What is Atheism is a grab bag with regards to quality, but in the end I believe this book is somewhat useful. Despite some very weak sections, Krueger’s recent effort is satisfactory as a beginner’s introduction to nonbelief.
I will begin by mentioning a few of the bad aspects of this work. Firstly, Krueger seems to be rather fond of making assertions in his chapter on the Bible. For example, he claims that: “Most of the New Testament books are known to be forgeries.” Oh really, says who? Krueger doesn’t even try to defend his baseless claim. Elsewhere, he makes this snide comment: “Christians who have a more enlightened view of the bible, who accept the judgment of the world’s scholars with regard to the origins of the books of the bible and the mythical roots of the fables about Jesus, often object to attacks on the bible by arguing that only some portions of the bible are to be believed” Krueger states this as if all scholars back his viewpoint, and as if only “enlightened” Christians recognize this. But this is purely assertion with a mix of an argument from authority. As if we Christians are supposed to give up our faith because of the supposed viewpoints of some unnamed “scholars”.
Krueger is also particularly weak in the section where he tries to show that Christianity does not provide a purpose to life. He complains about the doctrine of salvation by grace, claiming: “On this view, one is not saved by one’s merit, but by god’s fiat or arbitrary decision.” However, it is ridiculous to suppose that salvation by grace implies such a thing; rather God decides to grant Salvation as a result of an individual placing their faith in Christ. This is not “arbitrary” at all; this is an objective means for God to determine who will and will not go to Heaven. He later goes on to claim: “Slavery is not a sufficient purpose to life.” In this instance Krueger is merely trying to use the negative connotation of Western slavery in order to cause concern. However, the relationship between God and man is not parallel to slavery at all. God is a perfectly loving and caring being, and it therefore makes perfect sense to give Him your unswerving dedication. Rather than slavery, this is willing servitude involving a symbiotic relationship.
Krueger, like almost every other atheist apologist, misconstrues the true meaning of faith when he caricatures it as a belief without evidence or in spite of contrary evidence. Yet, this definition of faith is not anywhere near the type of faith that I and many other Christians practice, and it is unfortunate that Krueger does not acknowledge this. It would seem only fair for him to at least mention that there are different opinions on the meaning of faith, but instead he just sets out to destroy the most indefensible one as if it represents the entire Christian community.
There are other parts of this book that I find unsatisfactory, but now I would like to mention some high points. What is Atheism does address a few issues quite well. The discussion and defense of the Argument from Evil and the Argument from Nonbelief is quite good (although I obviously think the two arguments, in the end, fail to carry force). In addition, he deals with the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments thoroughly and (relatively) reasonably.
Perhaps the best part of What is Atheism is the way it is set up. There is a very clear flow to the writing, all separated into subsections, which makes for easy reading. Another great aspect was the recommended reading section offered at the end of the book. Although some of his selections cause me to question his judgment, I nevertheless look forward to reading some of the recommended material.
In conclusion, this book is only appropriate for beginners. It does not discuss the topics in sufficient detail for one informed in such matters, but it functions well as a “primer” for other material. However, in and of itself this book did not challenge my faith very deeply. It’s simply not detailed enough to merit such a reaction, and all of the various assertions present in his book have satisfactory answers from Christian apologists. Pick up this book if you want a short introduction to the issues.
I now have a full critique of Krueger’s work Here.