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on 29 January 2016
“The Irrational Atheist” (also known as TIA) is an interesting and surprisingly good response to the New Atheism of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Unfortunately, it's written by Vox Day, a self-proclaimed Christian libertarian whose real political positions are uncomfortably close to White supremacism. Creationism and climate change denial are other ingredients of Herr Day's revolution in science. He may also be inspired by the current known as Neo-Reaction or Dark Enlightenment. Even his theology is exotic, being a radical version of Open Theism. When not busy slashing New Atheists (or radical-liberal SJWs), Vox is a game developer, science fiction writer and raving misogynist.

That being said, I nevertheless considered TIA a stimulating read (please don't slash me). And no, I haven't double-checked all the factual claims, but the task seems well worth pursuing. Here are some of the highlights. “Blue” states are just as dangerous and crime-ridden as “red” states, and most crime in “red” states takes place in “blue” counties. Only four anti-atheist hate crimes were reported in the United States in 2005. Most wars are about ethnicity or territory, not religion. Machiavelli (who never led an army) is the only classical writer on military matters who claims that religion is good for recruiting and motivating soldiers. Until recently, most suicide bombings were carried out by the secular-Marxist LTTE in Sri Lanka, not by Muslim jihadists. Only 3,230 people were killed by the Spanish Inquisition during a period of 400 years, while Communism killed 148 million in little under a century. Technological innovation or population increase can't explain the steep rise in the number of deaths during the 20th century, since pre-modern rulers such as Genghis Khan were also accomplished mass murders…

The author points out that Harris and the other New Atheists refuse to take responsibility for the crimes of godless Communism, while often claiming that religious moderates are somehow responsible for the crimes of their militant co-religionists – an obvious double standard. Vox denies that Communism was a “religion”, since it didn't believe in the supernatural. It was precisely its non-religious/anti-religious focus on utopian this-worldly “progress” which caused it to go totalitarian and genocidal. Vox further argues that moral atheists are parasitical on the often religiously-derived morality of their host societies, which empirically proves that atheism has no moral compass of its own.

More controversially, Vox Day claims that humans are irrational and indeed sinful creatures, which (somewhat paradoxically) means that Enlightenment rationalists are irrational for treating their fellow human beings as if they were rational and perfectable. Science, rather than religion, caused the (real or perceived) global threats to human survival bemoaned by the New Atheists: overpopulation, nuclear weapons or climate change. Therefore, it's simply wrong to suggest that all knowledge is neutral, or that knowledge is always better than ignorance – sometimes, the very opposite is the case. The very fact that science can't generate a moral code of its own making, but needs outside guidance, once again shows that science and scientists simply cannot replace religion.

Since Vox Day, as already indicated, is a creationist and climate change denialist, he is not particularly convincing when dismissing the religious threat to science, claiming that no such threat exists. No? What about anti-vaxxer religious groups? Or what about Christian fundamentalists who refuse to take action against climate change “since Jesus will save us”? There is also the general climate of weird obscurantism fostered by those who claim that the age of the Earth or the origin of species can be derived from ancient texts in Old Hebrew (interpreted or even translated differently by various religious groups), rather than by, say, scientific observations. (Texts in ancient Sanskrit are presumably also beyond the pale of theo-settlement.)

That being said, TIA is nevertheless an exciting read, and even entertaining (after a fashion). Be warned that Vox Day doesn't sound like a liberal Quaker! Threats of violence against Richard Dawkins (Vox wants to meet him in the Octagon), claims that atheists may suffer from Asperger's syndrome, unexpected insults against Rapture-ready Baptist women for being obese, a somewhat obsessive preoccupation with psychedelic drugs...you get the drift. He also kindly informs us that asking questions about religion to readers of his blog, Vox Populi, is usually a waste of time, its denizens being more interested in questions like “9 mm or .45?” or “what's the best way to get rid of a dead body?”. Brother VD sure is a peculiar kind of Xian!

