on 12 September 2013
Don't fear it - try and understand!
If you are on your journey of learning and understanding away from invisible friends, myths and fairytales this is a good pointer (as the dummies series so often is) to guide you through the history of humanism and atheism, give you helpful insight and follow up reading advice.
Nothing made me a quicker unbeliever than actually reading the so called holy books themselves, but this will give you a good understanding why more and more people wake and question our traditional belief systems!
on 22 November 2014
Having read Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris pretty much immediately after being a prayer-every-day Christian there was much change to take in. I now devour atheist and free-thought books and this really is one of the best. This is the book that lays the foundations for your reason, giving you the history, terminology and basis for your arguments. It's a wonderful book...I bought the audio version but after that, had to have the book too. Very highly recommended.
on 14 May 2014
This book was a bit disappointing read for me. The first 50 pages handled everything I really wanted to know about atheism: the best arguments for and against the existence of god, and typical misconceptions about atheists. I would have liked this part to be longer. After that there were some 200 pages of history, which turned out to be a series of patchy anecdotes that left me confused. The last 100 pages handled mostly social issues related to not believing in god, and it felt to me too opinionated and vague. Overall, I would have liked the book to be more intellectual and objective in its approach. (Perhaps Dummies-series wasn't the right choice for me?)
The use of language was often sloppy and overgeneralising. E.g. in page 48: "For thousands of years, everyone from theologians to the person in the street found the complexity of life to be the strongest argument for the existence of God". How could McGowan know what every human in thousands of years have thought in their heads? It's just arrogant to claim something like that. I suppose Dale was just sloppy and didn't think it through when he constructed that sentence.
One aspect that especially annoyed me was the advertisement of humanism. I kind of get it, as atheism is criticised for the lack of ethics and morals, and humanism brings those to the mix, but still humanism doesn't say anything about believing or not believing in god. McGowan even claims that "humanism is the heart of atheism". Clearly not every atheist thinks that way (I don't). I see that humanism is a political ideology that promotes equality, sharing, togetherness, helping starving children in Africa, and that sort of left-wing stuff. IMO, the writer should have left his political opinions out of this book, and concentrate on atheism.
On the good sides, the book was very thorough. It at least tried to answer every question I had in mind. Also, the book was quite gentle on believers, and discussed openly about the negative sides of atheism, e.g. the violent elimination of religion in the Soviet Union. Lastly, the subject was interesting, so I don't regret reading it.