Best Atheism Books of the Decade

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 10, 2009 in General Atheism,Reviews

atheism best books 2000-2009

The first decade of the new millennium is nearing a close. “Best of the Decade” lists for music, movies, sports, and more are spreading like wildfire across the internet. It is time for my own contribution: the best atheism books of the decade.

Nonbelief claims one of the greatest success stories of the 20th century, having skyrocketed from 0.2% of world population in 1900 to 15.3% in 2000.1 And, contrary to believers’ predictions, societies that secularized freely have become the most well-developed, wealthiest, most democratic, most free, most entrepreneurial, least corrupt, least violent, most peaceful, healthiest, happiest, most egalitarian, best educated, most charitable, and most environmentally compassionate societies in the entire world.2

But nonbelief did not see major popular attention in the United States until a few atheistic books hit the bestseller lists: Sam Harris’ The End of Faith (2004), Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006), Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (2006), and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great (2007).

These authors were dubbed the New Atheists, but the only thing new about them was that their books were selling. Nonbelievers have been saying many of the same things as the “New Atheists” since the dawn of recorded history: from Greek philosopher Epicurus (b. 341 BCE) to Arab philosopher Al Ma’arri (b. 973) to Catholic priest Jean Meslier (b. 1664) to political leader Robert Ingersoll (b. 1833) to the world’s greatest living intellectual Noam Chomsky (b. 1928).

I mention the New Atheists because you will not find their books listed here. This is a list of the best atheism books of the decade, not the most popular ones.

So, without further ado…

atheism best books 2000-2009 bar


Former preacher John W. Loftus, who studied under the #1 Christian apologist in the world, William Lane Craig, explains how he lost his faith and why evangelical Christianity is false. American Christians who are sick of Dawkins & company misunderstanding their faith at every turn will be glad to finally read an atheist who thoroughly understands the Christianity they live and believe. Christian apologist Norman Geisler has recommended the book to his students, and Christian philosopher Mark Linville writes that “Evangelicals cannot afford to ignore Why I Became an Atheist.” This is an atheist book written directly to Christians which has been highly recommended from both sides of the fence. The new edition was just released in October 2009.

[Buy on Amazon.]


Nearly all theistic arguments claim that God is the “best explanation” of some phenomena: consciousness, apparent design, the universe, and so on. But can “God did it” really be a good explanation of anything? This central question has been begging for a thorough examination for centuries, and Dawes has finally delivered. Clear, careful, and readable, Theism and Explanation explains in explicit terms exactly what is wrong with using “God did it” as an explanation, and also proposes what a successful theistic explanation would look like. (The problem is, we’ve never seen one.) If justice prevails, this book will shape a major part of the theism-atheism debate for the next few decades.

[Buy on Amazon.]


Leading philosopher of religion Graham Oppy painstakingly analyzes all the major arguments for and against the existence of God in their strongest forms, and finds that none of them are 100% convincing. (But, because there are no good reasons to believe in God, he is an atheist.) No other book critiques these arguments with such depth and thoroughness (he even examines such obscure arguments as “Arguments from Puzzling Phenomena”), and Oppy is careful to engage the very latest work in the field. Not for the faint of heart or mind.

[Buy on Amazon.]

2009_4fyfeTheists often argue that without God there are no objective moral facts. Atheists scoff at this assertion, but fail to present a successful case for atheistic moral realism. When I lost my faith in God I surveyed all the approaches to moral realism that were available: virtue ethics, contractarianism, consequentialism, Kantianism, Cornell realism, non-naturalism, and so on. Since all of them failed to make their case (and in fact usually used arguments that looked just like bad theistic arguments), I had to admit there was no better reason to accept moral realism than theism. That is, until, I read A Better Place. Therein, Fyfe presents the first plausible theory of naturalistic moral realism I’ve ever read. Fyfe has a thorough understanding of the philosophical issues (he took 12 years of graduate study in moral philosophy), but he writes in plain talk, and his case is compelling. This is the cutting edge of moral theory.