Since New Atheism is already out of fashion (it feels “so 2005” or thereabouts), I'm pretty certain none of the Four Horsemen of the Atheistic Apocalypse will ever pen a response to TIA, even apart from the fact that the author makes Ted Cruz sound like a liberal (and hence can't be invited to polite company). In a sense, this is a pity, since a debate (OK, make that a brawl) between Darwin's pitbull and God's vampire, in the Octagon or elsewhere, would have been great fun – and perhaps even intellectually interesting…
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on 28 October 2014
Vox Day is a controversial individual in that his widely read blog had/has a tone that at first can seem utterly bigoted. The reality is a little different in that he basically does not write to pander to the politically correct sensibilities. It takes a while to get used to his style but if you persist in reading eventually his blog will become a rare source of intelligent conversation as many of the commenters are smart, funny and certainly non-pc, but not devoid of humanity, compassion and humour. As far as this book goes, it is a five star. If you look at my reviews you will see I read a wide variety of topics and five star is relatively rare. This book however discusses the shortcomings of the philosophies of people like Richard Dawkings in a way that is both accurate as well as funny. I am not religious and until relatively recently remained essentially agnostic, (and still am mostly, though the technical definition of what I am is probably a Deist) though I was a declared atheist for a good part of my life, so if anything I would be inclined to find fault with Day's "religiosity" wherever it might surface, but am happy to say, it never does. He simply takes the atheist "brights" apart with raw logic and unassailable facts. And does so in a way that is sometimes laugh out loud funny, but, despite Day being a self-professed "cruelty artist", not without a certain level of compassion. This book is informative without being preachy in any way and actually an intelligent and very entertaining read. Regardless of your position on the atheist/theist axis it's going to give you something interesting to think on and a good laugh too.
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on 23 August 2013
When I received my copy of The Irrational Atheist I wasn't sure what to expect. While doing research on the internet for opinions about the book I basically found two kinds of reviews: the glowing, `Vox demolishes the New Atheists' review and the `don't bother reading this, the book is full of strawmen and logical fallacies' review. Because the negative reviews almost never gave any examples of the strawmen and fallacies used I began to wonder if perhaps these negative reviews were written by people who just didn't like the book and didn't read it all the way through, so gave it a one-star review anyway to spite the author.

Well, after reading the book myself (cover to cover by the way), I found that the negative reviews were spot on. There are so many problems with the book I think I will begin with what I agreed with the author about because Vox did manage to point out a few major problems with the New Atheists' books. For example, he refuted Richard Dawkins' Boeing 747 argument against god and as far as I could tell showed that Sam Harris' Red State/Blue State argument was not only a poor guide for discerning the morality of individuals, but that it actually showed the opposite of what Harris intended.

Vox was also successful in pointing out the great historical errors that many atheists make: the common mistaken belief that religion is the number one cause of war and that religion has always battled against scientific progress. Now, note that I said the error that many atheists make, and not the New Atheists. This is because the New Atheists have never made these two statements in their books while many "internet atheists" have. So, while Vox wasted an entire chapter and part of another one erecting a strawman against the New Atheists, he did refute those atheists who do make such claims.

Now for the bad...

A lot of reviewers make a lot of ballyhoo about Day's use of FBI data to refute the idea that religion causes a lot of problems in society, but Day actually cherry-picked the data if you look at the 2005 hate crime statistics he used. The fact is that the data flatly refutes Day's claim that religion doesn't cause that much conflict. The fact is that religion is actually the second - yes, read that again, the SECOND - leading cause of hate crimes, in 2003, 2005 and 2006 (those were the only years I checked). Why did Vox's data show the opposite? Well, Day only looked at the figures for murders caused by religious hate crime, not violence and threats of violence. I'm reminded of the book "How to Lie with Statistics" right about now...

When you get to the chapters on the individual atheists, this is the heart of the book that I'd heard was fantastic, but again what I found were several cases of strawmen, Vox taking the New Atheists out of context, and counter-arguments that just did not stand up to the facts when I looked into them.

Take for example the following quote by Vox in the chapter about Daniel Dennett,

"The most interesting thing about Breaking the Spell is not the way it differs from the other three atheists' cases against religion, but the way it specifically refutes them. After Harris does his excellent Chicken Little imitation by clucking about how religion is going to end life on the planet at any moment, Hitchens metaphorically calls the poison control center on it, and Dawkins slanderously asserts that it is worse than child molestation, it comes as a bit of a shock to read Dennett's calm declaration that the secular proposition that religion does more harm than good, to an individual or to society, `has hardly begun to be properly tested,' let alone conclusively proved."

When I read this passage I first believed Dennett was referring to whether or not religious belief was potentially dangerous. After looking up the quote myself it seems that the way Vox presents this partial quote is misleading. Dennett says,

"Even the secular and nonpartisan proposition that religion in general does more good than harm, either to the individual believer or to society as a whole, has hardly begun to be properly tested, as we saw in chapters 9 and 10."

