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The Swedish Atheist, The Scuba Diver and Other Apologetics Rabbit Trails – Randal Rauser

Oh boy…It’s been a long semester. But I’ve had the chance to read a new book that I want to throw your way. And with it comes my new rating scale:

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars!

Level of Difficulty: Basic (non-technical, though intelligent)

Enjoyment Level: Oh yes!Swedish Atheist

Randall Rauser’s (Finding God in the Shack, Theology in Search of Foundations) new book The Swedish Atheist, The Scuba Diver and Other Apologetics Rabbit Trails is unique for more than its interesting and curious name. The style and the content are equally captivating and reflect their own unique approach and make for a useful addition to the apologetics world (something which I do not always say). Unlike other apologetics works written in a somewhat distant and abstract style, Rauser’s book is a conversation. I mean that literally. The whole book is a conversation between him, an atheist named Sheridan, and you–whom he ironically names “Reader.” The book takes place in a coffee shop and the imagery cast throughout the book allows one to enter into the conversation in an imaginative way. Of course, the danger in this is that the conversation seems doctored. One could easily drive the conversation forward, ignoring legitimate objections and, thereby, making poor thinking come across as sound thinking. This was, to be honest, a worry of mine. But Rauser does not allow this to happen most of the time and the conversation reflects his own philosophical training, an honest approach towards questions (“Sheridan challenged me several times. More than once I don’t think I had the best answers for his questions” [226]), and comfortability and knowledge with atheist objections. One quickly recognizes that Rauser knows his Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens, and Harris.

The book is not a pat on the back to any particular perspective and its likely that readers will find themselves adamantly disagreeing with Rauser on one point or another. This seems encouraged and, like it or not, Rauser does not envisage his character converting to Christianity by the end. One is allowed to disagree and pursue the conversation further than the pages of the book. For example, Rauser suggests that the Conquest was a reflection of the human voice in the Bible. This will, no doubt, offend many readers who feel the insistence to find a moral roundabout for the event. I must admit that independently of Rauser my view is strikingly similar.

Rauser pursues other questions, mostly in the philosophical realm. Hell, justice, free will, naturalism, morality, miracles, etc. These are excellent questions which many apolgetics books tend to leave out–but they are the sorts of questions that tend to flow naturally in conversations. And that is a great benefit to the book: it flows logically and progresses differently than many texts would allow. On the other hand, this somewhat of a weakness in the text since the New Atheist movement is obviously much broader than philosophical objections can allow. Questions of science (though not scientism) are noticeably absent in the text and aside from a few forays historical questions are as well. One might wonder why, for example, the existence of Jesus and historical evidences don’t enter the conversation–the claim that Jesus of Nazareth never existed is, after all, a popular claim against some of the new atheists.

There are few “intellectual books” which I would recommend to the non-expert that I believe could be read in a single sitting. This is one of them that could be. A good book with some good thinking.