[Buy on Lulu.]

2009_5everittLike Arguing About Gods, Everitt’s book is another careful examination of the arguments for and against the existence of God by a leading philosopher of religion. It even introduces a new argument against God’s existence, the Argument from Scale. But perhaps the most important chapters are the first two, on the role of reason when considering the existence of God, and the prospects for reformed epistemology about God. More readable than Arguing About Gods, Everitt’s book is an excellent introduction to the issues for a senior philosophy undergraduate or those of comparable education.

[Buy on Amazon.]

2009_6sobelIn Logic and Theism, leading philosopher of logic and probability J.H. Sobel turns his skeptical gaze to theism and finds it badly lacking. In his scholarly review of this “Acid Bath for Theism,” William Lane Craig said “This is an impressive book, a truly extraordinary achievement. I can think of no other treatment of theism, whether by theist or non-theist, comparable to it.” Sobel insists that the logical problem of evil is not dead, and presents a reformulated version of it. He also launches new attacks at the ontological, cosmological, teleological arguments, as well as arguments from miracles. Despite its strengths, this is the least accessible and most poorly edited book on this list.

[Buy on Amazon.]


Most books about the existence of God, even Everitt’s The Non-Existence of God, consider half a dozen arguments for God and only a single argument against God: the argument from evil. The Impossibility of God is an important collection of 33 articles which present arguments for the impossibility of God. Here you will find definitional disproofs, evil disproofs, single attribute disproofs, multiple attribute disproofs, and doctrinal disproofs. A welcome entry into a field of study normally dominated by theistic talk.

[Buy on Amazon.]


This followup to The Impossibility of God collects 32 articles that argue not for the impossibility of God, but for his improbability. Included are several cosmological, teleological, nonbelief, and inductive evil arguments against God’s existence.

[Buy on Amazon.]


One of the best atheism books of the decade was written by a Christian. William Rowe’s evidential argument from evil is perhaps the version of the problem of evil most discussed since the 1970s. In The God Beyond Belief, Christian philosopher Nick Trakakis summarizes the debate so far and concludes that neither of the major theistic responses to the argument – that “God is mysterious” or that “God has an excuse” – is persuasive. This is a very helpful introduction to an important philosophical argument about theism, which is the same thing I’m trying to do with the Kalam Cosmological Argument in my series Mapping the Kalam.

[Buy on Amazon.]

That’s it!

Honorable mentions include Can God Be Free? (2006) by William Rowe, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (2003) edited by Michael Martin, The Wisdom to Doubt (2006) and Prolegomena to a Philosophy of Religion (2005) by J. L. Schellenberg, Sense & Goodness Without God (2005) by Richard Carrier, God: The Failed Hypothesis (2007) by Victor Stenger, Natural Atheism (2004) and Atheism Advanced (2008) by David Eller, Godless (2008) by Dan Barker, and 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God (2008) by Guy P. Harrison.

  1. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, a trusted source on religious demographics, “The number of nonreligionists…  throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900… to 918 million in AD 2000.” World population in 1900 was 1.65 billion, and in 2000 it was 6 billion. []
  2. For a defense of each contention in this list of qualities, see my post Society Without God. []

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Chuck October 10, 2009 at 6:32 am

Ouch! $149 dollars for Trakakis. We need a separate top ten for the value crowd.


lukeprog October 10, 2009 at 6:48 am

I know, and it’s under 300 pages! Academic publishers are ridiculous.


Silver Bullet October 10, 2009 at 7:03 am

Thanks Luke. I’ll be sure to look into these.

Curious to hear exactly why you would not include Sam Harris’ prize winning ‘The End of Faith’ on the list. What flaws prevent it from joining these other books (surely not writing style)?