I read both chapters nine and ten to see what Dennett was referring to and it wasn't religious violence or how dangerous religion is. In chapter nine Dennett talks about the studies that show religion seems to improve health and notes that it's not known for sure either way yet. In chapter ten Dennett discusses the subject of morality and religion and concludes that the "presumed relation between spirituality and moral goodness is an illusion."

Vox clearly took Dennett out of context because it wasn't the dangerous consequences of religion Dennett was referring to, but health and morality, which Dennett agrees with the New Atheists in that religoin often causes people to act in violent ways.

In the chapter titled "The Red Hand of Atheism" Vox makes use of the old Communists-killed-a-bunch-more-people-so-atheism-is-worse-than-Christianity canard. Here, his entire premise is based upon the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc. He fails to show how atheism was the cause of the Communist atrocities in any way and ignores the fact that it was the Communist ideology, not atheism, which is why I was shocked to find this statement in the chapter,

"The reason Communism has so habitually devolved into violence is because it is an impressively stupid vision that violates both basic human nature in the form of the individual's desire for material betterment as well as the economic law of supply and demand. Its early institution was such a disaster that Lenin was quickly forced to revise some of his more dysfunctional policies, but he was the first in a long, lethal line of Communist leaders who made a practice of always attempting to force their populations to fit the Communist mold instead of adjusting the utopian vision to fit humanity."

Exactly! And when people do not want their property seized the Communists take it by force and further oppression takes place. The answer is right under Vox's nose the entire time, but again, his goal is not historical truth but Christian propaganda.

One of the more surprising things I learned is how badly the chapter on Sam Harris was argued. Based upon the hype I'd read in reviews and Vox's bold and confidant (or perhaps more accurately overconfidant) chapter title, "The End of Sam Harris," I was expecting some major butt-kicking. Unfortunately, this alleged butt-kicking never came. While I agree that Vox pointed out Harris' error with the Red/Blue State argument as I pointed out before, he also pointed out that, unlike as Harris seems to imply, most suicide bombers are not Muslim. He also points out the fact that, unlike what Harris argues, the wars of religion have not caused "millions of deaths in the last ten years." Vox gave a high estiamte of around 750,000. While Harris was wrong about the total number dead Harris' point is still valid in that many needless deaths have occured due to beliefs that are no more real than that of Santa Clause. Roughly half a million deaths have occured due to religious wars in the ten years prior to the publication of The End of Faith.

Out of the fifteen arguments Vox presented against Harris in that chapter only three were valid. The other twelve were either Vox taking Harris out of context or he misread Harris.

The other chapters follow much the same pattern as the one about Harris, with strawmen, quotes taken out of context, and mostly what I call nitpicking; the focusing on statements and arguments that are minor and not central to a book's main premise. Take, for example, this enormous case of nitpicking by Vox in the chapter on Richard Dawkins. Vox writes,

"In Unweaving the Rainbow, Dawkins writes: 'By more general implication, science is poetry's killjoy, dry and cold, cheerless, overbearing and lacking in everything that a young Romantic might desire. To proclaim the opposite is one purpose of this book, and I shall here limit myself to the untestable speculation that Keats, like Yeats, might have been an even better poet if he had gone to science for some of his inspiration.'

Of course, this speculation is as improbable as it is untestable, given the centuries of evidence demonstrating that science is largely incapable of providing the inspiration for passable poetry, much less the sort of great art that religion has reliably inspired for millennia."

Vox spends several pages arguing against this unimportant opinion of Dawkins'! Who cares!? It was merely Dawkins' opinion and he even admitted as much!

I could go on and on with many more issues with Day's book but, ultimately, while he pointed out a handful of errors with the New Atheists' books, Vox mostly misses when he aims and doesn't pay enough attention to the main arguments of the New Atheists, choosing instead to nitpick their books to death, leaving most of their main arguments untouched.

Before I close out this review I'd like to make a plea to anyone who may read The Irrational Atheist and later decide to write a review for the book. Please, please, please check Vox's refrences for yourself! With so many reviewers singing praises for this book and going on about how well researched it was, check out Vox's so-called facts for yourself because more often than not he is wrong. Don't take Vox's word - or anyone's for that matter - and check the facts and the author's sources yourself.

