I recently finished Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth and Coyne's Why Evolution is True. I will save my raving about them for another time, but I do want to ask a question because these books got me wondering about something:

Has anyone successfully gotten a religious friend or family member to read a book by Dawkins? Harris?  Hitchens? Coyne? Dennett? Russell? etc....and, if so, how has the discussion of the text unfolded?

I ask this because my father, when I told him I was an atheist, promised to read Atheist Universe by David Mills;  over a year has passed and he hasn't so much as picked it up.  My Uncle (with whom I debate about religion on a semi-regular basis) actually tries to use quotes off the cover of Coyne's Evolution as evidence that "Atheists are snobs" but hasn't actually read it.  

Is this a common trend?  I, as an Atheist, have undoubtedly read more of the Bible and more books about religion in general and Christianity specifically than anyone in my proselytizing Christian family.  Yet, they seem to still feel armed with knowledge that they don't really have.  


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This is a common trend for people in general. People find it easier and more soothing to read things they agree with rather than disagree with. For example, I would find it very difficult to read a book penned by Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck. However, I might try to under certain circumstances. See, also, this. (Please note, could not find better source due to time constraints, so take with grain of mainstream media salt).

But to answer your other question; no. I have never gotten anyone to read a book written by an atheist on atheism, religion, or science. Although, I have not really put much effort into such an endeavor. I have toyed with the idea of buying my uber-theist mother Ken Miller's book on evolution (as you may know, Miller is a theist and a (mostly) respected evolutionary biologist).
Just the title of that article makes me laugh... I guess it is pretty obvious that this is how most people function---ignoring that which conflicts with their beliefs. I suppose this is how they came to believe in religious doctrine in the first place...

Ken Miller's book is on my "To Read" list ;)
I tried to force myself to read The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization while taking two semesters of Western Civ. history classes; I thought that it would be a good exercise in sharpening my bullshit detection skills and give me ammo against anyone who claims that I am a victim of a "liberal" education. (Because Texan community colleges are totally known for their liberal bias, right?) Anyways, I only finished about half of the book because its content was so moronic and easily refuted that it was deathly boring.
Good 'ol confirmation bias. I'm guilty of it too. I don't go anywhere near Fox News and would probably feel physical pain if touched by a book written by Coulter or Limbaugh. Although, Coulter is at least FUNNY when she's being a bitch.
When I try to read something that is antithetical to my beliefs, I find I spend all my time expostulating why the statement made is illogical, irrational, unreasonable, and impossible. I usually end up so frustrated that I can't continue, it's not that I haven't considered their position, it's that I have considered it and found it totally worthless. I have not seen, nor heard anything new from the opposition in at least 30 years, and then it was only new because I had not been exposed to it before.
When I try to read something that is antithetical to my beliefs, I find I spend all my time expostulating why the statement made is illogical, irrational, unreasonable, and impossible.

I've never gotten a Theist to read any of my books that I read, but I haven't really tried either. The most I've done is mention to my parents how good they are and that they should read it some time (especially Dawkins' latest).

My mother in law is sort of on the fence when it comes to evolution. She's a catholic and I was jokingly responding to something she said once (can't remember the context... think she was comlaining about someone calling our nephew an ape or monkey...), but I had stated that we are all part of the ape family. She rattled off that "According to science, maybe. But there are problems with both theories". The conversation abruptly changed topic before I could respond, however. Since then I've wanted to gift her a copy of "The Greatest Show on Earth". But I fear it would end up in the rubbish bin.

On several occasions I do read good points that I have read to my wife. She's a Wiccan, but always finds the bits I read her as pleasant as I do. Sometimes we'll both be reading our own books before bed and trade off sharing bits of the readings with each other. It's enjoyable and we've both learned things from one another.
Ive spent half my life reading the old and new testament along with countless "Awake" and "Watchtower" publications, mostly because it was pushed onto me since a child by some of my family and partially because i was interested in trying to understand, I would hope that the same family members that have been pushing Christianity on me would read a book such as "The Greatest Show on Earth" by Dawkins if I suggested it to them but realistically I know the chances of that would be slim to none!
Actually, this is the first book I recommend to those that seem to be skeptical of science and assume to evolution to be counter-intuitive. Have I ever been successful in getting them to read the book? No. Instead they read "bits" of the book on the "web" and come back and tell me that Dawkins is an extremely "angry" person.

On a side note, this book made me realize how amazingly thorough the science of evolution has become. Dawkins is an outstanding writer.
In my mind it shouldn't be possible to read The God Delusion or God is not Great by Hitchens and come out the other side a theist of any kind

I agree! However, there is ample evidence that objective truth often has little bearings on a person's beliefs, even when they clearly contradict each other. An example is below with Laura and her mother's clinging to religion and dismissing Misquoting Jesus.
I got my mom to read Misquoting Jesus. She concluded that the author had not said Christianity couldn't be true, and it therefore had no effect on her beliefs.
I loaned my mother a copy of The Blind Watchmaker, and she loaned me Strobel's Case For Christ. I think she got the better end of that deal.


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