It's like this: I had become an atheist about a decade ahead of the New Atheist surge beginning roughly with the publication of Sam Harris's The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. In most of that time the only books I could find addressing the issues of atheism that interested me--after reading Hume and Russell and a couple others--were deplorable, dull, badly written and uninspired affairs. Which is a shame, and rather surprising since some of the best writers I know about are actually atheists (Douglas Adams springs to mind--his The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is wonderful fun).
But then came the New Atheist "revival," and with it, several interesting and enjoyable books. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. The God Delusion. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Several others.
And then it just all started feeling like too much. Each book started looking like just one more aspect of a dreary polemic about how god almost certainly doesn't exist. This is true. There is no cogent evidence whatsoever for the existence of a god, and several excellent reasons that argue AGAINST the existence of a god. But that's kind of dull, once you realize it.
Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that the LIFE of an atheist (this atheist, anyway) is dull or dreary. Not at all. But the TOPIC starts to feel almost as played as religion is.
There were a couple of works that took an approach and filled niches in ways that sparkled and stood out: The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods, for example, and Letting Go of God. But most of the material being produced that was skeptical of religion or argued for atheism felt listless, pedantic, and unnecessary.
Enter "The Belief Instinct." Extremely well-written, filled with fascinating literary references, anecdotes, study summaries, amusing, no longer than it needs to be--it's the first time I've seen someone address atheist themes in a fresh and interesting way in some while. For one thing, Berring makes no effort to argue for the truth of atheism. He just starts with the simple hypothesis, "If humans are really natural rather than supernatural beings, what accounts for our beliefs about souls, immortality, a moral 'eye in the sky' that judges us, and so forth?" And the answers, while still retaining some of that evolutionary psychology "just-so story" quality, are backed by research and studies just convincing enough to make you think Berring's probably onto something.
I would go so far as to say that any honest theist who reads "The Belief Instinct" and Religion Explained back-to-back would be knocked back on her heels enough to realize that it is religion and spirituality that have something to defend, something to argue for, and that the rational default position should indeed be that our psychological and cultural evolutions have visited on our species a persistent--because often more helpful than harmful to reproductive success--illusion.