In recent years atheism has become ever more visible, acceptable, and influential. Atheist apologists have become increasingly vociferous and confident in their claims: that a morality requiring benevolence towards all and universal human rights need not be grounded in religion; that modern science disproves the existence of God; and that there is nothing innately religious about human beings.
In Atheist Overreach, Christian Smith takes a look at the evidence and arguments, and explains why we ought to be skeptical of these atheists' claims about morality, science, and human nature. He does not argue that atheism is necessarily wrong, but rather that its advocates are advancing crucial claims that are neither rationally defensible nor realistic. Their committed worldview feeds unhelpful arguments and contributes to the increasing polarization of today's political landscape. Everyone involved in the theism-atheism debates, in shared moral reflection, and in the public consumption of the findings of science should be committed to careful reasoning and rigorous criticism. This book provides readers with the information they need to participate more knowledgably in debates about atheism and what it means for our society.
Smith (The Bible Made Impossible), a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, highlights major flaws in atheist arguments in this incisive collection of essays. He begins by tackling atheism's potential lack of ethical power in two essays. Atheists can be decent individuals, he argues, but atheism does not provide any persuasive reasons to deny self-interest. He specifically targets the naturalism of atheism as a hindrance for supporting universal human rights, as bare evolution would only encourage concern with those closest to an individual (such as family or clan). His third essay lambasts scientists for too eagerly slipping into theological arguments against belief in God, suggesting that scientists ought to be more honest about the limits of their knowledge and methods. In the final essay, he argues that humans are not inevitably religious but have easily activated innate capacities and inclinations to believe in powers beyond themselves. This counters some atheists' claims that religion can wither and die with sufficient rational education. Smith's powerful arguments never collapse into apologetics or defense of theism, but instead offer crucial weak spots for atheists to consider. These thoughtful essays and their refreshingly balanced approach will appeal to a general audience searching for clarity and precision in considering the shortcomings of atheist debates.