, in one venue or another, about twenty things on the philosophy of religion. I have a book on the subject, God and Burden of Proof, and another criticizing Christian apologetics, Why I am not a Christian. During my academic career I have debated William Lane Craig twice and creationists twice. I have written one master’s thesis and one doctoral dissertation in the philosophy of religion, and I have taught courses on the subject numerous times. But no more. I’ve had it.

I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory. BTW, in saying that I now consider the case for theism to be a fraud, I do not mean to charge that the people making that case are frauds who aim to fool us with claims they know to be empty. No, theistic philosophers and apologists are almost painfully earnest and honest; I don’t think there is a Bernie Madoff in the bunch. I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it. I’ve turned the philosophy of religion courses over to a colleague. LINK.

While I'm at it, I recommend anything David Madison writes for very good reasons. He maintains the largest and most extensive list of atheist books I know [Scroll down]. Any of them is better than than a given apologetics book, if for no other reason than that they are right! Unfortunately, given the number of these books, many of which I have not read, I'm sure I'm overlooking some really powerful books in my recommended list.

Nearly every sophisticated philosopher and apologist looks down their noses on the so-called New Atheists. I don't. So far I have defended Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Recently over at The Secular Frontier website, Bradley Bowen has done an excellent job of showing why sophisticated philosophers and apologists think Dawkins's book is a failure. But scroll down to read my response in the comments under his take down.

William Patterson has also defended Dawkins's book! His paper was published in the Journal of Liberal Religion. He introduces his three main points by saying:
In the previous issue of this journal Jason Giannetti launched a vigorous attack against Richard Dawkins‟s best-selling book "The God Delusion." Giannetti assailed Dawkins on three primary grounds: his understanding and definition of God, his understanding of truth, and his interpretation of religious morality. In response, I will address each of these three areas in turn and demonstrate how Giannetti's critiques of Dawkins fail. [PDF].
I don't have much expertise in online YouTube content creators, and I must exclude select papers in the journals, and other websites and blog posts other than mine, since there are so very many of them to choose from. I'm simply recommending the best books of what I know, and it's only as good as my knowledge as an author myself. Some of these books led me away from the Christian faith. I'm recommending just a few important ones that have the potential to change the minds of college students and educated people in the pulpit or pews, even though this can be a very difficult and largely fruitless goal.

To begin with I recommend all thirteen books of mine and the authors in them, especially Why I Became an Atheist, The Christian Delusion, Christianity is not Great, The Outsider Test for Faith, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist, Christianity in the Light of Science, The Case against Miracles, and God and Horrendous Suffering, although it surely is self-serving to do so! All of the chapters I wrote in my books reference many other books for further research. There were so many of them mentioned in my magnum opus, Why I Became an Atheist, that I offered a "recommended" bibliography, not an complete one. It might've added 30-40  pages more to an already massive book. Besides, even if I didn't write anything in my anthologies I would still highly recommend those books. If nothing else, I was able to get the best of the best atheist and agnostic scholars to write chapters for my anthologies. [What's the real difference between them when it comes to rejecting revealed religions? Nothing!] I highly recommend these authors and their books, even though I'm not going to recommend them separately below. Those books are awesome, even if you don't read a word I wrote in them. I've written several posts that describe these thirteen books, where I offer some excerpts, and share the blurbs of readers who recommend them, most of which received high praise from Christian scholars, which is very rare. See for yourselves.

Skepticism, Epistemology and Logic:

If you think the books on miracles by apologist Craig Keener are good ones, then you need to read David Hand's important book, The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day. Keener cannot respond to his book and others, so I don't expect him to try.

Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn, How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age

Peter Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists. See my defense of it here, and in the tag below it. If understood properly you can see how brilliant his core argument really is.

Boghossian's book stands squarely in agreement with George H. Smith's previous book, which I recommend titled:  "Atheism: The Case Against God", for which see my defense of it.

Michael Shermer, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths, and also, Why People Believe Weird Things.

