A Shot of Faith (to the Head): Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists by Mitch Stokes: a witty intro to apologetics and philosophy
Two moms of teenage boys toying with atheism asked how they could better address their sons’ questions. Among the books I recommended they read was this gem: A Shot of Faith (to the Head): Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheistsby Mitch Stokes.
Stokes deftly handles the three main arguments against God’s existence: Belief in God is irrational; science shows there’s no God; and evil and suffering show there’s no God. At heart, it’s a Christian apologetics book. But as Stokes explains how to address the arguments of atheists such as Hitchens and Dawkins, he also introduces a history of philosophical thought and why it pertains to conversations about belief in God.
That was my favorite part. I’d been looking for an introduction to philosophy that would explain the underpinnings for some of the beliefs I hear, but I didn’t want a tome that felt like carrying an ever growing burden on my back to get through.
This was perfect. It’s short—just over 200 pages—and Stokes writes with unusual clarity and a great deal of wit. Here’s how he leads up to his explanation of basic beliefs:
But how can we have a reason or argument for every one of our beliefs? For every reason we give, that reason will require a reason, which will in turn require yet another reason, and so on, world without end. But of course, we can’t have an infinite number of reasons. None of us has that much time on our hands. Or enough patience. All of us have experienced the maddening series of why questions launched at us from the mouths of small children. These why questions, you are quite sure, absolutely must stop. When the great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “Explanations come to an end somewhere,” he had just visited his niece and nephew.
Another big plus is he ends each chapter with a bullet point list he calls, “For Your Arsenal.” These are tight summaries of the chapter’s key points, making it easy to review or quickly find the chapter on such-and-such.
The only negative is that he sometimes bounces back and forth over millennia, making it hard to track the development of a thought. In the otherwise great chapter on the mathematical evidence for design in the universe, “The User-friendly Universe,” I finally penciled a chart of names and dates on the chapter’s first page and in the page margins. (I include it at the end of the blog.)
All in all, A Shot of Faith was an enjoyable and worthwhile read, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a basic apologetics and philosophy book.
Names and dates for “The User-friendly Universe”: