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Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 26 Jun 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (26 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804242
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 1.3 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Julian Baggini's books include The Ego Trick, Welcome to Everytown, What's It All About? - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life and The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, all published by Granta Books. He writes for several newspapers and magazines and is co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine.

Product Description

Review

lively and readable...ideal for a popular audience...his very short introduction, which packs into a hundred pages a wealth of insight and argument, is itself a wonderful commitment to the rational thought which he defends (Richard Norman, New Humanist)

About the Author

Julian Baggini is editor and co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine. He is the author of several books on philosophy including Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines and New British Philosophy: The Interviews (with Jeremy Stangroom). He has also written for newspapers, magazines and academic journals.

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When I was a child I attended a Roman Catholic primary school. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steve on 24 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
For the most part, this Very Short Introduction is a lively and enjoyable little guide which sets out to counter various myths about atheism and to make it more palatable to the non-atheist. Author Baggini breezes through a handful of key areas - ethics, purpose, history, and so on - bringing his admirable philosophical knowledge to bear on each contending argument, and presenting it in a down-to-earth and amiable style.

One pivotal area of contention in the theist-atheist debate is how to define atheism. Here, Baggini chooses to define it as "a positive belief system" rather than as a term of negation. Personally, I've always felt more comfortable with the latter approach (a-theism = 'lack of' theism) and wondered if perhaps Baggini, in his eagerness to counter the impression that atheists are "lacking" meaning, morality, happiness, etc, had let this concern drive his decision to turn it into a positive.

To his credit, he develops his argument well and, in an extended discussion about evidence, counters the common charges, such as the one about atheism being a faith position. Still, it's hard not to feel that his approach just serves to introduce a layer of unnecessary confusion to the distinction between theist and atheist, and I have to admit I remain unconvinced that it's strictly necessary. (Incidentally, on this issue, I highly recommend George H Smith's Atheism: The Case against God.)

Just a couple of gripes to mention: The photos throughout are seriously superfluous, particularly given how space is at such a premium. (Did we really need a stock photo of a man looking thoughtful while sipping coffee to illustrate the discussion on acts of faith?
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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Jan Woodhouse on 30 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Julian Baggini's 'very short introduction' is timely. In a world which - commendably - is increasingly multicultural and respectful of diversity (including religious diversity), atheism finds itself out on a limb and needing to defend itself.
Perhaps (and I am one of the already converted) this shouldn't be necessary. J Baggini invokes an analogy whereby 'Nessies'- those who believe in a Loch Ness Monster - become the norm, so that unbelievers need to be labelled 'Annessies'. Similarly, in a world where so many people believe in a god or gods, 'atheism has come to be defined in contrast to theism'.
J Baggini sets out to do several important things. Firstly, he promotes a positive case for atheism, making clear that it is not to be equated with negativity and denial. Secondly, he separates morality and ethics from both theism and atheism, shifting responsibility on to individual choice. Thirdly, he dispels the notion that without religion life becomes meaningless and purposeless, and suggests that sufficient purpose can be gained from living in the world we know rather than in some nebulous hereafter. Fourthly, he shows that atheism is part of a historic progression from superstition to rational explanation. Finally - and importantly - he advocates the 'quiet voice of reason', rather than dogmatic and table-thumping atheism. Militancy from any point of view, he recognises, begets increased defensiveness and entrenchment.
I hope that this little book, with its quiet voice of reason, gives food for thought, and even reasurrance, to those who may be hovering on the brink of atheism and, for whatever reason, feel hesitation in coming out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on 25 April 2011
Format: Paperback
This entry in the OUP's A Very Short Introduction series is by Julian Baggini, a philosopher and the author of several philosophical works written for a general readership. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Philosophers' Magazine, and also has quite an interesting website.

I was happily working my way through this series when I discovered the A Brief Insight series. They have the same texts, but the print is larger, they are hardcover, and they have many more illustrations, many in colour. So unless you want a very small book that you can slip into a pocket, the Brief Insight versions are better.

Baggini defines atheism as a belief that deities do not exist, but falling short of a dogmatic assertion that they do not. He distances himself from militant atheism. He presents a positive view of atheism rather than a negative view of religion. Perhaps more controversially, he associates atheism with naturalism (the belief that there is only the natural world and not a supernatural one) but the more extreme view, eliminative materialism, he strongly rejects.

The approach throughout is very much that of an academic philosopher. Social and sociobiological approaches are neglected. This is most apparent in Chapter 3, on Atheist Ethics. Baggini gives quite a technical account of a philosophical basis for atheistic ethics, reaching back to Plato, Aristotle and others to make his case. It is interesting, but completely overlooks the simpler and more obvious point that morality is evolutionarily adaptive. Natural selection has produced a moral animal. Baggini is more interested in the details of the various moral codes that philosophers have devised rather than the empirical fact that most of us implicitly follow some sort of moral code by nature.
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