Jeff H October 10, 2009 at 7:37 am

Dammit! Now I have yet more books to add to my growing wishlist….*sigh*


John W. Loftus October 10, 2009 at 8:47 am

No Way! Really? Honestly? I’m not sure my book is deserving to be placed among this list of truly excellent books. All I can say is that it’s nice to know intelligent and educated people like you think so, and that’s good enough. Thanks so very much Luke! I think this site of yours ranks up there as well. It’s my favorite site, I’ll tell you that.


IntelligentDasein October 10, 2009 at 11:50 am

Luke, I know this is shitty of me to ask, but are their any downloadable versions of these books?


Anthony October 10, 2009 at 5:38 pm

ID: Luke, I know this is shitty of me to ask, but are their any downloadable versions of these books?

Click here and contact me by email. I can get a number of them to you in electronic format.


Qohelet October 10, 2009 at 5:45 pm

I’ve only read #5 and while it’s pretty good, I wasn’t too impressed with it. I still prefer the atheist books that came out in the 90s (Poidevin, Martin, Drange, Schellenberg, etc.).


IntelligentDasein October 10, 2009 at 5:59 pm

thank you Anthony


lukeprog October 10, 2009 at 7:55 pm


Your book fills a special niche. Most books on atheism are either very narrow in focus and academic, or else they are aimed at the popular level and are ignorant of the scholarly research on the topic. Your book provides an excellent balance between accessibility and scholarship.


lukeprog October 10, 2009 at 7:57 pm




lukeprog October 10, 2009 at 8:01 pm


Yeah, I should do a “best atheism books of the 90s” list sometime. That was a strong decade for atheism.


Jake de Backer October 10, 2009 at 9:03 pm

J. Loftus,

I remember being extremely impressed at just how strong the scriptural support for your arguments were. I mean, every few sentences were concluded with book/chapter: verse. As if to say, “and for those of you considering a rejoinder along the lines of ‘Well, such is not my Christianity’, here’s where you can stick that.” More accessible, however entirely scholarly approaches to the germane theo-philosophical arguments is EXACTLY what is needed to replace the Rick Warren/Lee Strobel riddled book shelves in the religion section of contemporary book stores.

J. de Backer


Hugo October 10, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Thanks a lot for that selection of books; I was currently shopping so it’s a great timing for me.

May I point something out however?
The first decade of the 21st century is from 2001 to 2010… still one full year to go!

I remember how I was tired of hearing people cheering for the coming new millennium in 1999 because the year 2000 was coming. Ya, 2000 was a cool number, but it was not the first year of a new millennium, 2001 was, but nobody celebrated that ;)


Beelzebub October 11, 2009 at 1:34 am

I’d have to disagree with categorizing the “New Atheist” movement with just another iteration of the sub-discipline of atheism, which has enjoyed the fruits of a backwater existence for centuries. I think you both over-estimate the intention of the NA’s and under-estimate their significance, and what they were (are) attempting. They are not presenting scholarly works of philosophy, so your dismissive attitude is entirely justified and understandable in light of your focus. New Atheism is predicated on the notion that many upstanding, churchgoing citizens don’t actually believe the things they hear in church; they don’t really give any of it much conscious thought, and most importantly, they don’t give the implications of religion, and the subtle or not-so-subtle influence it has on our behavior, how we live, love and, significantly, hate very much thought.

In those scholarly works you will probably not find an impassioned diatribe against raising a child as a “Muslim child” or “Christian child,” yet Dawkins covers it in outraged detail, and this is precisely the kind of point the lay masses must assess if they are to come to an informed decision about whether their ambivalence, and true agnosticism, regarding religion as a political, social, moral and economic force in our society requires further adjustment. Note that I’m not saying they must arrive at Dawkins’s opinion, but I think it’s important for them to have the opportunity to contemplate that an intelligent and and ballsy biology professor is outraged by something that may well be — well, outrageous.