Philosophical Critiques:

For the record I'm not against the philosophy of religion, per se, just as Hector Avalos didn't abandon biblical studies. That's just one of several confusions of my book Unapologetic.

On arguments against God's existence read Nicolas Everitt’s book, The Non-existence of God.

I recommend Michael Martin’s books, Atheism: A Justification, and The Improbability of God.

I recommend Graham Oppy's books, especially "Arguing About Gods," who doesn't?

I recommend J.I. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism, who doesn't?

William L. Vanderburgh, "David Hume on Miracles, Evidence, and Probability" which I wrote about here.

Scientific Critiques

Carl Sagan's book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution Is True" and Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible.

Victor Stenger's, "God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion," and "The Fallacy of Fine Tuning."

Richard Dawkins, "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution".

Matt Young, and Tanner Edis, "Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism".

Lawrence Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.

John C. Wathey, The Illusion of God's Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing.

Israel Finklestein, & Neil Asher Silberman, "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts."

On God, Goodness, and Morality

Anything by Phil Zuckerman. Books like "Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion," "Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions", "Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment," "What It Means to Be Moral: Why Religion Is Not Necessary for Living an Ethical Life."

Greg Epstein, "Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe".

Michael Werner, "What Can You Believe If You Don't Believe in God?"

Dan Barker, "God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction."

Michael Shermer, "The Moral Arc: How Science Makes Us Better People" and "The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule."

Biblical Criticism:

Richard Friedman, "Who Wrote the Bible?"

Robert J. Miller, "Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy".

Thomas Paine, "The Age of Reason".

Francesca Stavrakopoulou, "God: An Anatomy".

Almost anything from Richard Carrier, especially his book, "On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt."

Thom Stark's book, "The Human Faces of God." While it appears as if he's arguing just against the Christian doctrine of inerrancy (and does a superb job of it), he's doing far more than that. He argues there are not only "scientific and historical problems" in the Bible, but also that there are "moral, ethical, theological, and ideological problems" with it (p. 208). He goes into some detail on a few of the issues found in my books, mostly in the Old Testament.

Bart D. Ehrman's book, "Jesus Interrupted." This is my favorite Ehrman book where he argues that the New Testament is a human, not divine book.

Randel Helms, "Gospel Fictions", and "The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself".

Paul Tobin's magnum opus, "The Rejection of Pascal's Wager: A Skeptic's Guide to the Bible and the Historical Jesus." He might be surprised his book is on this list but it's deserved. This is a massive book. It will help deprogram you out of some things about the Bible and Jesus you previously believed.

G.A. Wells, "Cutting Jesus Down to Size: What Higher Criticism Has Achieved and Where It Leaves Christianity".

Books on the Virgin Birth of an Incarnate Baby god:

Robert J. Miller, Born Divine: The Births of Jesus and Other Sons of God.

Jonathan M S Pearce, The Nativity: A Critical Examination.

On the Resurrection:

Matthew McCormick's book, "Atheism and the Case against Christ".

Michael Alter, "The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry". This is a massive book that changed the mind of Christian apologist Vincent Torley!

Jonathan M S Pearce, The Resurrection: A Critical Examination of the Easter Story.

Robert M. Price & Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds. "The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave."

Kris Komarnitsky, "Doubting Jesus' Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box?"

Anthropology of Religion:

Anything by David Eller, especially Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker.

Counter Apologetic Books in General:

Robert Price, "The Case Against The Case For Christ: A New Testament Scholar Refutes the Reverend Lee Strobel."

Uta Ranke-Heinemann, "Putting Away Childish Things: The Virgin Birth, the Empty Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You Don't Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith."

Robin Lane Fox, "The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible."

I know I'm missing some that I just forgot to mention and should be included, so I invite other suggestions.

Lastly, I may put out a book of papers I've begun publishing at Internet Infidels. I have some more papers to write. If I get them done you can consider this another book I'm recommending. LINK. No promises.


John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 13 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against Miracles, God and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon. As an Amazon Associate John earns a small amount of money from any purchases made there. Buying anything through them helps fund the work here, and is greatly appreciated!