“Please read this book. It will change your life.”

I get a lot of book recommendations on Twitter. Sometimes they’re books that intrigue me, and inspire me to do further research – Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is one that I must look out for in the near future – but most of the time it tends to be yet another book claiming to reveal new truths to me about Jesus, or Muhammad, and comes with a comment like, “I used to be an atheist, but this book opened my eyes.”

I try to deal politely with this. A simple thank you usually suffices. But I try to make it clear that I have no intention of reading any of these books. Often, I’m informed that I am only rejecting the book because I’m scared it will destroy my beliefs, or change my life, or some other such nonsense.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I find it pointlessly time-consuming to read books where I already know the major arguments, usually because they’ve been rehashed to death on Twitter. Is it really plausible that some obscure Christian apologist has written a spiel that’s going to turn my life upside down? No. It doesn’t matter how many times they argue that Jesus had to be either mad, bad or a liar, a la CS Lewis, it’s not going to turn me into a believer.

These people fail to realise that I’m an atheist because I have already rejected the arguments that religion has to offer. The reverse is rarely true. They’re all too eager to offer me books that they think will bring me round to their way of thinking, but suggesting they should read Why Evolution Is True, or The God Delusion, is often met with indifference.

It would be unfair to say that theists never read any perspective other than their own, but it’s always been my experience that those who don’t accept evolution, for example, don’t have a reasonable understanding of the theory, and aren’t in a position to criticise. Whereas it doesn’t take detailed knowledge of theological arguments to reject the possibility of deities, just a decent understanding of scientific discoveries and theories on the nature of the universe and life on earth.

So if you’re a theist planning on recommending me a book that will change my life – thank you, but I’d rather read something that’s going to expand my knowledge, not try to belittle it.

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