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Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Axcess, Nov 6, 2009.
What books about atheism are the best reading ? Besides God Delusion and God isn't great ?
There's books on atheism? What do they say other than don't drink the Jesus Juice? :lmao: Seriously, it's not like you need to go to CCD or confirmation class to learn how to be a good atheist. :tongue:
I'm interested in learning more about the new "militant atheism " movement just for curiosity . The book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkings is well written but the material in the book isn't enough for me . I would like to read more books on the subject.
Wow, NJ, you obviously don't browse the same book stores as I do! There has been an explosion of (to use your apt expression) "don't drink the Jesus Juice" books. The movement has been called "the new atheism," though there is nothing new about it as far as I can tell (nor, I think, do the authors lumped under this label pretend that there is): atheism or "freethinking" was far more widely held and more publicly acceptable in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries than it is today. Read up on Robert Green Ingersoll to get an idea of what I am talking about: in the later 19th century, he lived off the income from his books and lectures on the follies of religion.
The main aim of the so-called new atheists, as I understand them, is to end the special protection against criticism to which religious beliefs have been subject -- the widely held attitude that it is wrong to subject religious beliefs to the same kind of public critical examination to which other beliefs are subjected just because religious beliefs are so "deeply held" and so "meaningful" to people. To the new atheists, this is tosh: if you are deeply attached to some piece of abject superstition then so much the worse for you if you are offended by having its folly publicly exposed. The most prominent authors and books associated with this movement are:
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Spoils Everything
Sam Harris, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.
I have read Dawkins's and Dennett's books. Dawkins's I found uneven but quite worthwhile overall. The inclusion of Dennet's book in this company has always seemed odd to me. It doesn't argue against religious belief, but simply looks at it, as the title says, as a natural phenomenon, and tries to explain how it has occurred in human beings by using Dawkins's conception of "memes." I think it is a very shallow book and shows little insight into the phenomenon that it is concerned with. But, for that matter, the only one of these writers who, to my knowledge, has shown any serious understanding of what he is talking about is Hitchens -- though I say that on the basis of hearing him speak in interviews rather than reading his book.
There is a round table conversation among these four authors in two one-hour videos under the title "The Four Horsemen." I can recommend it.
The physicist Victor Stenger, though he has not attracted as much journalistic attention as the four aforementioned authors, has been at least as industrious and as substantial a writer as they. His most recent atheistic titles are: The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason (2009) and God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist (2007). He has written several other books about modern physics and cosmology, debunking, among other things, the fashionable horseshit that quacks like Deepak Chopra have spun out of quantum mechanics.
I myself am very much discontented with these writings. As I have said, the authors, with a limited exception in the case of Hitchens, seem to me to show very little understanding of religion and very little interest in understanding it. But on the whole, given the prevalence of religion-based idiocy in the United States, I think that they do far more good than ill.
Edited to add: Axcess, if your interest in atheism is connected with an interest in science and in the debunking of popular delusions, you may also want to have a look at some skeptical discussion boards:
Freethought and Rationalism Discussion Board
James Randi Educational Foundation Discussion Board
Skeptic Society Forum
Hey man thanks !!!:smile:
No, but some do need the support of texts or groups to cement their new found outlook.
Giving up the notion of God, a guiding hand, or order in the world creates significant life change. In macro, it alters your worldview, that's easy. The micro changes are what gets you, specifically how friends or family view your godlessness.
Anyway - I recommend You Shall Be As Gods by Erich Fromm, Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby, and The Caged Virgin by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
I have a few others, but not sure if they offer the tone of condemnation you might prefer.
Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead... ahem.
I'm an atheist, but I find books on atheism to be pretty dry and pompous a lot of the time. So just not an all that interesting read. I find reading about Plato and such more fun if you are in that section of the bookstore.
"Coming out" as an atheist can bring some people a lot of the same difficulties with parents and family members that homosexuals face. There are advocacy groups that provide support for people in this situation and fight the widespread prejudice (in the US) against religious non-believers. Freethoughtaction.org recently started an advertising campaign with the slogan, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone." Other organizations:
American Atheists | Welcome
Council for Secular Humanism
Just about anything by Ayn Rand.
Similarly many writings from Richard Dawkins including the aforementioned The God Delusion; try also The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor's Tale.
If you want to go further, check out Nietzsche for The Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good & Evil as well as The Anitchrist.
Often included for standard Atheism reads is The Stranger from Albert Camus
and The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell.
Additionally, check out All In The Mind: A Farewell To God by the recently deceased Ludovic Kennedy.
There are hundred, probably thousands, of reads out there on atheism. Some are well written, some are cobbled together quite poorly. As is the usual for selecting a read, browse some pages at the start, a few pages in the mid sections and a few pages at the end, to determine if it seems to be what you're looking for in a book.
I love Dawkin's science writings, but if you think The God Delusion turned you into an atheist then you were almost there to begin with. I was as disappointed with that book as I was with Bill Maher's movie.
As a theist I find Dawkins challenge to religion as naive as a Creationist's challenge to science. All straw men and ignorance about the subject matter.
You can't beat his science writing, though.
On that note, though, I don't see The Blind Watchmaker or The Ancestor's Tale as a challenge to theism. It is not surprising to find either of those books on any mainstream Christian's shelf. The Ancestor's Tale has no agenda but to illuminate the phylogeny of the great tree of life from the point of view of evolution.
