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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atheism - a very short introduction
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'-...
Published on 30 Jun 2003 by Jan Woodhouse

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good yet Unbalanced Introduction
Let me lay my cards down: I'm a Christian and disagree with Mr. Baggini's philosophy entirely.
However, I found this to be a very useful introduction to the topic of atheism, following the good quality works of the rest of this series.
For a start, it maintains a neutral tone, attempting to show why atheism is the best explanation for life rather than...
Published 14 months ago by Mr. T. E. Rochester


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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good yet Unbalanced Introduction, 21 April 2013
By 
Mr. T. E. Rochester (England) - See all my reviews
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Let me lay my cards down: I'm a Christian and disagree with Mr. Baggini's philosophy entirely.
However, I found this to be a very useful introduction to the topic of atheism, following the good quality works of the rest of this series.
For a start, it maintains a neutral tone, attempting to show why atheism is the best explanation for life rather than supernatural explanations. It avoids and even denounces the dogmatic assertions of people like Dawkins, describing them as just another type of fundamentalist. Dialogue, not ridicule, is Baggini's modus operandi.

He seeks to define atheism as a positive view, "a person who believes there is no God or gods", (p1) rather than a negation of religious belief. He outlays definitions and issues in Chapter 1.
Chapter 2 is his main argument for atheism that essentially comprises of a defence of naturalism and the uncontroversial fact that we're mortal.
Chapter 3 shows how atheists can still live moral lives.
Chapter 4 shows how atheists can still live meaningful lives.
Chapter 5 defends the place of atheism in history, particularly against the criticisms of fascist and communist states.
Chapter 6 offers some critique of religion, particularly 3 arguments for the existence of God, rather than a defence of atheism.

The issues I take with this book is that much of his critique of religion is either over-simplified or shows that he hasn't done his homework properly. Yes, this is a very short introduction, but his research could have been more rigorous. The fact that there are no footnotes for reference and only a limited bibliography at the back is frustrating.

One example of poor research is on p29 where he argues that different religions make contradictory claims so they can't all be right. This is true, but his example, that Christians believe "Christ" is the messiah and muslims don't is patently false. The Qu'ran frequently asserts that Jesus IS the messiah, just not divine. Additionally, "Christ" simply IS messiah - one is in Greek, the other Hebrew. This is just a simple issues, but shows that perhaps he doesn't know as much about what he's dismissing as he should do.

Another example is Chapter 6, where he offers a critique of 3 theistic arguments.
The first is a broad attack on the cosmological argument, yet fails to make the distinction in the premise that whatever *begins* to exist has a cause, not everything that exists has a cause. In this way he can describe the argument as "utterly awful, a disgrace to the good name of philosophy" without actually addressing the conceptual nature of what a "cause of the universe" must be like. He would discover it is far from arbitrary.
His attack on the teleological argument is even worse, in that he refutes William Paley's watchmaker design argument from the eighteenth century. Well done him! I know of no serious Christian philosopher today who would still use this form. There is no mention of the fine-tuning and anthropic principle discussions that now cover this argument today.
Baggini's inclusion of Alvin Plantinga in Chapter 7 was a redeeming factor, though there are several other names he could have interacted with.

Things like this aside, I found this book very useful. Chapter 3 was particularly challenging, looking at where we get our morals from and justification for them. He uses the euthyphro dilemma to attack theistic morality.
The sections where he discusses rationalism and arguments to the best explanation are also very useful.
Its interesting to see where he (and by extension, other atheists) may get their morals and meaning from, but I occasionally felt he slipped into question begging, or posed questions to theists as if to prove his point to which we would readily have answers for him. Overall though, I'd take this book over The God Delusion anyday as it is simple, fairly argued, even if you disagree and doesn't strike me as a rant but a decent attempt to explain what he considers the truth to be.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Presents the case for atheism as positively as possible, 24 Jan 2010
By 
Mr. Richard J. Pask (Weymouth, Dorset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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In appears to me that, in a concise way, the author presents the case for atheism in its strongest possible light. (Atheists may, of course, disagree.)

This presentation has three things in its favour: firstly, the author concentrates on the positive case for atheism, rather than being overly negative about religion; secondly, his tone is moderate in nature; and thirdly, he is in some cases concessionary.

Predictably, I suppose, since for me God represents the most logical, rational explanation for the universe and its underlying laws, while disagreeing with the author in dozens of places, I found the chapter criticising the reasons for believing in God's existence to be particularly weak - and the believer in God will obviously decide for himself which books present his own case most strongly! But given the brevity of the book and the author's attempt to present his own case coherently, this is, I guess, understandable.

Listing all of the points of dissent will only result in rebuttal followed by rebuttal ad infinitum, and little will be achieved. Suffice to say that powerful, logical, rational, diametrically-opposed arguments have long since been established, and that, clearly, no knock-out argument exists for either side.

Had it been the author's primary goal to convert people to atheism, I feel the book would have to be deemed a failure. Namely, while atheists will feel it strongly confirms their views, believers are likely to regard their beliefs as similarly strengthened inasmuch as, in their view, the arguments as presented are subject to stronger counter-arguments. However, this was not his main aim and, in light of his essentially tolerant approach, I award the book four stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars With no God, what do atheists believe in?, 17 May 2014
By 
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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Atheism by Julian Baggini, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2003, 136 ff

The author begins by describing the aura of the negative and sinister that his childhood Catholic indoctrination has left with him in regard to atheism. Although he has consciously rejected the fabric of religion, still his subconscious cannot entirely dispel the sense of evil that he was taught to associate with atheism. So his book is a rational exploration of the true philosophical status of atheism.

