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VINE VOICEon 20 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The subtitle of the book "why psychology leads to atheism" is a misrepresentation of the contents and gives a false impression of what the topics addressed and tone will be. Rather than a description of how psychology leads to some sort of disproof of the supernatural forcing an atheistic conclusion, the book takes the atheist position from the start and then asks why, in the absence of any gods, does religious belief emerge and persist amongst nearly all human cultures. This question is raised across the evolution of religious form, from the worshiping of sun gods and thunder gods, female fertility symbols, soap-opera style Roman, Greek and Egyptian warring extended families of gods through to today's monotheism and Power's explanations for why these ideas came about, why they lasted and then why they were ultimately rejected for a new form are clear and persuasive. As such this is almost a follow up to Dan Dennet's "Breaking The Spell" which is an extended justification for why religious belief should be studied like any other form of human behaviour and not treated as supernatural - Power takes this as a valid starting point and begins that study.

Rather differently from many recent books taking an atheist position on religious practice, Power writes of the benefits of religion as a human practice in some of its aspects. Pointing out that much in modern life pushes us away from community living (he often quotes Putnam's "Bowling Alone" as a case study of how American lifestyles are moving away from communal experience to the purely personal) Power shows the benefits of shared religious belief as a way to bind people together such that it seems to increase scores of happiness and also to improve some health outcomes. He also points out that these effects are contextual and for some parts of the world, like Africa, increased religiosity has the opposite set of outcomes to those found in the West which shows that some complex factors are at play. Power suggests that atheism needs to take the positive benefits of religious living while continuing to reject the negative - so being a committed member of a group with shared purpose and outlook is good for you, but persecution and demonization of those outside your group for being heretics or sinners, something seen far too often in the history of religion, is an outcome that should stay rejected.

Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book does not set out to demonise religion or belittle those who hold religious beliefs: it acknowledges that membership of religious groups brings benefits to those who participate in them. Instead it is an exploration into the origins of religious belief starting with "A Short History of Religion" which delves back into the distant past when "all cultures at all times in recorded history .... developed complex belief systems that involve one of more supernatural powers that need to be worshipped through religious rituals." In truth, god didn't invent mankind: mankind invented god! The chapter also covers the development of monotheism from the Pharoah Akhenaten to the Abrahamic monotheisms that are familiar to us and to the rise of the Enlightenment and the scientific process which "leads to an examination of religious beliefs and practices in a way that many religious individuals find contrary to prescription of faith, which, they argue, are givens that cannot and should not be examined by such means." I particularly recommend the final chapter: "How to be a healthy Atheist". The benefits conferred by belonging to a religious group are just as available in non-religious contexts - a sense of belonging and community, for example. Belonging to a religious group, however, has disadvantages not suffered by atheists - "the claimed superiority of each of the monotheisms over everything else, the drive for expansion and conversion within Christianity and Islam, the feuding that has led to the splits that have occurred within Christianity and Islam - all of these factors bring with them a risk to global stability." Morality does not have to be god-based and "opportunities provided by universal education enable the individual to maximize his or her achievable goals and values throughout the lifespan." I particularly like the closing sentences of this book: "It takes courage to face up to the truths about existence and the infinitesimally small part that we play in the universe. To face up to those truths without falling into nihilism or despair is what a humanistically based atheism must offer. In the end, there are no gods. There are only despots who would have you follow them for their own purposes." I can heartily recommend this book.
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on 16 November 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Based on its subtitle ("Why psychology leads to atheism"), I had expected this book to be largely an examination of how human psychology predisposes us towards belief in the supernatural. In this respect, I was a little disappointed. However, the book did have many other good features which made up for this.

Firstly, it was a surprisingly gentle book: this was not an all-guns-blazing attack on religiosity. Secondly, it had a number of welcome injections of humour. Thirdly, it does not restrict itself simply to monotheistic religions. All too often we find the focus on Christianity or Islam but this book manages to keep a broader focus on theistic belief - which may help to diffuse some of the paranoia felt by some Christians and Muslims.

A few years ago, a reading list on atheism would probably have been dominated by Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris. Nowadays, I think you could produce a list without reference to any of them. And a less confrontational approach may be more productive and result in a change of view. Alongside Mick Power's book, I might list the work of Pascal Boyer and Scott Atran. All of these books illuminate the diverse religious behaviour of human beings and, once that is seen, it opens the possibility that the religious person can view their own beliefs within that context.

Mick Power goes out of his way to be fair to religions and gives them full credit for the health benefits which they can offer to the individual - both physical and psychological. However, as he points out, this does not make them true. And whether we, as a society, can afford to pay the price for these benefits is a question which remains open.

Finally, as someone who received this book via the Amazon Vine Programme, I feel I should comment about its price. The book itself is good but I wouldn't have been happy paying nearly £15 of my own money for a modest paperback.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This review is from: Adieu to God: Why Psychology Leads to Atheism (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Programme (What's this?)
The premise of this book is that Mick Power's wonders why in teh 21st vcentury, when all the scientific "evidence" points to there not beinga God (or us not being able to prove that tehre is one) do people still believe in one? Power contends that one who takes a balanced view on religion - just looking at the facts - must come to the conclusion that following a religion is not justified (on a purely logical level).

