Book Title: "50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a god" by Guy P. Harrison

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Title 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a god
Author(s) Guy P. Harrison (www.guypharrison.com)
Description Many books that challenge religious beliefs from skeptical point of view take a combative tone that is almost guaranteed to alienate believers, or they present complex philosophical or scientific arguments that fail to reach the average reader. Guy P. Harrison argues that this is an ineffective way of trying to encourage people to develop critical thinking about religion. He concisely presents fifty commonly heard reasons people give for believing in a god and raises legitimate questions regarding these reasons, showing there is much room for doubt.

From religion as the foundation of morality to the authority of sacred books, the compelling religious testimony of influential people, near-death experiences, theories from intelligent design, and much more, Harrison respectfully describes each rationale for belief and politely shows the deficiencies any good skeptic would point out. He also offers something in return—a hopeful and optimistic view of science, the universe, and humanity without the divisiveness, prejudice, and hatred caused by conflicting religious doctrines.

Drawing on his experiences as a nonbeliever and his extensive travels around the world, Harrison makes poignant arguments that are sure to inspire thought-provoking discussions. Whether you're a believer, a complete skeptic, or somewhere in between, you'll find his review of traditional and more recent arguments for the existence of gods refreshing, approachable, and enlightening.
Dedication "For Natasha, Jared, and Marissa. May your minds be curious and free forever."
ISBN 978-1-59102-567-2 (ebook: 978-1-61592-004-4)
Book Dimensions Width: 6.0″ (6 1/16″)
Height: 9.0″
Depth: 0.81″ (13/16″)
Page Count 356
Contents Acknowledgements, Introduction, fifty (50) chapters
Book Design Nicole Sommer-Lecht
Author Photograph --
Published April 30, 2008
Publisher Prometheus Books (www.prometheusbooks.com)
Copyright © 2008 by Guy P. Harrison
Printed in United States of America on acid-free paper
Book Format Paperback, Kindle
Quoted Reviews "Guy P. Harrison has written a persuasive and frequently humorous book about an important topic. . . . This thoughtful work should be read by religious practitioners, political leaders, and the general public and should be taught as a foundation for explaining the role of religion in society. I recommend it heartily." — Nick Wynne, PhD, Executive Director of the Florida Historical Society

"Deep wisdom and patient explanations fill this excellent book. The author—a journalist with worldwide experience and thorough scientific knowledge—doesn't ridicule supernatural beliefs. He seems fond of believers. But he quietly employs logic to show that invisible gods, devils, heavens, hells, miracles, and the like belong in the superstitious pasts and cannot be taken seriously by educated modern people." — James A. Haught, Author of 'Honest Doubt, 2,000 Years of Disbelief, Holy Horrors, and Holy Hatred,' and editor of West Virginia's largest newspaper, the 'Charleston Gazette'

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but now Guy Harrison has given us 50 ways to believe in God, or not if you care to read this engaging and enlightening book in light of what it says about the cultural and psychological power of belief. If the number one predictor of which God someone believes in is what culture and time period they happened to have been born in, what does that say about the actual existence (or not) of a deity? Read this book to explore the many and diverse reasons for belief." — Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of 'Why Darwin Matters'

"Guy P. Harrison does a splendid job of critically examining the many reasons people offer in support of their religious beliefs. He shares the exhilaration of moving beyond religion, but Harrison doesn't bully or condescend. Rather, he approaches the reader gently. Reading Harrison's book is like having an amiable chat with a wise old friend." — Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan, Authors of 'The Top 10 Myths about Evolution'

"Religion is as universal as language, which hints at a biological basis. Why did our ancestors evolve an attraction to the supernatural? The fundamental question is not whether this attraction is rational or not—which is the subject of a dozen recent provocative books—but what exactly faith delivers to those who possess it. The present book treats this question respectfully, listening to the answer of the believers themselves, which seems an excellent place to start." — Frans de Waal, Leading primatologist, author of 'Our Inner Ape'
Best Seller's List --
Other Guy P. Harrison is a graduate of the University of South Florida with degrees in history and anthropology. He currently lives in the Cayman Islands, where he is a columnist and travel writer for a national newspaper. He has won several international awards for his writing and photography.
Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
1. Faith—Miscellanea.
I. Title.
II. Title: Fifty reasons people give for believing in a god
CIP Number ???
LC Control Number 2007051814
LC Call Number BL626.3.H37  2008
DDC Call Number 212—dc22


PICTURES

50 Reasons People Give For Believing in a god by Guy P. Harrison


Book Review (Posted on 05-02-2013)

Well well well, if it isn't a book on another 50 beliefs, uttered by folks who think they've got it made. This time, however, it's not popular beliefs; it's reasons people give why they believe in a god or gods. Some already are thinking there couldn't possibly be that much reasons, since the main reason to believe is, well, because it's true. Author Harrison busts that barrier up very well in this book.