So, in summary, and with all respect, I think you have perhaps at least mis-categorized the recent “New Atheist” literation. It’s not philosophy. At most, it’s social commentary, but that is not meant as a denigration. I hate to stoop to populist pronouncement, but I would propose that New Atheism will, in the end, amount to more than all the religious philosophizing that has come before. It has the potential to mobilize social reform. This is precisely what ideologues like your pen-pal Vox Day fears most, and I can understand why. Atheist social reform doesn’t have a stellar track record. However, attempting to dismiss it as an inferior topic, and hoping it will simply have its heyday and then go way, I believe, is a grave mistake.


John W. Loftus October 11, 2009 at 4:35 am

The first decade of the 21st century is from 2001 to 2010… still one full year to go!



I may have an even better book coming out in April, The Christian Delusion. Check it out.


steve October 11, 2009 at 6:10 am

Beelzebub find personly i agree with you.You are so right it has the power to motivate.

We need it.Be stupid to come unprepared without it.They dont want it to mobilize thats for sure.They would be real happy if it disappeared.Be like christmas!

My opinion is we need people working from more than one angle anyway.

And i like Lukes angle too.And i feel pretty sure you do too,or why else would you be here.

Seems to me its about networking.Many hands make light work :)


lukeprog October 11, 2009 at 6:17 am


Wikipedia disagrees about the decade.

Such demarcations are arbitrary, anyway.


lukeprog October 11, 2009 at 6:18 am


I do not doubt the New Atheism is hugely important.


IntelligentDasein October 11, 2009 at 6:27 am

I agree with Beezlebub.

Their has been a great deal of positive things added to the conversation by “New Atheism”. Michel Onfray’s call for an Atheology, Dawkin’s excellent explanation of evolution’s most difficult topics (the gene perspective, altruism, how cumulative changes can produce flagellum and eyeballs, the evidence of evolution), Dan Dennett’s call for religion’s spell to be broken so it can be studied as a natural phenomena, Sam Harris’ open engagement of Christian America to talk about religion the same way we talk about other controversial issues (like politics) and Christopher Hitchen’s anthology “the portable atheist” that compiled alot of perspectives that most people would never encounter.

This stuff is all very positive contributions in my opinion and the greatest thing is: people actually read it!


Hugo October 11, 2009 at 9:13 am

Thanks for the info on the decade!

I am really surprised, because it does say that the 21st century is from 2001 to 2100 and the 3rd millennium from 2001 to 3000…

Apparently decades are used in the form like “in the 60s” which include 1960 obviously… Arbitrary anyway as you said!



Jeffrey October 11, 2009 at 9:50 am

I’ve only read Why I Became an Atheist, and placed it as #1 on my list too, although my ranking is coming from a much smaller set.

I’m surprised to not see my #2 anywhere: C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion. Arguably, the revised edition doesn’t count as this decade because it was first published in 1985.


Beelzebub October 11, 2009 at 1:17 pm

And i like Lukes angle too.And i feel pretty sure you do too,or why else would you be here.

I absolutely do. It’s crucial to examine the philosophical underpinnings of the debate, and this site is one of the best I’ve seen addressing that. Luke deserves thanks for providing this great forum.


lukeprog October 11, 2009 at 2:12 pm


Where is your list?


steve October 12, 2009 at 4:24 am

Beelzebub :” Luke deserves thanks for providing this great forum.”

Yes i always like to thank :) people very much, who sometimes torment my mind with my obvious lack ability to understand more of philosophical type thinking properly.

Thanks Lukeprog you are a pure gentleman and a true scholar ! :)

Beelzebub i have visited RD forum site also,but personally i find sites such as this much more stimulating .Its about personal prefrences isnt it,and i agree RD has a part to play also in what we all wish to achieve.


JMauldin October 12, 2009 at 10:04 am

I know this may not be popular, but what about 2006′s “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman? I know that most of it is a rehash of material from “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” but it’s a fascinating layman study of textual criticism by one of the world’s most notable scholars.


lukeprog October 12, 2009 at 2:02 pm


I did not like Miqsuoting Jesus.