However, he adequately acknowledges that religion has for millenia, and will continue to many more, fulfilled a basic human need for many which is central to many people's existence. It fills a gap when understand and logic is not enough and when they need to feel that something else is out there guiding them, looking over them. That there is a purpose to all this.

Religion comes down to belief, not facts, though and this is why people stil believe. For some (many?) it fulfills a need that nothing else can sufice. Power (like me) is an atheist, but does not try to ram atheism down ones throat, and appears happy in the realisation that there will always be people who follow religion and that he is content that they do so (of course!)

A very thought provoking book which explores many aspects of atheism and different forms of religion. A thoroughly "enlightening read".
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on 30 March 2015
A very interesting book but entirely spoiled by a poor reading. The reader does not have a very pleasant voice which is not at all easy, at least on the English ear. But worse, she makes several mistakes in pronunciation. One of the mistakes - the mispronunciation of longevity with a hard g - she corrects partway through, but she did not trouble find out in advance the correct pronunciation of the Scottish proper names: Ruthven and worse, the continued mispronunciation of Edinburgh as 'Edinburgg'. Americanised Edinborow would have been preferable....
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on 5 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Columbia Miracle Study was a 2001 research paper that conclusively proved that intercessionary prayer works. Out of 219 women undergoing IVF, 50% of those prayed for became pregnant, but only 26% of the rest became pregnant. It is still widely quoted as proof that prayer works.

In 2004, the lead author disowned the paper. Later that year the other author, who had assigned the prayer groups, was convicted of fraud.

The Templeton Foundation did a study of 1802 heart bypass patients in 2006, divided into three groups. The first were told they might be prayed for, and were; the second were told they might be prayed for and weren't; finally, the third were told they definitely would be prayed for, and, of course, were. No significant differences were found in major complications or mortality. However, one group fared much worse for minor complications: the third.

In 1972, a linguist studied people who could "Speak in Tongues." He found that, far from talking a foreign language, they were creating nonsense words out of syllables and sounds from their own language.

This book ranges widely over religious experiences, from personal ones to the community of a church, the foundation of major religious groups such as the Mormons, Fugue States, Miracles, False Memories, Prophesy, Celibacy and indeed anything that has been related to spiritual experiences. In every case, there is nothing that cannot be explained in more mundane and rational terms.

The author shows a light touch in his account, together with a firm criticism where it is needed. There are a wealth of references and facts in the book. (Did you know that Easter can occur as early as March 22nd? The next time will be in the year 2285!) There are many funny anecdotes, such as the probability of being abducted by aliens being much higher if you are a middle aged American living in a trailer park in the Mid West. You will have your body orifices thoroughly explored and then returned to Earth, but will only be able to recall any of the experiences under hypnosis.

The message from the book is on the whole comforting. Even if you don't believe in god(s), you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that religions don't have any answers anyway. Usually the meaning of the question poses as many problems as the answer given by religion does.

A book that needed to be written and needs to be read.
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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2012
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I read Richard Dawkin's book, the God Delusion, and although very enjoyable, I found it to be a very tough read, mainly because of the detail in the book.Passages I had ro re-read in order to grasp what the author was saying.

This book,Adieu to God held no such qualms for me, it is very compact, under 200 pages long, and gives another perspective on atheism from a purely psycholigical viewpoint, it also has a great chapter on religion and the power and control it can exert on people.

I especially enjoyed the final chapter on how to be a healthy atheist.

A great read, and a book that I will certainly re-read and quote from ad-infinitum.
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VINE VOICEon 17 August 2012
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"Adieu to God: Why Psychology Leads to Atheism" is panoramic in scope and uncompromising. Mick Power dismantles every sacred cow of our religious heritage, placing each in its historical context. All the key writers are referenced and much of the significant research. He dispassionately describes the origins and rationale of the world's many faiths, cults and practices - no matter how bizarre and ridiculous - and his commentary only enhances one's disbelief. This book is a delight to read, incisive, witty, thorough and balanced.
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VINE VOICEon 7 November 2012
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Although Mick Power disassociates himself from the aggressive atheism of Dawkins and Hitchens he repeats their error of regarding his own field of study as providing the answer to the meaning of life. In rejecting Stephen Jay Gould's distinction between the magisterium of science and the magisterium of religion as 'absolute nonsense' he defines religions as 'social systems' which are 'typically based on the reported religious experiences of charismatic leaders'. He suggests this provides evidence 'about universal psychological experiences that have become incorporated into the 30,000 or so known religions'. Power adds, 'plus the other 100,000 that have yet to be invented in response to the special experiences of future charismatic leaders'. His comment reveals an unscientific assumption about the future. Power claims, 'the existence of so many contradictory religious systems can only be explained by psychological and social explanations that offer interpretations, as to why we, as a human species, are so vulnerable to giving reality to the spectres in our minds'.

