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Atheist Overreach

What Atheism Can't Deliver

Christian Smith

Publication Date - 01 December 2018

ISBN: 9780190880927

168 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

A critical look at atheism's indefensible claims about morality, science, and human nature


In recent years atheism has become ever more visible, acceptable, and influential. Atheist apologists have become increasingly vociferous and confident in their claims: that a morality requiring benevolence towards all and universal human rights need not be grounded in religion; that modern science disproves the existence of God; and that there is nothing innately religious about human beings.

In Atheist Overreach, Christian Smith takes a look at the evidence and arguments, and explains why we ought to be skeptical of these atheists' claims about morality, science, and human nature. He does not argue that atheism is necessarily wrong, but rather that its advocates are advancing crucial claims that are neither rationally defensible nor realistic. Their committed worldview feeds unhelpful arguments and contributes to the increasing polarization of today's political landscape. Everyone involved in the theism-atheism debates, in shared moral reflection, and in the public consumption of the findings of science should be committed to careful reasoning and rigorous criticism. This book provides readers with the information they need to participate more knowledgably in debates about atheism and what it means for our society.


  • Investigates an increasingly relevant topic and cultural movement, which has taken off since 2001 with the bold push of the New Atheists (such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris)
  • Does not argue that atheism is wrong, but rather that key claims of many of its current advocates are unsupported by reason and evidence
  • Engages atheism, including the New Atheists, in a non-combative, even-handed manner

About the Author(s)

Christian Smith is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. Smith holds an MA (1987) and PhD (1990) in Sociology from Harvard University and has studied at Harvard Divinity School. He has taught at Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Gordon College, MA.


"...rich and complex..." -- Tony Carroll, Modern Believing

"This accessible and enjoyable book can be appreciated by undergraduate college students and an educated reading public." -- Glenn B Siniscalchi, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, Religious Studies Review

"Many essays and books have been written in response to the anti-theistic polemics of the so-called New Atheists. Christian Smith's Atheist Overreach is the equal of any of those writers in his acquaintance with the relevant literature and in the acuity of his critique of the claims of the New Atheists. What makes his book stand out from the crowd is that he is writing for the general reader, rather than specialists, that he never overreaches in what he claims to have established, and that -- unlike much of the writing on both sides -- he is never abusive of those whose views he is critiquing. The style is lucid and engaging. In every way, an admirable contribution to the debate." -- Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale University

"Clearly and accessibly written, Atheist Overreach eschews polemics on a topic that usually evokes nothing else. Christian Smith raises questions that every thoughtful atheist must deal with." -- James W. Jones, author of Can Science Explain Religion? The Cognitive Science Debate

"This book provides an invaluable resource for believers and nonbelievers to dialogue about important moral questions, presenting a thorough and readable evaluation of the claims of authors who write as a moral voice of atheism in the public square. At a time when we struggle to have civil discussion about challenging issues such as religion, Christian Smith's balanced approach will undoubtedly help launch an important, productive dialogue among atheists, religious believers, and those who are not sure." -- Margarita Mooney, author of Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora

"Incisive... Smith's powerful arguments never collapse into apologetics or defense of theism, but instead offer crucial weak spots for atheists to consider. These thoughtful essays and their refreshingly balanced approach will appeal to a general audience searching for clarity and precision in considering the shortcomings of atheist debates." --Publishers Weekly

"Atheist Overreach: What Atheism Can't Deliver by Christian Smith is a well-balanced collection of essays seeking to point out certain weak spots in some of the less modest atheist claims with respect to ethics, the relation between science and religion, and finally, the question of whether humans are naturally religious."--Religion Watch

"I highly recommend you read this book. It'll sharpen your thinking and equip you to help others dissect common atheist claims. Importantly, its tone isn't that of a gleeful take-down, but rather a careful critique of ideas."--The Gospel Coalition

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1: Just How "Good without God" Are Atheists Justified in Being?
    Chapter 2: Does Naturalism Warrant Belief in Universal Benevolence and Human Rights?
    Chapter 3: Why Scientists Playing Amateur Atheology Fail
    Chapter 4: Are Humans Naturally Religious?