Book Review by Davis Carr

Book Review

Atheism and the Case Against Christ

Reviewed by Davis Carr

Atheism and the Case Against Christ, cover.  
Paperback, 332 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-61614- 581-1

In Atheism and the Case Against Christ, Matthew S. McCormick, offers a detailed, step-by-step analysis of the historical evidence of Christian miracles, specifically the life, but most importantly, the death and alleged resurrection, of Jesus Christ. His book pivots around one central question: do believers “have adequate grounds to justify their believing that Jesus was a divine being who performed supernatural acts?” (15) The answer is, of course, a resounding “no.”

McCormick argues that there is no more evidence to support these claims than other supernatural events — including alchemy and witches  — events that science has thoroughly refuted, and that therefore, we cannot accept. McCormick attacks Christianity on the grounds that there is no logical or rational basis for the belief in Jesus Christ’s existence. This is a problem because of the influence Christianity has on the daily lives of Americans. McCormick writes,

“Christian ideology exercises a significant effect on a person’s other belief,s his moral and political judgments, his decisions, and his activities. And those other beliefs and decisions have a substantial effect on the rest of us […] The ideology influences their votes for school board members, presidential candidates, bond measures, and legislation. It influences their views and votes on same-sex marriage, abortion, stem-cell research, healthcare and social policies” (McCormick 25).

This irrational, unjustifiable, fundamentally incorrect belief is imbued in all aspects of American (but really, Western civilization in general) daily life. And these beliefs continually shut down other (rational) perspectives, ones that could be harnessed for social good. The stakes are very high.

I cannot fault McCormick’s arguments, or his analysis. He does a fantastic job of explaining the historical context, analyzing the data, and presenting his argument in an easy to understand fashion. The writing style is engaging and educational. But the book is based on a problematic premise that I can’t over-look.

The problem lies in the fundamental rift between reason and faith, science and religion. The entire point of religion is that it is based on faith. You are supposed to give yourself over to God, and trust in His wisdom despite all evidence to the contrary. Faith cannot be broken by reason or empirical evidence, because it is not based in the same realm. McCormick might as well be lecturing to a deaf person on the importance of hearing.

McCormick’s book will only be successful in giving atheists ammunition to debate their religion counterparts, or breaking a faith that has already been shaken. McCormick recognizes that “mind changing is not likely to happen in many believers, even those who insist their belief is based on the historical evidence of Jesus […] No argument and no historical evidence could actually dissuade them in practice” (20). So I am left to wonder: What is the point of this book?

My main issue with the book is that it fails to elevate the discourse surrounding religion and atheism. McCormick lays out a scientific and rational argument, but to what end? He will fail to convince Christians that their belief in God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is unfounded, his atheist audience needs no convincing. This is a great book if you want ammunition to fight your Bible-thumping cousins at family reunions, but offers little else.