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Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Kindle Edition
|Length: 135 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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?Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
These "Very short introductions" are really, very very good.Published 4 months ago by Stephen McGlennon
This is an excellent introduction to atheism with very clear arguments and reasoning, going through such objects as (foundations of) morals, meaning and purpose of life. Read morePublished 6 months ago by B. P. C. Dijkstra
Lots of these Very Short Introduction books are simply rehashed normal books with the font size compressed and squeezed into an unreadable tiny format that's about as introductory... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Dr Simon Perry (author of Atheism After Christendom)
Neither short, nor an introduction to atheism. "A Rambling Introduction to Naturalism" would be a more appropriate title. Read morePublished 24 months ago by DaveB
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... Read more
Being the well-meaning person I am I usually purchase The War Cry from The Salvationist each Friday evening in the Pub. Read morePublished on 4 May 2014 by opus
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. Read morePublished on 1 Feb. 2014 by Dodo
How woefully disappointing and ironic that Baggini gets it so incredibly wrong so incredibly quickly. Read morePublished on 30 Dec. 2013 by Dessum
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