From beginner-friendly introductions to comprehensive philosophy textbooks on atheism, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on atheism. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best philosophy books on atheism in no particular order.
Atheism: A Very Short Introduction – Julian Baggini
Publisher description: Atheism is often considered to be a negative, dark, and pessimistic belief which is characterised by a rejection of values and purpose and a fierce opposition to religion. Atheism: A Very Short Introduction sets out to dispel the myths that surround atheism and show how a life without religious belief can be positive, meaningful, and moral. It also confronts the failure of officially atheist states in the Twentieth Century. The book presents an intellectual case for atheism that rests as much upon positive arguments for its truth as on negative arguments against religion.
Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know – Michael Ruse
Publisher description: Over the last decade, “New Atheists” such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have pushed the issue of atheism to the forefront of public discussion. Yet very few of the ensuing debates and discussions have managed to provide a full and objective treatment of the subject.
Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know provides a balanced look at the topic, considering atheism historically, philosophically, theologically, sociologically and psychologically. Written in an easily accessible style, the book uses a question and answer format to examine the history of atheism, arguments for and against atheism, the relationship between religion and science, and the issue of the meaning of life-and whether or not one can be a happy and satisfied atheist. Above all, the author stresses that the atheism controversy is not just a matter of the facts, but a matter of burning moral concern, both about the stand one should take on the issues and the consequences of one’s commitment.
The Cambridge Companion to Atheism – Michael Martin
Publisher description: In this 2007 volume, eighteen of the world’s leading scholars present original essays on various aspects of atheism: its history, both ancient and modern, defense and implications. The topic is examined in terms of its implications for a wide range of disciplines including philosophy, religion, feminism, postmodernism, sociology and psychology. In its defense, both classical and contemporary theistic arguments are criticized, and, the argument from evil, and impossibility arguments, along with a non religious basis for morality are defended. These essays give a broad understanding of atheism and a lucid introduction to this controversial topic.
The Impossibility of God – Michael Martin
Publisher description: Most people, believers and nonbelievers alike, are unfamiliar with the variety and force of arguments for the impossibility of God. Yet over recent years a growing number of scholars have been formulating and developing a series of increasingly powerful arguments that the concept of God, as variously understood by the world’s major religions and leading theologians, is contradictory in many ways, and therefore God does not and cannot exist.
This unique anthology brings together for the first time most of the important arguments for the impossibility of God that have been published. The collection includes papers and book selections by J. L. Mackie, Quentin Smith, Theodore Drange, Michael Martin, and many other distinguished scholars. The editors provide a general introduction and brief summaries of the arguments to help the reader grasp the crucial issues involved. Both students and teachers of philosophy and the philosophy of religion will find this anthology to be an indispensable resource.
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon – Daniel Dennett
Publisher description: For all the thousands of books that have been written about religion, few until this one have attempted to examine it scientifically: to ask why—and how—it has shaped so many lives so strongly. Is religion a product of blind evolutionary instinct or rational choice? Is it truly the best way to live a moral life? Ranging through biology, history, and psychology, Daniel C. Dennett charts religion’s evolution from “wild” folk belief to “domesticated” dogma. Not an antireligious screed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy, Breaking the Spell will be read and debated by believers and skeptics alike.
Seven Types of Atheism – John Gray
Publisher description: From the provocative author of Straw Dogs comes an incisive, surprising intervention in the political and scientific debate over religion and atheism.
When you explore older atheisms, you will find that some of your firmest convictions―secular or religious―are highly questionable. If this prospect disturbs you, what you are looking for may be freedom from thought.
For a generation now, public debate has been corroded by a shrill, narrow derision of religion in the name of an often vaguely understood “science.” John Gray’s stimulating and enjoyable new book, Seven Types of Atheism, describes the complex, dynamic world of older atheisms, a tradition that is, he writes, in many ways intertwined with and as rich as religion itself.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Atheism – Philosophy 192 | California State University Sacramento
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Atheism and Agnosticism
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Atheism
- Good books that argue for atheism?
- Good books about philosophical atheism?
- What are the best philosophy of religion books on the ‘atheist’ side?
If you want to learn more about philosophical views on atheism, you can find a collection of free articles, videos, and podcasts here.
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the Philosophy of Religion
- The Best Philosophy Books on God
The Daily Idea aims to make learning about philosophy as easy as possible by bringing together the best philosophy resources from across the internet.
- Find the best philosophy books on a wide variety of topics with this collection of over 120 philosophy reading lists.
- Find free online philosophy articles, podcasts, and videos with this organised collection of 400+ free philosophy resources.
A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.