I must say, writing a book about religious beliefs is a bit rough. Harrison, like his other 50 Beliefs book, is written in a friendly manner. Only this time, he's brought about it in a way to get one to reevaluate why folks hold their beliefs so strong to this day and what benefits and pitfalls one may have along the way. And it's not just those practicing Christianity, but also those who practice Judaism, Islam and Hinduism to name a few. Similar to the ones stated from Harrison's other book, I'm certain there are a few of these reasons you've likely never heard of before (as did I). No matter what, people feel the need to grasp on something to back their claims as if they're being cornered and held hostage with their illusion that some supernatural god is watching over them, where in reality, there isn't.

The book contains, of course, fifty chapters titled using the real reasons people have given on why it's "right" to believe in a god. Harrison, using fallacious logic, breaks down each belief/reason often coming to a halt with a loaded question. Again, all this is written in a friendly, conversational way and not in an aggressive, "see-you're-dumb-for-thinking-that-way" kind of deal (though other atheists and atheist authors/writers have been known to speak that way, but that doesn't mean that atheists, in general, are pricks). Everything from Better Safe Than Sorry to Anything is better than being an atheist, and from heart-wrenching statistics of those who innocently died because of refusal to believe to ancient gods that "existed" before our time, should be more than enough to bring one to a grinding stop. Let's face it: religion kills people.

Another fascinating mention by Harrison was the yearn for doomsday by most believers. I understand our Earth won't last forever, and if it did, our Sun would burn out eventually anyway; it's reality. However, the fact that believers drool over the phenomenon that the long-awaited comet will finally strike us really lowered my opinion about these people (and I regret thinking that way before as well). The author couldn't have said it better: having an unproven spec of evidence that there's a place called Heaven, has made people longing for death than appreciating life. After all, death isn't a bad thing, especially when you're young, at least you'll be "somewhere." Harrison calls out on this bringing the reader to dissipate this form of thinking. I mean, to those who've never lived past their teenage years, those poor kids who died from a mentally-ill psycho at an elementary school in Connecticut never having the chance to live during adulthood, and those innocent folks running at the Boston Marathon: how will they feel knowing that they may or may not see light at the end of tunnel? If nothing happens after death, what does that tell us? Where can the line knowing that the god(s) that tell us to kill others needed to be drawn in order to stop this? Sure, there are some rotten apples that ruin it for everyone and conflict is here to stay, but where's the appreciative aim of human life? Are we too ashamed to admit such a deal? Unanswered questions like these are reasons why some murderers, when asked, make the case that "God told me to kill him/her/them." Even Harrison mentions that parents wouldn't want their child to marry an atheist, right up there with African Americans. Even more, the least religious countries are the happiest, while the most religious countries are the most miserable. Any more to be said?

The last chapter, titled I'm afraid of not believing, is a great closing chapter. After all you've learned, you're likely thinking that with a myriad of statistics, history, personal experiences and some science thrown in to debunk the reasons for believing, you're left with fear. The author made a bold mention: you're, by definition, born an atheist. You don't start believing until the time your family gets you to believe, thus becoming a believer. Since belief has ties with family, not believing will certainly ruin these family relationships, romantic companionships and friendships all around. The moment you wrap your thoughts about the things the author has provided very well, you'll gradually realize that tomorrow is just another day; you are still you. Other than that, the main difference is not carrying the burden of 'someone' watching you, living in such a way that impresses an invisible being that never existed. You do what you want because this is the only shot at life that we have. However, having to stop believing doesn't mean you turn against your family/friends.

