If you’re familiar with the online atheist superpower Atheist Republic, then you’ve probably heard of their book Why There Is No God, written by their founder Armin Navabi. I’ve had this book for a while, and I decided this weekend to finally read it and give my opinion here on my blog!
If you’re like me, then the first thing you noticed about this book is probably the cool cover design and the bold, catchy title. This book is exactly what it says it is: simple responses to twenty common arguments for the existence of God. As I always try to do, I’ll base my review of this book off of whether or not it achieves the goal that it sets for itself. Why There Is No God, according to Navabi, is written for atheists, believers, and on-the-edge skeptics. It is to meant to guide atheists through the basic points they may make in discussions, help believers better understand their opponents’ arguments, and act as a baseline for a skeptic just starting out in a quest for truth.
All in all, I think this book really accomplishes this. It’s laid out in twenty short chapters, each addressing a theistic argument, all over the course of 120 pages. Some of the arguments and topics include the arguments from design, cosmology, morality, scripture, personal experience, and the existence of miracles, prayer, logic, meaning, and martyrdom. Knowing quite well that the debate on the existence of a deity is massive and could probably fill a whole library, I think Navabi did a great job of introducing several major topics that, when delved into in detail, cover a lot of ground.
Content-wise, I’m tempted to compare this book to Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation and Julian Baggini’s Atheism: A Very Short Introduction. In my review of it, I admitted that I wasn’t crazy about Harris’s short book for reasons such as his accusatory tone and approach which tore down religion. (This is just my opinion, though; my husband recently read and enjoyed it, and I know it’s pretty popular among atheists.)
On the other hand, I didn’t get far through Baggini’s book after he defined atheism as a belief that one can have faith in and independently justify. The only other people I’ve seen who would claim that atheists have faith in No God are apologists, but never an atheist himself. That’s when I decided I was done with that.
So out of these three books, I would place Why There Is No God at the top. It was simple, straightforward, and not condescending, and it achieved the goal set out by the author at the beginning.
Looking past the actual content, though, I felt as though there was just something about this book and what exactly it is. The easiest way I can describe it is “self-published.” I don’t know if I could technically call it that, as the publisher is Atheist Republic, but Atheist Republic was founded by Armin Navabi, the author. I still consider it self-published, but that’s neither here nor there.
Having published their own book, Atheist Republic does a lot to promote it. It shares user photos, as you saw in the tweet above, and it’s advertised throughout their website and other social media pages. If you frequent their site, you’ve probably seen one or both of these photos of the book before:
The cover is true to what you really get, although I’ll admit that when I got this book in the mail, I was a bit surprised to see how small it was. Here’s a photo of my own book, in contrast to the mockups:
I just thought it was weird that the book itself wasn’t completely accurately depicted on the website. Furthermore, I felt a bit as though the book looked and read like a blog post on the inside, with a very large font that I sometimes found hard to read.
I honestly don’t know if things like this bother anybody except me, but as a graphic designer with a special fascination with typography, I found this really distracting as I tried to brush up on topics like Pascal’s Wager. In addition to the odd typesetting, the book was surprisingly full of other typographical and editing errors. I also found it strange that occasionally, the author wrapped up a topic by referring the reader to a website that redirects to an article on the Atheist Republic site (like whythereisnogod.com). This book was pretty short, and Navabi certainly could have fit these additional details in the book, at least in an appendix, if he wanted to.
Typesetting aside, I actually enjoyed and appreciated Why There Is No God quite a bit, more than I expected to, considering how I felt about my other two introductory atheist books. But it was a short and easy read, and at the end of the day, I would recommend this book for anyone that wants to know some quick responses to the basic arguments for God, or who is looking for a quick reference to keep on hand.