Imagine There’s No Heaven by Mitchell Stephens

Rating: 4 of 5

Imagine There's No HeavenStephens mentioned in the Acknowledgments that Imagine There’s No Heaven was a decade-long process, which, within the first chapter, was immediately apparent. (40+ pages in the Notes along with multiple footnotes.) It took me a few chapters to adjust to his narrative style: He’d start off with a more modern “character” or “star” of disbelief / atheism then jump back a couple decades or a few hundred years or a thousand years to someone else, who possibly influenced the person he had previously started discussing before jumping back in time.

Stephens also presented two sides of an argument – sometimes within a few sentences of one another – so that I had to pay close attention if I wanted to discern his personal take on a particular argument from his sharing one side’s perspective or simply asking questions for readers to ponder.

For the most part, Stephens managed to report history rather than sprinkle “truths” in among personal commentary. In other words, his personal beliefs did not overcome or overshadow the facts. Since I was unfamiliar with the history of disbelief, and many of its lesser known “stars”, I found this book a thought-provoking, albeit dense, introduction.

Not recommended to readers in the mood for something light – there’s way too much information, jumping around in time, and open-ended questions for this to be mainstream entertainment. Nor would I recommend it to anyone who’s already performed their own extensive research in the subject and its history – those individuals would probably find this book too basic and/or redundant.

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Received hardcover from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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