A clarification of an earlier comment.
I have been taken to task in a couple of places for a comment I made about the best known atheist thinkers. I wanted to take a moment to respond and clarify what I said (which seems to be a legitimate means of proceeding since Antony Flew was permitted to clarify some statements he made that led some people to believe that he was no longer an atheist). Here are my original comments:
I have to admit that I don't keep up with the latest spokesmen for atheism--mainly because I don't care who they are or what they say. I have learned a few names such as Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, and Steven J. Gould, but I couldn't even begin to tell you the names that may be touted as the latest advocates for non-belief.
At the risk of misinterpreting the comments, some people have suggested that this shows that I am in some way narrow minded or even close-minded for not being willing to consider atheistic thought. Let me clarify:
Several years ago, I regularly engaged in debating skeptics on the Internet about the truth of Christianity. I still do so occasionally, but my experience has made me rather impatient with the tactics that were all too commonly exercised by skeptics on the Internet discussion boards (and before anyone objects: I am not saying that Christians never engaged in similar tactics--I just didn't experience them because I was debating against atheists, not Christians) so I don't go on discussion boards as much as often. In the course of these discussions, I read and had to respond to the arguments advanced by a large number of skeptics on a large number of topics relating to the truth of Christianity. In responding, I did a lot of research and thinking about the claims and the objectinos, and this experience served only to strengthen my resolved that Christianity is true (not just true for me, but as stated by Francis Schaeffer, "true truth").
I did not know, but suspected strongly, that a lot of the arguments I read were simply reformulations of what the most outspoken atheists (perhaps, the "atheist spokesmen") had to say. At that time, I begin reading articles and essays by these authors that were available on the Internet. If you want to see a pretty good collection of these articles, I would recommend the Internet Infidels which, it is my belief, has a pretty good sampling of skeptical thought. I found, true to my suspicions, that these atheists were not saying anything that I had not seen before in the course of my discussions. I found myself reading their writings and saying "yeah, I've heard that, so what?" or "no, that's not true," or "that's a straw man", etc., etc.
I also borrowed and began reading Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. With all due respect to Mr. Russell, I thought that many of the on-line atheists I had debated made better arguments for non-belief than Mr. Russell. I didn't finish the book because I thought it was so tedious and wrong that it wasn't worth the time it was taking me to read it all the way through.
I have tried other books by people who I would guess would fall within the category of "famous atheists." For example, I started reading George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God, but found it incredibly tedious and not well reasoned. Like the Russell book, I gave it up before the end (but I read much further into Russell's book because Smith's book was just plain tedious). I also remember reading the first few chapters of Kai Nielsen's Philosophy and Atheism. Again, I found myself so frustrated with what I thought was his missing of the obvious that I put the book down after the first four chapters to read works that I felt were more interesting and challenging. I am sure that I started reading other skeptical works, but I don't recall the titles--but that doesn't mean I haven't read portions of their arguments in other forums or reworkings of their arguments. Quite to the contrary, by the time I read all three of these books, I found that there was very, very little that was new to me. It was all simply restatements of what I had read before (which may, of course, have been restatements of what these authors were saying).
When I wrote that "I don't care who they are or what they say", I meant it. But I certainly was not intending to diss all skeptical thought. I was referring to the main propositors of skeptical thought who, in my view, have nothing of interest to say that I haven't already seen and found to be either refuted or not well reasoned. I don't know the complete list of the most famous atheist thinkers, and I don't care because I can't see myself reading their books. If someone wants to educate me on what they say by making the argument in their own words, I certainly would listen (and, in fact, I do so quite often).
So, contary to those who suggested that I my decision to not waste my time discovering the names and thinking of the foremost skeptical proponents, I welcome an interesting discussion (key on "discussion") with skeptics about whether God exists or whether Christianity is true. But don't bother asking me to read something written by Kai Nielsen, Antony Flew, Bertrand Russell, or any other well known skeptic. If you want me to hear their argument, you make the argument as your own. Otherwise, why should I waste my time reading the writings of people whose views I don't accept where my sampling of their writings have resulted in nothing more than a waste of my time?
(Edited 9/7/04 at 3:51 p.m. PDT to correct typographical error)