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Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by [Baggini, Julian]
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Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Review

lively and readable...ideal for a popular audience...his very short introduction, which packs into a hundred pages a wealth of insight and argument, is itself a wonderful commitment to the rational thought which he defends (Richard Norman, New Humanist)

About the Author

Julian Baggini is editor and co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine. He is the author of several books on philosophy including Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines and New British Philosophy: The Interviews (with Jeremy Stangroom). He has also written for newspapers, magazines and academic journals.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 746 KB
  • Print Length: 135 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0192804243
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (26 Jun. 2003)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804242
  • ASIN: B00A7LNI88
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #370,197 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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'- those who believe in a Loch Ness Monster - become the norm, so that unbelievers need to be labelled 'Annessies'. Similarly, in a world where so many people believe in a god or gods, 'atheism has come to be defined in contrast to theism'.
J Baggini sets out to do several important things. Firstly, he promotes a positive case for atheism, making clear that it is not to be equated with negativity and denial. Secondly, he separates morality and ethics from both theism and atheism, shifting responsibility on to individual choice. Thirdly, he dispels the notion that without religion life becomes meaningless and purposeless, and suggests that sufficient purpose can be gained from living in the world we know rather than in some nebulous hereafter. Fourthly, he shows that atheism is part of a historic progression from superstition to rational explanation. Finally - and importantly - he advocates the 'quiet voice of reason', rather than dogmatic and table-thumping atheism. Militancy from any point of view, he recognises, begets increased defensiveness and entrenchment.
I hope that this little book, with its quiet voice of reason, gives food for thought, and even reasurrance, to those who may be hovering on the brink of atheism and, for whatever reason, feel hesitation in coming out.
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Format: Paperback
For the most part, this Very Short Introduction is a lively and enjoyable little guide which sets out to counter various myths about atheism and to make it more palatable to the non-atheist. Author Baggini breezes through a handful of key areas - ethics, purpose, history, and so on - bringing his admirable philosophical knowledge to bear on each contending argument, and presenting it in a down-to-earth and amiable style.

One pivotal area of contention in the theist-atheist debate is how to define atheism. Here, Baggini chooses to define it as "a positive belief system" rather than as a term of negation. Personally, I've always felt more comfortable with the latter approach (a-theism = 'lack of' theism) and wondered if perhaps Baggini, in his eagerness to counter the impression that atheists are "lacking" meaning, morality, happiness, etc, had let this concern drive his decision to turn it into a positive.

To his credit, he develops his argument well and, in an extended discussion about evidence, counters the common charges, such as the one about atheism being a faith position. Still, it's hard not to feel that his approach just serves to introduce a layer of unnecessary confusion to the distinction between theist and atheist, and I have to admit I remain unconvinced that it's strictly necessary. (Incidentally, on this issue, I highly recommend George H Smith's Atheism: The Case against God.)

Just a couple of gripes to mention: The photos throughout are seriously superfluous, particularly given how space is at such a premium. (Did we really need a stock photo of a man looking thoughtful while sipping coffee to illustrate the discussion on acts of faith?
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Format: Paperback
Let me just tell what I like especially about this concentrated presentation of arguments for atheism. Baggini always keeps a realistic sight on psychological und social facts. He starts off describing how religious education - though experienced in a moderate and relatively little indoctrinating form - nevertheless succeeded in embedding in his mind a connection of atheism and moral inferiority to stay for ever at least on a half-conscious, emotional level. An experience probably not to unusual and - apart from this - pointing to the general limits of changing convictions by rational argument. Later he demonstrates very convincingly why we shouldn't consider theism and atheism to be just intellectually equal types of faith: "The atheist believes in what she has good reason to believe in and doesn't believe in supernatural entities that there are few reasons to believe in, none of them strong. If this is a faith position then the amount of faith required is extremely small." In chapters on "Atheist ethics" and "Meaning and purpose" the author does away with the prejudice that atheism is just or predominantly negative. Very rewarding in the historical section on atheism is the discussion how far atheism might to be blamed for the crimes of totalitarian leaders and ideologies in the 20th century. Just read the book. It fits in your pocket to be taken everywhere!
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Format: Paperback
... and neither a follower of whatsoever other faiths else.

This book is about a strange thing, a non-belief that has got its own name. We do not have words for people who do not believe in unicorns, or not in astrology, but people who do not believe in gods are called atheists. Only the disbelief in gods seems important that westerners coined a special term for it.

Though persecution of nonbelievers has gone out of fashion in most parts of the civilized world, prejudices about atheism and atheists are still abundant - even among the more liberal believers.

Philosopher Julian Baggini explains in plain and clear terms what atheism is, and what it is not, how individual atheists' positions differ, and which reasons atheists give for their nonbeliefs. He discusses why atheism isn't a faith in itself (though a few atheists are strong believers in something else), if being religious is necessary for moral behaviour, and other basic concepts and misconceptions.

Baggini does not try to convert anyone, but presents a very balanced perspective on atheism. Religions are mainly discussed as sets of beliefs, not as social or psychological phenomena. Understanding why people believe would probably shed some crucial light on why others don't.

To be fair, the question why people believe is an open and delicate one, and it is clearly one beyond the book's scope and intentions. Those interested in such questions, believers and non-believers alike, should probably consult P. Boyer's "Religion Explained" or D. C. Dennett's "Breaking the Spell". - The same is true for those who'd like a more thorough and rigid discussion of the philosophical arguments; B.
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