12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Short - and sharp,
This review is from: Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
In "Atheism: A Very Short Introduction" Julian Baggini has done his job with impressive efficiency. There is neat and clear coverage of the critical topics: morality and purpose with and without God, the nature of knowledge, and the relationship of atheism and science, amongst others. More technical philosophical concepts (defeasibility, consequentialism) aren't avoided but are brought in with a minimum of fuss and crisp explanation.
While the book is principally aiming to describe and explain some venerable arguments, Baggini also introduces his own perspective. There is a heartening emphasis throughout on the positive nature of atheism; on living a reflective life based on best evidence, rationality, and an ethics rooted in human realities. Some excellent material argues why agnosticism is unsatisfactory. This centres on the notion of abduction, or "argument to the best explanation": there are no knock-down reasons for or against belief in God; the case against is not absolute, but it is absolutely overwhelming for anyone whose standards are evidence and rational argument.
This lack of an absolute case against the existence of God leads Baggini to reject what he terms militant atheism - that is an active hostility to even moderate religion. He thinks religion is false and has the potential, at least, for harm, but takes the principled stance that in the absence of absolute evidence, an aggressive assertion of the truth of atheism is dogmatic, and contrary to the spirit of open enquiry. This is impressive, right and can make some of his text a bit timid. However, it is a well-made definition of a recognisable position, especially as it is contrasted with "fundamentalist atheism", the latter being restricted to violence against the religious. This is a useful separation given the increasingly frequent rhetorical move to call any atheism asserting its better claim to truth "fundamentalist".