Baptized Atheist by David Smalley
"Baptized Atheist" is the entertaining personal quest for the truth. Popular host and moderator of the Dogma Debate Podcast and strong advocate of Secular Humanism, David Smalley takes the reader on an entertaining and philosophical journey inspired ironically by a pastor during the ritual of baptism. This provocative 256-page book includes the following seven chapters: 1. Skepticism, 2. Passing Judgment, 3. Instinctive Sins, 4. Investigating Atheism, 5. Our Society, 6. My Conversion?, and 7. Life after the Journey.
1. Entertaining, provocative and accessible book.
2. The fascinating topic of quest for truth. It's a personal deconversion story from Christianity to Atheism.
3. Smalley in many respects represents the average deep-thinking man on a quest for truth. The appeal of Smalley is his genuine desire to find the truth no matter where it leads him. He is very respectful of believers and seeks to engage and debate them in a civil manner. His personality shines through this book.
4. Entertaining personal quest inspired by a pastor during the ritual of baptism. "You know, son, you can't just say you believe; you have to know it to be true in your heart." Those pastor's words were the impetus behind his quest and this book.
5. Smalley has a good grasp of the Bible and makes good use of it to make sound and logical arguments. He examines it and is unable to defend the logic of the Bible and the quest picks up speed. "The entire basis of Christianity begins under the assumption that the Bible is the `Word of God.' Regardless of the many contradictions I listed above, I was positive that if I could prove that the Bible was in fact `God's Word,' then we could all investigate the meanings of those scriptures at a later time. After all, if the Bible could never be proven to be of holy inspiration, then chasing those rabbits down a hole would be pointless and foolish. So, I set out to discover how a god could write a book for us."
6. Provides a brief list of popular religious labels.
7. Provocative statements abound in this brief book. "That fear of being wrong is what should motivate research and understanding, not prevent it. "
8. An interesting look at free will. "I did wonder why a perfect god would create a being bound to fail, and how it could be considered `free' if we are going to be punished for making the wrong decisions."
9. My favorite point of this whole book is as follows, "For there to be absolute morality, we would first need to have an absolute source from which that morality derived. Without that source being proven as absolute, we cannot say that any rule is for certain." This is the joy of reading exemplified.
10. Should we get our ethics from "sacred" books? "Don't get your ethics from a book, regardless of how holy you think it is. Books are written by humans, including this one, and are subject to error and human fallibility. Obtain your ethics and self-respect from your personal experiences and base them on accepted sociological norms, how you want to live, and how you want to be treated, and most importantly, make decisions based on what causes the least amount of harm. There is no black and white, wrong or right. Just be you and treat every human you meet with the utmost respect.
11. A fascinating look at sins. "The request for repentance in itself is even ridiculous, as you are apologizing for being created as a sinner, which you had no say in. Where's the free will in that?"
12. Addressees some hot-button issues. "You simply can't force yourself to be attracted. We have to look at this physiologically. If it is impossible for you to choose the same sex against your nature, don't you think it's impossible for homosexuals to choose the opposite? There's just a fundamental difference in your brains; that's as far as it goes. Gay people have no more chosen to be gay than women have chosen to be female. One day, our government will see that, too. As for the votes in state legislature to ban gay marriage, I will say this: it's simply not fair to let the majority vote on how the minority is treated."
13. Dedicates a chapter on how he investigated atheism. "Atheists we do trust evidence and science. It is impossible to say Atheists have no conviction at all, but it's more accurate to say that Atheists have confidence in their process of forming knowledge, because it's been rewarded in the past, multiple times over, and in a controlled environment." Also mentions with admiration his mentor Frank Zindler and gives a lot of credit to Dr. David Eller.
14. Condenses the problem of evil down to five parts.
15. Provides some interesting insights during debates and written exchanges.
16. A short section on notable quotes and thoughts by Smalley.
1. Low production value. The book suffers from poor eBook formatting. In general, it's a little rough around the edges.
2. The books overall flow could be better.
3. Many interesting themes are brought up but are given a light treatment.
4. Lacks scientific rigor and depth.
5. Lacks supplementary material. No tables, charts or illustrations.
6. Do we really have free will? What is the scientific consensus and can such a conclusion be effectively conveyed to the public?
In summary, this is a provocative and entertaining book that lacks production value. I really believe that the best is yet to come for David Smalley. His podcast is really taking off and his arguments are becoming stronger and smoother. I look forward to more books from Mr. Smalley. I can envision a book that resembles his popular podcast including contributions from his cohosts, a more comprehensive evolution segment and the like. Rough around the edges but provocative and worth your while, I recommend it.
Further recommendations: "Natural Atheism" and "Atheism Advanced" by David Eller, "Nailed" by David Fitzgerald, "Why I'm Not a Christian" by Richard Carrier, "Nonbeliever Nation" by David Niose, "Atheism for Dummies" by Dale McGowan, "The End of Christianity" by John Loftus, "The Atheist Universe" by David Mills, "The God Argument" by A.C. Grayling, "50 popular beliefs that people think are true" by Guy P. Harrison, "Godless" by Dan Barker, "God is not Great" by Christopher Hitchens, "Freethinkers" by Susan Jacoby, and "Society Without God" by Phil Zuckerman.