John Blanchard’s book Does God Believe in Atheists is a large book and although much of it focuses on atheism it is not only about atheism. Blanchard focuses on quite a few other religions, cults, and philosophers too which one would not expect to pop up in a book with such a title (religions like Taoism, Sikhism for example). However, I found much of it to be very informative, at least in an introductory sense to many philosophies and religions.
Blanchard introduces the reader to many significant ancients who have some connection to our contemporary western, especially atheistic, views about the world. Here he focuses on the “three Greek giants” Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato and likewise looks at the philosophical developments on the part of the atomists (Democritus and Epicurus), and the skeptics. The history connection is quite extensive ranging from the roots of materialism, secular humanism, and the rest where he traces the development of atheistic and agnostic thinking from the “Golden Age” of Greek philosophy. We are also introduced to the familiar names of Sigmund Freud and Bertrand Russell dubbed as “the dogmatists” and some of their atheistic views. Blanchard does a fair job of answering Freud’s claim that belief in God is wishful thinking in face of existential despair.
Blanchard also focuses on many of the traditional arguments forwarded by atheists and I here think he does quite a good job. He outlines many of the arguments in chapter 22 “The Case Against God” where I found him to be quite genuine. He doesn’t beat about the bush, so to speak. He introduces arguments from evil and suffering in the world (holocaust, the Dunblane massacre), natural disasters (the earthquake in China’s Kansu province, Pompeii’s volcano disaster, tidal waves etc.), and the many human tragedies (the titanic, Chernobyl, Aberfan). These powerful challenges Blanchard answers in the subsequent chapter “The Case Against the Case Against God.” However, I never sensed any hostility in Blanchard’s responses to these arguments or to those who make them. He composes himself well and answers with respect. Regarding the actual content of his answers readers will need to come to their own conclusions.
Elsewhere sprinkled throughout the book are answers to other common arguments such as, for example, the argument from the incomprehensible size of the universe, religion being a mere figment of man’s imagination & wishful thinking, religion being responsible for evil, all mankind’s inventions of false gods etc. Though nicely answered the only issue here is that I found the answers to these common challenges hidden in larger bodies of writing so one has to keep an eye out for them. Also, Blanchard focuses on evolution and argues against it in a dedicated chapter. Although not all Christians will agree with his position many readers will be able to access his side of the argument in an easy-to-read way. Subsequently Blanchard focuses on the alleged conflicts between science and belief (he notes the Galilei Galileo controversy) and argues that no conflict actually exists.
Towards the end of the book, and having proceeded through the content his book intended to focus on, Blanchard introduces reasons for belief in Christianity, the Bible and Jesus. However, this section I found to be rather incomplete especially in comparison to the rest of his book. For example, he goes through all of this in a mere 40 or so pages of ebook length (which is normally shorter than standard book pages). Jesus’ resurrection is treated in less than 10 or so pages which can hardly do it any justice. Little interaction with alternative theories to the supernatural resurrection is considered, although he does briefly touch on the hallucination hypothesis. The information Blanchard presents, in my opinion, is not wrong, rather it is just an inadequate treatment of the general critiques forwarded against the resurrection which is the very core of the argument he wants to make.
Blanchard’s book is certainly a worthwhile read. It is indeed large and thick with information and thus will require much time to go through. Personally, though I believe certain content was lacking, I found it to be uniquely helpful in ways that other books haven’t been. In the end Does God Believe in Atheists? is not a book that focuses solely on contemporary atheistic claims that are so prevalent today (for more of that kind of a book one would do well to interact with Lennox’s Gunning for God, or Williams’ A Sceptics Guide to Atheism) but instead puts them into perspective in relation to the larger framework of the atheism-theism debate. Blanchard’s book is worth your time and money.