After I read The God Delusion, I had more than one atheist reach out to me asking if I had books on faith that would be compelling. They felt that I had treated the material in the book fairly and wanted to do the same thing. Then my wife told me an old friend had released a book that may be exactly that, so I picked up Reclaimed by Andy Steiger the day it released.
The main purpose of Steiger's book is to show that living without God leads to dehumanization and that living with God leads to humanizing those around us.
Steiger tackles this topic by addressing four main questions about humanity.
He addresses these in a pair of chapters. One addressing how living without God leads to dehumanization and the other showing how living with God leads to humanization.
I'm not going to tackle the questions specifically in this look at Reclaimed. I'm going to work through some of the points that I found interesting. Sometimes it's because I agree, and sometimes it's because I find the arguments weak. Let's start with some of the mainly good points.
Steiger says that despite culture paying lip service to tolerance, it's actually more difficult now to look past differences and find common ground1. I agree with this entirely, and would say that you need not look very far to see more polarization happening. We easily fall into confirmation bias and Christians are as susceptible to this as any other group, though every group feels that they're not part of the problem.
He also says that it's easy to think that atrocities happen elsewhere2. Steiger cites the genocide going on in Myanmar. It's easy to look around us now and see Police brutality against people of colour to find similar atrocities happening on home turf in North America. We easily see this in the misogyny that happens in North America. As I said after reading The Underground Girls of Kabul, we simply dress our appealing treatment of women in better clothes than other places in the world.
Finally, Steiger argues well that the tongue is a potent vehicle for breaking people down and that seems like it's default state if we don't work to take control of it3. He says that we like to think ourselves better than the Nazi's and their propaganda, but at no other point in history has the weaponization of words had a reach like it does today4. Social media and the internet in general, makes it easy to stay polarized and continue down our confirmation bias holes. He also says that, just like we saw in iGen, the internet makes it easy to dehumanize people because we never have to see the results of our terrible behaviour on their faces.
While I think that Steiger made a bunch of excellent points above, I feel that he relied on a fairly soft foundation as well.
Steiger claims that in order to see our own humanity, and the humanity in our neighbours we need to have God in our lives5. When we looked at The God Delusion we saw Dawkins argue effectively against this point by citing ample research that faith doesn't produce any more moral people than non-faith6. The Second Mountain also showed that faith produces few "truly good" people.
Both of these arguments left me feeling like Steiger wants us to give undeserved respect to religious arguments7.
This is the idea that religion gets a pass to truth without the same burden of proof of anything else in the world.
Steiger also makes a NOMA argument, where he claims that science talks to one kind of thing and then Christianity speaks to another kind of thing8. At the same time he says that science must be free to draw the conclusions it reaches even if that's contrary to the popular opinion of society or governments9. Atheists would agree with this, and then wonder why Christians believe that all the science pointing away from the belief in God don't look at the weight of science against them with the same belief that they point to any bit of evidence that points towards faith.
Many times throughout the book Steiger makes arguments about how Christianity is leading the charge against dehumanization10. He cites different atrocities across many generations that were perpetrated by people who dehumanized those they abused. Think Nazi Germany and Jews, or white people putting Africans in a zoo because they were more animal than human. At the same time Steiger barely mentions anything that Christians have done in the dehumanization department. He gives one cursory statement about how Christians failed with residential schools11 yet doesn't mention:
Just to name a few big things that were done in the name of "faith" that dehumanized huge swaths of the population. If Steiger had taken on more examples of Christians involved in dehumanization efforts over the centuries, he would have had a stronger leg to stand on as he looked at those without faith dehumanizing others.
If you don't accept Steiger's starting point, that the Bible is the work of God and it is a source of truth, then this book won't move you in any way towards faith. I found that Steiger held non-faith to a higher standard than he held faith. See my points above about The Spanish Inquisition.
Even coming from a faith background, I found his arguments thin.
Now if you are coming from a faith perspective and take the Bible as the truth from God, you'll likely agree with this book without issue.
Should you read it? If you're an atheist looking to explore the arguments for faith to gain a deeper knowledge, I don't think this book will provide any compelling arguments.