I honestly cannot recommend this book since the arguments are more often than not poor and the personal attacks are uncalled for. I know the theists seem to believe that the New Atheists should be fair game after their ridicule of theists in their books but the difference is that the New Atheists only ridiculed religious beliefs and some Christians' lapses in reasoning. They did not get personal like Vox did and that really subtracts from the book I think.
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on 3 February 2008
When I downloaded `The Irrational Atheist' from the web, I was looking forward to seeing the much vaunted devastating blows to the new atheists and all they stood for. I expected to find a hard-hitting factual and logical critique of what they said and a clear balance established against the forces of atheism. Having just finished it, I am afraid that it just doesn't live up to its billing. Very largely, it is a `rant' and a very personal one against Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris, something which makes for amusing reading, but doesn't represent a very edifying spectacle.

Worse, it doesn't actually land very many, if any killer punches. It seems to rely heavily on the technique of drawing conclusions about the atheists which are inconsistent with what they have said or written and then proceeds to use these conclusions to prove further points. This approach makes for an interesting read since it is simple to understand, yet easily dismissed for its flawed logic, but is hardly consistent with being a `devastating critique.' Furthermore, if you then turn the technique round and use it in the same way against the author, then you find a great many inconsistencies in his position and many unsubstantiated statements, which make the whole book of limited value to anybody hoping to refute an atheist's position. Even where there is logic in the writer's position, it barely rises above that of a schoolboy, making it great fun to read, but nothing to take seriously.

Therefore, I am afraid that those who have lauded it as the answer to a theist's prayer (pun intended) and expect to find fantastic arguments to win their position with Dawkins and co. are likely to be very disappointed. I cannot see anything in here which would be of value to this end, and I suspect that the new atheists would have no difficulty arguing down this book as the nonsense it is. If you want to read it, then download it for free, but don't pay for it and don't expect to use it in a discussion with a literate atheist, because you'll lose!
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on 9 December 2013
This book is so bad you'd almost think it was a Poe. But since "Vox Day" has never allowed the mask to slip and a reasonable comment to emerge, the chances are that it's what he really thinks.

It's disheartening that in the 21st Century people can still believe such rubbish.
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on 20 September 2015
Prob not what you expect but worth a read nonetheless. it doesn't try to sell religion, more it tries to tell you to be careful about what you read.
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on 22 January 2009
He might be 'well read' but the man is foolish. This book is not logical and its starts from the cover.
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on 27 August 2013
I need not say more than the title. It says it all and lives up to it's promise. Dawkins et al are exposed as the charlatan anti-theists propagandists they truly are.
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on 1 January 2009
Sapiem Sapientum Est - 'I will destroy the Wisdom of the Wise'. Thus wrote Paul the Apostle , who Vox clearly admires and emulates. Despite his sometimes aggressive nature, the Apostle has left us with some of the most compelling and affective writings on Love. Like Paul , Vox recognises the supremacy of faith over reason, but it mentally equipped to use reason & evidence alone to defeat his unbelieving opponents.

The bulk of the book is about showing the weakness of atheist propaganda, in particular the work of Harris, Dawkins & Hitchens, but with attention also paid to Dennet ,Michale Onfray & some common generic atheist arguments.

Vox fights the good fight on the atheist's own ground, using their beloved tools of evidence and logic to highlight the absurdity of their arguments.

The wealth of solid credible evidence Vox brings to the table is staggering. The ingenuity, clarity & rigour of his logic makes many of his conclusions inescapable. As a bonus Vox's writing is both stylish and funny, enhancing the pleasure one gains from what is already an enthralling read.

Given the generally exceptional quality of this book, its frustrating that Vox sometimes commits some of the same errors he rightly chastises the atheists for; principally overstating his case to the point of sophistry. An early example is in Chapter 1 "Richard Dawkins accuses me of child abuse because I teach my children that God loves them even more than I do" That's a gross caricature of what Dawkins actually said and given Vox's skill as a writer he has no need to use obvious straw men to add to the drama and force of his argument.

But overall an immensely valuable and very readable contribution to the cultural wars that should be an enjoyable read for anyone who isn't a committed atheist.
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on 24 April 2015
I’ve read only the first nine pages so far but they alone are so full of unsupported contentions, misattribution or simple misapprehension of peoples’ motives, misapplied assumptions and un-called for self-justifications and lines like *Researchers have shown that...* that frankly I am already losing the will to live.
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