Some of you are thinking, "well, that's easy for you to say Kris, but you never know you could be wrong." I've mention this before, if I haven't already: religion, mainly Catholicism to which I converted to, never made sense to me when I was as young as 8. I'd ask myself why did I have to practice this religion (I personally was an atheist until I reached the third grade). Suddenly, our private [Catholic] school forced nearly all of us to convert to Catholicism. If we don't, the school expels us; I'm dead serious. From then on up until about my first year of college, I'd always pray and consult the Bible in times of trouble. Suddenly, after tripping over a cinder block, I began to question everything, given my extreme interest in science—mainly astronomy, geology, cosmology and math/physics. Taken in with a bunch of evidence, theories, proof and open questions, there was no way I'd have a reason to continue believing in god. I still did but things became less and less evident. I tried everything but alas, nothing came up. No one answered me but the few kind-hearted adults and only myself. When my skepticism arose, preferably about the lack of purity in pro sports, I knew something didn't seem right. All that time wasted praying hard every night, calling the heavens for guidance and luckily getting good advice from the Bible, wasn't helping at all. Does that mean god hates me? No, and if he did, I wouldn't have this opportunity to live, right? Then you get this from the pessimistic: "we're all screwed." Then that would mean life isn't worth living is it? A baby born is automatically condemned without him/her even thinking about it is what that phrase is trying to say. If we're all screwed, then praying, converting, refusing to eat meat on Fridays and doing whatever it is god wants us to do isn't going help. Ever.

One more thing: Harrison hilariously mentioned about having his own TV show to bring about the message of atheism, compared to the show he witnessed on some Christian TV channel who brought about the message of god. As funny as that was, I actually wouldn't mind helping out making that happen. So Harrison, if you're reading this and you would like to bring that atheistic TV show to life, I'd love to help out!

Being such a rough subject to discuss, I applaud Harrison for the gentle, yet also humorous, writing in this book. For the open-minded, it will truly help one's thinking and begin their search for true happiness; much of that, not requiring a god to do so. Embrace your humanity and embrace life. As a matter of fact, we humans rule the world! Take it for what it is, and don't let a nonexistent Hell threaten you to live your life. It's also a fun ride learning Harrison's travels as well, like his trip to Africa and climbing the mountains despite his legs being hogged by leeches and museums, and how all this, despite the ups and downs during his travels, helped him find his way through without calling up in the sky for help. He also spoke about visiting Jerusalem and a Jewish man welcomed him in...until he left Harrison alone after the old man realized he isn't Jewish. That's just sad.

The only thing I wished this book had was an index. Other than that, I learned quite a chunk, especially about gods that are seldom talked about. At the end of each chapter is provided with sources to extend your reading/learning. The mention of violence, child rape and mass murders in the Bible and Koran, and learning that Adolf Hitler and his henchmen were believers—yes, they were Christians—marching and wearing a belt saying "God Is With Us" in German, should really weaken a lot of bones. Ask the dudes who set the plot to bomb Boston. According to Yahoo!, "religion made them do it." If religion propels us to kill people, and it does, shouldn't we stop practicing it? This is a tough question to ask considering that I'm a citizen of one of the most religious countries in the world (United States - North America). Having been unconvinced about the lack of existence of god(s) has gotten me in warm waters among fellow acquaintances. And that water is beginning to boil up. Like I said, that's sad, just sad.

I completely recommend this book for those under serious question about religion, despite what happened in Boston and many other tragedies fueled by religion, and for those who need a spark of reality and what religion is/was made to do. Also as many are sensitive to the subject of religious belief, I suggest you approach this gently and welcome in the questions Harrison asks [you] the believers. This book is NOT intended to convert you but to bring about questions to get one to re-analyze why they continue to believe.

Like Harrison's other book, I'm ending this with great statements that can be used as quotes. Use them wisely.

"Faith sounds a lot like cheating. It's jumping ahead to the conclusion before you have a right to, before it has been earned by discovery and thinking. Maybe gods really do exist, but shouldn't we wait until we discover convincing evidence before we say we know?" (Ch.3 "Faith is a good thing", Harrison, p.31)

"Faith cannot be argued away if a believer will not first consider its underlying weakness." (Ch.3 "Faith is a good thing", Harrison, p.35)

"Believers might consider the possibility that every minute spent thinking about and talking to gods up in the sky is a minute wasted down here." (Ch.5 "Only my god can make me feel significant", Harrison, p.47)

"When someone goes down the path of belief they risk picking up a lot more than a god along the way." (Ch.7 "Evolution is bad", Harrison, p.59)