Believing there is no God does not imply that there is no such thing as morality or goodness or that life has no purpose, says the author. Belief in atheism usually carries with it a rejection of all things spiritual, like psychic events or any kind of afterlife – a belief in the natural world (naturalism or materialism) but not in the supernatural. This does not however make the atheist a nihilist – disbelieving in all non-material entities, like mind; atheists are simply realists. Baggini suggests that ‘all the strong evidence tells in favour of atheism, and only weak evidence tells against it.’

The fact that there is ‘a plethora of evidence for the truth of naturalism’ does not necessarily imply that there is not additionally a spiritual agency outside of the material natural world [HAJ] – for the author, naturalism implies atheism. To Baggini, human beings are just ‘animals’ and ‘our capacity for consciousness . . . is entirely dependent on our organic brains’. Empirical evidence of near-death experiences and other psychic phenomena clearly undermines this assertion, though the author relegates these to the ‘extremely weak evidence’ category, all such evidence being dismissed and dumped into the dustbin of unreliability – because we do not have the time to check all the cases! Any concordance between such events and reality is pure chance, he says. The principle of induction also supports atheism – because no-one can ever be said to have seen God.

Chapters 3 and 4 of the book deal with the consequences of atheism to morality and ethics, and to our sense of the purpose of life. I would agree with the author that a belief in atheism is irrelevant to both. We need nothing more than humanism to engender our morality and to give meaning to our lives. Baggini agrees that morality is ‘entirely independent’ of God. Similarly with meaning or purpose: the ‘purpose’ of a knife is to cut things – but that purpose is created by the manufacturer and the user, not by the knife. So unless we are playthings created by our God for his amusement, we cannot rely on God to define our purpose in life – our purpose must lie within ourselves.

The final chapters give a brief overview of the history of atheism, and a commentary on the atheist view of religion. Baggini believes that atheism ‘emerged from the rejection of myth’, which he considers a good thing. But myths are alive and well in our society today and again often have nothing to do with the God of western religion.

There is a brief Bibliography and an Index at the end. This is an interesting little monograph for those who want to explore atheism from a philosophical standpoint, but I cannot see it converting anyone.

Howard Jones is the author of The World as Spirit and Evolution of Consciousness
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5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and Persuasive, 4 May 2014
Being the well-meaning person I am I usually purchase The War Cry from The Salvationist each Friday evening in the Pub. The best feature of that paper are the interviews conducted by Nigel Bovey, with Theistic Scientists. I usually find what they say most interesting and the questions are probing and sensible. Last Friday the interview was with Physicist and Theologian (and Philosopher of Science) Dr Lydia Jaeger; and her proof for God's existence is the Symmetry of the Universe - that is to say a version of the Teleological argument.

Clearly even a clutch of degrees including a Doctorate is no defence against woolly thinking.
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5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT, 1 Feb 2014
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Moonshine. "Spara Fugle" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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A very straightforward account of what it it means being an atheist in modern society. It is short and to the point ,covering most things every good atheist should know. I really loved it. It is very informative and is well written in plain english.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very good insight into a deeply philosophical subject., 25 April 2013
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This book took me on a very interesting journey. The writer uses some very clear, lucid, and thankfully succinct philosophy to illustrate some very important points. This is a clear and well written book that tackles most, if not all of the key issues in a very readable way. The book provokes a deeper thinking approach to the subject which rejects the idea of fundamentalism or radical atheism while acknowledging that it exists. Overall, this book does what it says on the cover, it introduces the subject and covers the main points in one comprehensive and digestible volume.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a fair account, 18 Nov 2008
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A number of readers will come across this book thinking it to be some form of 'God Delusion' style rebuttal of religion. In fact, the book simply states what positive atheism is and explores the reasoning behind it. There is no need to debate whether the arguments in the book are sufficient to declare God as no more - that's simply not what the book aims to do. Just read it with a view to understanding what atheism can be if it is used positively, as opposed to expecting a vociferous offensive against religion.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one star reviews prove what idiots the religious are!, 31 Jan 2012
The one star reviews highlight what all intelligent people have known for the last 100 years or so; the religious are clearly idiots... there I said it.

This book is a far better argument for atheism than any argument for religion, that any person at any time has ever made.

I've never seen a religious person not get totally pwned in a debate about religion, the universe or any related issues against an atheist... have you?! All books which make the case for religion are weak... just look at all the books which attempt to counter books like this one or Dawkins's books and they all get poor reviews and the authors look pretty ridiculous... why? Because it's just not an argument they can win.

All the skill in the world as an orator or as a writer can't change the fact that religion is a load of rubbish. May I burn in hell for all eternity and may Allah strike me down. Come and get me!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gets it wrong before even starting., 30 Dec 2013
How woefully disappointing and ironic that Baggini gets it so incredibly wrong so incredibly quickly. At the bottom of the first paragraph of chapter one is the biggest mistake he could possibly make:

"I had become an atheist, a person who believes there is no God or gods."

To add to my anger, he repeated this trivial error in a very blatant way under the heading 'Atheism Defined:'
"Atheism is in fact extremely simple to define: it is the belief that there is no God or gods."

If only Baggini had used a dictionary, or conducted some research, he would have discovered that atheism is in fact "disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods." And you can ask Google for confirmation right now. Atheism does not say "There is no God." It says "There's no good reason or evidence to believe that there IS a God."

There is a BIG difference between saying "X is false" and "I do not believe X to be true." Atheism does not make this positive claim, which is why it does not hold the burden of proof! This is the fundamental, most BASIC principle that underlies atheism. If you get it wrong first thing in a book on atheism, shame on you.

If you want more detail on this go onto YouTube and search for the Atheist Experience. Matt Dillahunty explains this in great detail and it is a huge mistake to make.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Uninspiring, 1 May 2013
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Bought on a whim, hardly bedtime stuff. Not sure why I did buy the book, But there we go !!
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