The Blind Watchmaker might be seen to have more of an anti-Creationist agenda where it develops a case for the sufficience of chance and necessity in evolution for creating the diversity of lilfe on the planet. But only a fundamentalist would see that as any kind of challenge to religion. The doctrines of most mainstream Christian denominations embrace those notions readily.
Actually, let me recommend The Blind Watchmaker anyway for both its good science writing and for making a convincing argument against the theodicy of fundamentalism. I would rather you be an atheist than believe in a religion that depends on a literal interpretation of Genesis, especially if your beliefs prevent you from seeing the miracle of a universe that exploits chance and necessity as a major creative force.
Along that line, then, let me also recommend Daniel Dennett's book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea. This book was the one that drove out of me the last bit of need for my religious beliefs to have any empirical basis. I was still relying on personal incredulity to support my religious beliefs before this book cured me of that. After this book, you will be convinced that even the creation of the universe could be easily explained by processes involving chance and necessity.
I would like to know more about why or in what way the topic interests you. It seems to me that atheism is not much of a subject in its own right (which I think is the nub of NJ's post, too). This is reflected in the fact thats some people have posted to recommend writings of Ayn Rand puke, Camus, and Nietzsche. These writers are all atheistic, but I don't think of them mainly as writers about atheism. One would recommend different books to, say, the person who has been a religious believer but now is having doubts, the person who was once a believer but now rejects religion, and the person who never was a believer but is alarmed or distressed by the effects of religion and the extent of its hold on the minds of human beings -- to describe just a few possible cases.
The God Delusion is well written in my opinion but isn't enough to convert most believers to atheists . I don't believe in a personal god but I'm agnostic about the existence of any gods . Because I never see a deity it doesn't mean that it doesn't exists. In another hand we can believe sometimes in things that doesn't exist . I'm also agnostic about what happen when we die . To me is reasonable to think that humans ( as we are animals ) are absolute absolutely terminated at death . Then again what about near death experiences ? Most scientists dismissed those as brain alusinations
but I'm not really sure about that . I think that the Bill Maher's movie is mostly for fun . Even hardcore atheists would don't take that movie very seriously .
I hope it's more satisfying than Breaking the Spell, since I've got it on my shelf (one part of a large collection of as yet unread books). Perhaps your recommendation will incline me to get to it sooner rather than later. Right now, Victor Stenger's God, the Failed Hypothesis is ahead of it in the queue. I am curious to see how Stenger makes a case for the proposition (which seems to me rather fatuous) that belief in God is or implies a "hypothesis," let alone the even more comical-sounding claim that "science shows that God does not exist."
The topic interest me because as agnostic the arguments of god by theists don't convince me a bit . I want to study more about the arguments of god inexistence by atheists to compare . I don't buy any religious dogma since I was like 13 . I was raised by a Catholic family and I started to see the theology of that religion as unlikely . Later in my life I started to study other world religions and my conclusion is that all religions are man made .
I think the two books might be very different. DDI is not about religion except that it provides a very solid and compelling argument for why chance and necessity is sufficient for not only evolution, but for abiogenesis and even the formation of the universe. One can infer from that that divine intervention is not necessary for any of it.
I can't remember if he references religion so much as refers often to how nothing miraculous is required for these natural processes he describes to create what they created. Once you read this, you not only find c + n to be sufficient for creating the diversity of life, but you start to suspect that almost everything comes about through processes like that.
This book helped me in my acceptance of c + n as a credible explanation for most of what seems miraculous natural processes. As I said in a previous post, I was stuck with a certain amount of personal incredulity about things as miraculous as evolution. The vacuum of a satisfying natural explanation for this served as a kind of kind of cheesy plank in the platform of my faith in God. As a scientist/engineer I thought that was important.
Dennett's book does such a good job of disabusing incredulity about c + n that it helped me out of that logjam and into more rational (by virtue of its complete irrationality) faith.
I can see for many, however, this book can just as easily inform your atheism if that is the direction you are headed in.
Cheesus. The Bible does it for me.
Arguments for the non-existence of God have never held any interest for me. Most of what are offered as such turn out to be merely counter-arguments to some arguments for the existence of God; the rest seem always to presume some particular conception of God or some particular interpretation of what the implications are of belief in God, which the theist can always disavow.
What I find interesting in atheistic writing is the arguments that theism is a form of superstition or magical thinking. I think that it is harder for theists to counter those arguments. I think that they can only do so by making their conception of God more and more abstract and devoid of clear meaning. This is what Karen Armstrong, for instance, has been accused of doing in her recently published book The Case for God and in other writings. For instance, in a piece written for the Wall Street Journal in answer to the question "Where does evolution leave God?", she wrote as follows:
Atheists and old-school theists were united in casting scorn on her for this and similar statements, which both parties derided as amounting to atheism in the verbal clothing of theism. I am not sure if that is fair or not. It seems to me that it is only along the lines of such abstraction that religious belief can be made out to be something other than the "patently infantile" affair that Freud held it to be. ("The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life." --Civilization and Its Discontents.) What I don't know is whether there is really anything left in theism besides a kind of verbal gesticulation once the superstitious elements are removed.
"Why I am not a Christian," Bertrand Russell
A friend of mine from college was raised in a very conservative Christian home. While in the Peace Corps in the middle of nowhere in the Philippines, without much to do, he finally read the Bible from cover-to-cover. He was a believer when he started, but not when he finished. It was only later that I found out that various religion and sociology of religion studies have shown that most Christians have no idea what is in most of the Bible. As an atheist myself, I think it's time all Christians read it from cover to cover.