The best books to help you decide if God exists

The Books I Picked & Why

Life of Pi

By Yann Martel

Book cover of Life of Pi

Why this book?

I love Life of Pi because it dramatizes a new approach to religion and belief. The novel’s hero, Pi Patel, has a strong spiritual impulse but doesn’t want to be limited to a single doctrine. Instead, he becomes an adherent to three religions – Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam – allowing him to glean the best lessons from each. Pi’s subsequent adventures – I won’t give away the plot, but it involves a Bengal tiger – are an extended argument for the existence of God. If your life is a story, the author argues, isn’t the story more interesting and less depressing with God than without Him/Her/Them/It?

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The Complete Stories

By Flannery O'Connor

Book cover of The Complete Stories

Why this book?

Flannery O’Connor was one of the best American short-story writers and totally obsessed with God and questions of belief. In her story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” she paints an unforgettable portrait of the Misfit, a murderous criminal tortured and infuriated by religious doubt. Without concrete evidence of God’s existence, the Misfit feels free to go on a killing spree, exacting vengeance on a deity that refuses to reveal itself. In “Revelation,” a self-satisfied believer is confronted with a vision of Heaven that looks nothing like what she’d expected. O’Connor uses shock and Gothic horror to jolt readers into reevaluating their beliefs.

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The Brothers Karamazov

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

Book cover of The Brothers Karamazov

Why this book?

This classic of 19th-century Russian literature offers a disturbing parable about God and religion. In the middle of a sprawling novel about a dissipated family squabbling over money, one of the three Karamazov brothers – Ivan, a strident atheist – composes a “story within a story” about a medieval Grand Inquisitor who imprisons a resurrected Jesus and threatens to execute him a second time. The Inquisitor reveals to Jesus that the Church has opted to follow Satan rather than God, because God’s teachings are simply impractical for the human race. But Jesus’s unexpected and mysterious response suggests that belief might still be possible even in a hopelessly broken world.  

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The God Delusion

By Richard Dawkins

Book cover of The God Delusion

Why this book?

This nonfiction book by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist who has become one of the most fervent advocates of atheism, provides a good summary of all the arguments for nonbelief. It’s easy to agree with Dawkins when he argues that natural selection is far stronger than creationism or intelligent design as an explanation for how humans came to be, but his claims seem shakier when he delves into philosophical realms that are beyond his area of expertise.   

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Is God a Delusion?

By Eric Reitan

Book cover of Is God a Delusion?

Why this book?

Philosopher Eric Reitan offers a spirited rebuttal to Dawkins by arguing that belief in God isn’t necessarily irrational or harmful. In particular, Reitan defends the progressive faiths that are based on universal love rather than sectarian division and superstition. I especially enjoyed Reitan’s discussion of atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell, who compared religious faith to a belief in the existence of a “celestial teapot” that travels around the sun in an orbit so distant that it could never be observed by telescope. You can’t disprove its existence, but doesn’t it seem ludicrous? Can you explain how it got there?   

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