on March 13, 2018 :
I chose this book when looking for books that presented religious ideas contrary to my own (Catholicism) expecting it be a an honest search to understand the religious views of others (in this case, an atheist trying to understand Christians). I was wrong.
From the beginning, it is clear the author is on a mission, and that Christians are his targets. Fair enough. Rather than being an exposition, it's an expose. I see nothing wrong with a little deception to understand how people think and act around their own crowd, but it's important to remember that they're going to respond to you as if you share certain presuppositions. It is disingenuous to pretend to be a Christian then expect responses as if they know you're an atheist.
There is a further problem that the author is talking to a small subset of Christians: those who go online and discuss things in internet forums. Christians who don't do that will not necessarily think or act in the same way.
Furthermore, though he says "forums" and "chat rooms" and does not disclose which ones, the Almighty Google indicated that they were all from christianchat.com. Different forums are going to have their own culture. BaptistForums, from personal experience, tends to ban Catholics who defend Catholicism. Catholic Answers forums and Theology Web tend to be more open to dissenting views.
So to understand, there are about 2 billion (give or take several million) Christians around the world. The author is generalizing about all of them based off a small subset of largely fundamentalist Protestants on a single forum. That's OK, but keep that in mind.
Some of his points are perfectly valid, and I agree with them. But most of the time he saves the tough questions for the book, and doesn't present them to the people in the forum. Or he challenges them on what he thinks (or desperately wants) them to believe, but not what they actually believe.
In the chapter on medicine, most of the Christians clearly state that they believe God can heal people both through medicine or prayer. The author asserts that's a contradicting, claiming (in the book), that if God wants to heal people, he need only click his "godly fingers."
Yes, but what if God doesn't want to do that? What if God would rather you go to a doctor? Maybe God doesn't want to be bothered by your puny complaints. He'll throw you a bone every now and then with a miracle, but never more than once a century. Or maybe God could heal us, but he would rather us figure out the problems for ourselves, because that's what it means to be human. Liking this, or thinking it is right and just, is separate issue, but the author can't seem to separate what Christians believe God can do from what Christians believe God wants to do from what he, Joel Douglas, wants God to do.
In the end, much of the book reminds me of conversations with fundamentalist Protestants (not wholly unlike the type of Christian the author is talking to) about the Catholic view of Mary. The conversation goes like this:
Fundie: You Catholics worship Mary! You're going to hell!
Catholic: I don't worship Mary. What are you talking about?
Fundie: Yes you do! You pray to her!
Catholic: Yes, but by "prayer" we mean simply talking or asking, kind of like what we're doing now. I pray the say, am I worshiping you right now?
Fundie: You worship Mary, not Jesus! You may think you worship Jesus, but you're actually worshiping Mary!
Catholic: I had no idea I could accidentally worship someone. You're bizarre.
(review of free book)