"This charge by believers that understanding and accepting evolution incites immorality, crime, or anarchy is nonsensical." (Ch.7 "Evolution is bad", Harrison, p.60)

"What immediately stands out about his ranking [top ten happiest nations on earth] is that the happiest country in the world [Denmark] is also one of the least religious countries in the world." (Ch.10 "Believing in my god makes me happy", Harrison, p.80)

"If we are lucky, we get about three billion heartbeats and then we are gone. Time is not something we should squander. Time spent carrying on one-way conversations with gods who may not exist is time that might be spent with family, writing letters to friends, exercising, and doing positive things for society. The fewer distractions we have in our lives the more we can get done." (Ch.11 "Better safe than sorry", Harrison, p.86-87)

"Those who say they could not live in a world without their god's perfect justice might consider the fact that they already are living in a world without perfect justice. If there is some kind of divine justice at work here on this planet, then it must be very different from the human concept of justice. Look around; life is not fair. What could be more obvious?" (Ch.13 "Divine justice proves my god is real", Harrison, p.102)

"If stories of faith healings prove that a particular god is real, then it means many other gods must be real too because numerous gods have been credited with miraculous healings since the beginnings of civilization." (Ch.16 "My god heals sick people", Harrison, p.127)

"Over the last few thousand years religion has directly motivated far more hatred and violence than atheism." (Ch.17 "Anything is better than being an atheist", Harrison, p.132)

"I think believers sometimes mistakenly feel that they are backed into a corner when their claims are challenged. They see their choice as either stubbornly clinging to the claim that it really does come from a god or admitting that they are fools." (Ch.28 "My god makes me feel I am part of something big", Harrison, p.210-211)

"People who are confident that they belong to the one belief system that is superior to all others must ask themselves how it is that they know this. Most likely, it is a conviction that depends upon a lack of knowledge about other religions. Sensible believers who consider this are likely to realize that they must look elsewhere to justify their belief. A declaration of religious superiority is nothing more than evidence of ignorance." (Ch.29 "My religion makes more sense than all the others", Harrison, p.219-220)

"Sometimes I think believers are under the impression that skepticism and critical thinking are contagious." (Ch.33 "Miracles prove my god is real", Harrison, p.236)

"At best, we might call religion a complex part of human culture that includes the potential for both good and bad. It is beautiful and hideous. Those who insist on denying that religion is often repulsive are dishonest." (Ch.34 "Religion is beautiful", Harrison, p.245)

"Hatred. Settlements. Intifada. Walls. Tanks. Suicide bombers. Children throwing rocks. Segregation. Prejudice. Babies dying. And all the while, both sides point to the God of Abraham to justify their actions. God is love? Through the eyes of a nonbeliever, all of this bears a remarkable resemblance to insanity." (Ch.36 "Ancient prophecies prove my god exists", Harrison, p.255)

"Anyone with a clear head and a good heart can see that hating Jews because they are Jews is immoral. But how many people also admit that it is wrong for some Jews to isolate themselves from the rest of humankind in the name of loyalty to a god?" (Ch.36 "Ancient prophecies prove my god exists", Harrison, p.257)

"A religion can bring some people together, but with a tragically high price. Each religion builds its base by pulling people away from the rest of humankind. Striving to create airtight subsets of our species is not productive or safe in the long run. Coming together as a species and recognizing our own future is probably the most important step we will—or will not—make this century. We have very serious challenges confronting us. Environmental problems are intensifying. Severe water shortages are projected for the Middle East. The ability of nations and small groups of people to make or obtain weapons of mass destruction is going to keep rising. The crisis of extreme poverty in the developing world still has not been solved. We need real unity, not the kind of shortsighted, limited and corrosive unity that religions generate. We need a unity that is based on the reality of who we really are: one people sharing one planet. In the light of that truth, religions seem no better than false walls standing before progress, prosperity, and peace." (Ch.39 "Religion brings people together", Harrison, p.279)

"Any believer who claims that religion is necessary for a nations' social well-being needs to explain why nearly every measure of social well-being point to exactly the opposite conclusion. Why do the most religious societies have the most problems? Why do societies with the highest ratios of atheists have the least problems? This is a very important question that believers are obligated to think about if not answer." (Ch.42 "Society would fall apart without religion", Harrison, p.300)

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