Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Reclaiming Reason

Reclaiming Reason: A Christian's Guide to Recognizing Logical FallaciesReclaiming Reason: A Christian's Guide to Recognizing Logical Fallacies by Adam Murrell
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is so bad I couldn't read any further than the introduction and first chapter. The title is interesting - Reclaiming Reason. Reclaiming from who/what? It reads like he wants to reclaim it for Christians back from those evil non-believers who use bad reasoning to tempt vulnerable Christians away from the faith. Adam Murrell is really wanting to give his readers the ability to resist objections against Christianity by atheists and other non-believers (and, of course, to identify bad thinking in oneself!). The problem is that Murrell can't see how poor his own reasoning is. The whole Christian world-view is assumed to be true without any evidence of actual critical thinking about the Christian beliefs (as he defines them). Some examples:

After describing the way in which the Gallup Polls show declining trust in religion to answer 'all or most of the problems of the time' and increasing belief that 'religion was largely old-fashioned and out of date' he blames Christians for not giving '... serious thought to the foundation of their beliefs or reasoned through the logical ramifications of their worldviews. Had they spent more time in sombre reflection, the poll numbers would presumably reveal a different story.' Really? What about the possibility that people may have critically thought about their beliefs and concluded, for good reasons, that their trust in religion was misplaced?

How's this for thinking critically: 'The spiritually developed Christian should bring all thoughts captive to the Word and allow Holy Write to guide his or her every decision.' This is not critical thinking - this is deciding a priori that everything the Bible says is correct or that one's interpretations are always right. In other words, if your thinking doesn't agree with what the Bible says, your thinking must be wrong! Where is the critical reasoning in that?

The real agenda of this book is expressed by the author when he writes that the '... book shows you how to respond to nonbelievers and likewises furnishes you with a new perspective so you will be able to answer Christians when they are being inconsistent regarding their beliefs.'

Murrell engages in simplistic examples to prove his own points. For example, did you know that the difference between the creation of '... a republic on the North American continent that enshrined religious liberty in her constitution, enabling generations of Christians to practice their religion without fear of reprisal or fear of persecution...' and '... the chaos and the nihilistic slaughter of the French Revolution...' was the use of words that influenced the emotions either positively or negatively? Ah! That explains everything!

It goes on and on... every point made by the author is dependent on his own interpretation of the Bible which he assumes is the right one. Some of his assertions are actually offensive. He writes, 'Would it be unreasonable to assert naturally destructive occurrences could be used as a gentle reminder for people everywhere to repent and believe before it's too late? Is this too great a possibility, especially if judgement is to be weighed upon the earth?' 'What if God is truly showing his compassion by reminding us, through natural calamities, of a future, certain judgement?' Did you get that? When tsumanis, earthquates, volcanic eruptions, etc occur it's possible this is God being compassionate!

Murrell offers another response to objections to Christianity that are based on criticisms of God's non-involvement in protecting people from natural evil. Apparently we hear too many examples of people being killed or injured and we overlook the times people are actually protected - and we don't know how many people have been protected by God because it's not obvious!

According to the author, many arguments made against Christianity are emotionally manipulating. For example, 'We are made to feel guilty if we believe God instituted marriage and, as a result, strive to uphold a union between one man and one woman.' Oh... really? He goes on, 'Instead of interacting with these fair concerns [eg, the shared benefits of society as a result of traditional marriage], we are insulted and made to feel guilty if we respect the boundaries established by God by rejecting all forms of perversion to the divine institution of marriage.' I think you get the picture.

And, if you happen to disagree with the author's point of view, you need to remember that 'God must first grant a new heart before it can properly assent to truth and righteousness and before it can be trusted to serve as a guide and moral compass.'

There are so many more examples that could be provided and I'm only identifying issues in the first chapter! This book is not about identifying logical fallacies at all - although that is what it is ostensibly about. It's really about providing Christians with a shield to ward off any criticisms and with easy answers to objections from non-believers - at least, that's what I have gleaned from the first chapter.

If you want a good book on logical fallacies, don't start with this book. There are plenty of other books out there. Also, check out this website for free information about logical fallacies ( Then, if you really must read this book, watch out for logical fallacies while you read!

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