JMauldin October 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Fair Enough.


Ernesto October 13, 2009 at 6:34 am


Thanks Luke for providing such a great blog. I used to belief science had all the answers until I came across your blog. Keep it up. I tried that link you provided intelligentDasein for books, but I am coming up empty. Any advice? Thanks.


lukeprog October 13, 2009 at 5:02 pm


The link works. That’s all you get. :)


Ernesto October 14, 2009 at 12:59 pm


Thanks for checking. I figured it out.


steve October 17, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Hey luke its a bit off topic on this thread,but seems the vox threads are not working.

This Vox geezer suggests god goodness etc is supposedly arbitary.

Well supposedly too god made us in his image and likeness.And that image upon man was in his nature,consists in knowledge righteousness and true holiness.Godlike creature with a Godlike capacity for knowledge thought and action.
Humans differ from all other creatures because of the self-reflective, rational nature of their thought processes – their capacity for abstract, symbolic as well as concrete deliberation and decision-making. This capacity gives the human a centeredness and completeness which allows the possibility for self-actualization and participation in a sacred reality

So i cant see how the gods can choose to just do or not do anything,and it be expected that its intelligent and normal we just simply need to accept it.

If that was the case we being also made in their image and likeness could simply choose to just do likewise.

Who ever it was that suggested gods goodness was supposedly arbitrary may be a fact,but just because it was somebody supposedly famous or whatever doesnt necessarily prove it correct.


John W. Loftus October 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

Luke, since Jeffrey never came back his list of the best books can be found right here.


Bradley Monton November 6, 2009 at 11:14 am

Nice list! I’m fascinated to learn that Dawes is an atheist. Another book to consider is Erik Wielenberg’s _Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe_.


lukeprog November 6, 2009 at 2:20 pm



I did not like Wielenberg’s book. And I do not hold much hope for Sinnott-Armstrong’s book on the same topic.

I think I would like your book but I have not read it yet.


Evolution SWAT November 29, 2009 at 6:44 pm

I just ordered Loftus’ book. I am going through Timothy Keller’s “The Reason for God” with on of the pastors of a bible study I attend.

This should be interesting …


Ajay December 2, 2009 at 3:41 am

Hi Luke,

I have only read the GOD DELUSION by Richard Dawkins so far. I am basically not that interested in reading atheist books as i agree with almost everything they say and therefore boring. I tend to read mostly religious and spiritual books therefore to try to understand the other side.

What do u think the God Delusion was lacking that the other top 10 books you have listed have?


lukeprog December 2, 2009 at 7:50 am




Ben December 7, 2009 at 10:29 am

Having Loftus’ book in this list (at number 1, no less) is troubling to me. His book was a miserable exercise in philosophy.

But at least you don’t have “The God Delusion” on the list.


Sibs December 8, 2009 at 9:52 am

Bo, Jessie, and Michael Jackson, the prices for these books are crazy!


Walter McGrain December 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I don’t understand why anyone would ever need to read more than one book on this subject (or really any at all.) What purpose does it actually serve? To me it would be like reading a dozen books about integer addition. How many ways can you say 2 + 2 = 4? It seems like a waste of time when there are so many more interesting subjects to read about. There are only so many books that can be read in one lifetime.


P.H. December 31, 2009 at 11:06 am

I would concur. Both religion & atheism are nonsense period. What exactly are these books trying to accomplish (?) teach a pig to sing ? Why is any argument against something that does not exist in the first place necessary? The human condition is what it is and if Religion, though not without it’s very serious threats, keeps these delusional morons occupied then the safer I feel. The masses do not wish to learn they wish to be led like dogs following a pack leader. The arts, mathematics, science, compassion, agriculture, love, selflessness etc. have existed in some form since we began to walk upright. None of these human pursuits owe existence to Religion. Whether or not religion intertwined with them as an early system of explanation/story telling – they are all pursuits derived for survival on some level or quality of survival. If a free human does not wish to exercise their consciousness and instead keep their minds in a cave then that is an evolutionary choice.


