The good atheist: Melvin Konner and Belief. Atheists generally don’t write good books. Not because they are atheists, but because their goal is to convince others that belief in God is bad. Most well-known among them are the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” as they have been called: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. The title of Hitchens’ book is not subtle: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
The thing about atheists like this is not that they don’t believe in God; it’s that their disbelief becomes a crusade against religion as the source of most bad things. I don’t like team sports, and classical music doesn’t do much for me. But it would never occur to me that those who like, or even love these things shouldn’t do it, even if I think a lot of money is wasted on big sports. Atheism today has become synonymous with aggressive atheism: belief is bad.
This is why Melvin Konner’s recent book, Believers: Faith in Human Nature, is so welcome. Raised an orthodox Jew, Konner became an atheist at 17, the result of several factors, including a college course in philosophy. But Konner’s book is not an argument for atheism. It’s an argument for understanding what belief is, where it comes from, and what it does for the believer.