REVIEW: Andy Bannister “The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist”

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At first glance, you might question the logic of releasing a book like this at a time when many of the world’s best-known atheists have shifted their focus away from Christianity. But when you consider that Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), the institution for which Andy works, is all about Christian apologetics, it makes more sense. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist doesn’t bill itself as any kind of ‘killer’ of atheism, but it could definitely change the way this kind of debate is done in future if more people were to read it. The book homes in on eleven popular arguments against theism made famous by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens, and after seeing these arguments trotted out so many times in theist-atheist exchanges, it was refreshing to see them challenged like this.

While Andy isn’t one to outright bash those with whom he disagrees, he’s also not afraid to joke about them and their arguments quite frequently. Each chapter opens with a witty fictional anecdote to outline the argument at hand, before explaining what’s wrong with it. You can tell from the chapter titles like “The Lunatic in the Louvre” and “The Peculiar Case of the Postmodern Penguin” that this book doesn’t take itself too seriously, but if I had one critique to make, it would be that the humour can sometimes feel a little bit overwhelming when it’s constantly being used (it really does give the phrase ‘laugh-a-minute’ a whole new meaning). That said, the points it’s used to make are pretty hard to argue with overall.

Ultimately, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist is a light-hearted text with a serious intention: to help readers to better recognise bad arguments when they see them, and know how to respond to them. Andy doesn’t expect that every atheist who picks up his book will necessarily change their views by the time they put it down, but his hope is that there will one day be “a reasonable dialogue between those who believe in God, and those who have questions or doubts”. And if this book gets the recognition I feel it deserves, that could well end up happening.

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