Book Review: The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (Randal Rauser)

The debate between those who believe in God and those who do not has often devolved into shouting matches or insults. What I have always appreciated about Randal Rauser is that he is as interested in listening as he is at being understood.

I was introduced to Dr. Rauser has been a regular fixture at the ACSI teacher conferences I attend annually and I invariable attend his sessions even though they have nothing to do with my subject. I experience him as a philosopher first and theologian second so the guy can think. His presentations typically deal with controversial subjects like the imprecatory psalms or brainwashing or biblical genocide. What I really like, besides the controversial topics, is that he is able to present thoughtful alternative positions on a topic without mocking or belittling any of the sides.

He brings this generosity to this book on apologetics. The book presents philosophical and theological arguments for and against belief in God and then specifically for and against the Christian God. What is most unique is the setting and characters: it is held entirely in the Beatnik Bean, a coffee shop where he, a fictional atheist character named Sheridan and we the reader sip americanos and discuss flawed arguments and flawed theology. It reminded me of the little I read of Sophie's World - the philosophy best seller of the 90s which was set as a conversation between a teenage girl and a philosophy prof, but The Swedish Atheist is far more engaging.

Rauser initially tackles the more or less weak arguments that the new atheists have used to attempt to debunk belief in God in their assertion that they believe in reason and therefore put them beyond reproach in their epistomology. He then faces some of the more difficult questions specific to YWHY in relation to the ordered mass killings in the Old Testament and the western doctrines of eternal conscious torment in hell. Ultimately, no one has really changed the other's mind, but there is mutual understanding that the other isn't crazy - and that's saying something.

The book is playful, funny, and profound. I'm glad I picked it up and I look forward to reading more of Rausers many books.