Power's commitment to his paradigm outweighs his objectivity in applying it. He states, 'science has now disproved the existence of gods and the supernatural, at least for those open to such disproof'. His claim is 'absolute nonsense'. It confuses atheistic conviction with scientific evidence. Previous explanations of reality may be redundant but no reputable scientist can claim to have proved that God does not exist. Atheists claim they cannot prove a negative (i.e. the non-existence of God) which makes Power's statement unscientific. It is an expression of his atheism rather than his commitment to evidence. Power's subjective criteria also applies when he refers to 'an atheist's love of Iona' without explaining how it differs from that of a theist. He opines, 'Harry Potter is not popular because he is a fictional character but rather because children identify with him and wish to have his powers in order to defeat the evil around them.' Children are not as daft as Power imagines, they know Potter is fiction just as previous generations knew Enid Blyton's Famous Five weren't real. They've even sussed out that professional wrestling is fixed.

It is Power's convictions, not his evidence, which leads him to conclude the supernatural must be attempts to explain external cycles and one-off events, such as the progression of the seasons, cycles of birth, life and death and events such as thunder and lightening. Power mistakenly thinks the Greeks and Romans believed their gods were real when the evidence shows otherwise. Power suggests 'the unique human of experience of consciousness and self-consciousness' leads to the 'immortality illusion'. He attributes consciousness to the social nature of higher primates, asserting it emerged from 'an evolutionary system of biochemicals that grouped together to form simple organisms that then grouped together to form multicellular organisms.' Power's inductive reasoning leads to confirmation bias, a fact he seeks to hide by claiming 'the emergence of consciousness is.......one of the notorious 'gaps' in scientific explanation into which religious explanations easily fit'. This interpretation of consciousness is to bolster the claims of science and denigrate religion by suggesting the latter can only fill gaps in knowledge until science explains it. However, as Richard Rudner noted, ' no hypothesis is ever completely verified, in accepting a hypothesis the scientist must make the decision that the evidence is sufficiently strong or that the probability is sufficiently high to warrant the acceptance of the hypothesis.' As sufficiency depends on getting it right or wrong, Power's claims are insufficient and tendentious.

Power claims 'science is both a process or method and an accumulation of facts and theories' but produces theories as facts. He regurgitates Feuerbach's proposition that man created God as 'the best conclusion' to the existence of religious belief in God. Since when was 'best' a scientific term? He imagines the Judaeo-Christian God is 'a wise old man with white hair and a beard in a long white tunic' which suggests an ossified view of Christianity amounting to ignorance. In discussing Galileo he fails to analyse the relationship between the existing scientific paradigm and the heliocentric model. He did not examine the political nature of the Papacy. If he had he would have known Copernicus's book was banned in 1616 as a result of the conflict with Galileo and was back in print, with nine sentences altered, four years later. Power claims Galileo's 'heretical' heliocentric proposals in the 'Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems' resulted in his trial and house arrest by the Catholic Church. Either Power is unaware that Galileo's 'Dialogue' offended the Pope by lampooning his support for the geocentric view or he is being disingenuous. His comment that, 'at least he was spared the fate of Giordano Bruno, the former Dominican monk and supporter of Copernicanism, who was burned at the stake for his heretical views.' implies Bruno was executed because of his support of 'heretical' heliocentricism. If so Power is intellectually dishonest. Bruno was executed for doctrinal heresy not for his scientific opinion.

Power claims 'the world's major axis of conflict is no longer the cold war of Capitalism versus Communism: it is now the holy war of Christianity versus Islam'. This misreads the political nature of the conflict between a handful of Islamic jihadists and secular Western states. What he considers to be historical religious wars were essentially political conflicts motivated by political aims. This applies in particular to the Roman Catholic church which held political and social power in many countries. Revolutionary movements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were noted for their anti-clerical rhetoric and anti-religious actions. The widespread murder of clerics and the persecution of the religious by atheistic regimes in France, Spain and the Soviet Union reinforces the point that it is human beings who use ideologies to justify their behaviour not vice versa. Power's book is shallow and superficial, atheistic propaganda posing as objective observation. It fails to prove its claim that psychology leads to atheism. Four stars for an easy read.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I very much enjoyed reading this book. Right from the start it just seemed to make sense to me and it answered a lot of questions about religion that had never previously been answered to my satisfaction. Whilst I do not think anyone with strong religious convictions would agree with much that is written in this book, those with a more open and enquiring mind will find its content fascinating. Christianity is not the only religion subjected to the authors scrutiny - just about every mainstream form of indoctrination, as well as some more obscure ones, are given equal treatment.

Mick Power, the author, is an atheist and psychologist who sets out to show that religion, whilst providing great comfort for its believers, is mostly illogical and completely unverifiable. At no point does he condemn religion outright but he does present many arguments which show how atheism can lead to a more fulfilling life. However, even in the light of all the incontrovertible evidence provided by science, organised religion still survives and even prospers in some societies.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a thought provoking read.
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