Diana February 2, 2010 at 12:08 am

Thanks for the list. I personally loved Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker (or the new version – Godless) and think it should be up there, but I’m eager to read up on the more theoretical ones you’ve posted!

as for prices, that’s what used is for, right? haha.


lukeprog February 2, 2010 at 9:20 am


‘Losing Faith in Faith’ was hugely influential on me. Moreso than any book on this list.


jim hankins February 2, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Hugo: Hi!Thanks a lot for that selection of books; I was currently shopping so it’s a great timing for me.May I point something out however?The first decade of the 21st century is from 2001 to 2010… still one full year to go!I remember how I was tired of hearing people cheering for the coming new millennium in 1999 because the year 2000 was coming. Ya, 2000 was a cool number, but it was not the first year of a new millennium, 2001 was, but nobody celebrated that   (Quote)

maybe you should go back to learning arithmatic. “0″ is a number dodo. therfore “0″-”9″ is ten years or a decade!!!!! If you sstart with 1 what happens to “0″-”1″? does it just not happen?? No numerical system in the world starts with “1″!!!!!


Kornhusk February 6, 2010 at 8:47 pm

You don’t need to buy any atheist books. You already know that “God” to every theist that exists and has ever existed thinks “God” is a sky man (rarely a sky woman). That’s impossible. No human being that has “God” like qualities and who was the creator could possibly exist, since all humans are earth bound and evolved into their present state several million years ago, no longer. A human or humanoid could not possibly be the creator of the universe or be “God.” Short of theists proving what else it could be, and they have never done so, “God” simply doesn’t exist and cannot exist. Don’t buy any more books. You already know the truth.


DoAtheistsExist? February 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Hey there Luke =)
Will you be making more of these kinds of lists?
As in, “Best Atheism Books Ever/of the 90s/20th Century etc.”
Or “Best Theist Books of the Decade”?
Because I found this one very helpful, especially the paragraphs explaining each choice.

May I ask for what you think of “Why I am not a Christian” by Bertrand Russell?

All the best! =)


lukeprog February 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Yeah, I’m a lists guy so I have some more of these up my sleeves. Stay tuned. :)


Andy September 20, 2010 at 11:33 am

Holy hell!!! That Theism and Explanation book is 90+ dollars on Amazon. WTF?


lukeprog September 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm


Welcome to the world of academic publishing.


wissam October 24, 2010 at 5:44 am

Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

Not a good book?


lukeprog October 24, 2010 at 9:15 am

Not from the discussed decade.


Vahan April 29, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Read “Six Ways of Atheism” by Berg. Its the only book you need to read in regards to logical disproofs of God. He will give you answers that you cannot question.


justin June 17, 2011 at 4:01 am

God Delusion By R Dawkins is a great work. Why didnt you include that book?


Michael June 17, 2011 at 8:36 am

Saddest thing about that comment is that it’s not a troll.
Anything in particular you liked about the GD Justin?


Kyle October 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm

What about the God Delusion or Diaries of Dissension? Both very good books. Richard Dawkins has a great argument in behalf of the non existance of God. Tommy Rodriguez’s Diaries of Dissension is very persuasive. Should be on that list.


Jilly January 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I have read up to Diana and Luke’s conversation. I am, up to this point, wondering what one holds on to? My biggest question is: what joy, what purpose, drive, or what answer to this existence without any purpose, do each of you attest to? I am in the throes of religion, so far be it from me to understand much of atheism. I am seeking, though, to be sure. Very, very scary and lonely frontier is how I percieve this atheism – if I were to come to this end myself. I have my doubts. I have my beliefs. Isn’t it mentioned, ” I bleive, help Thou my unbelief?” in a prayer in the Bible?


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