21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The Atheist Bible?,
This review is from: The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer (Paperback)
I bet the publishers thought about calling this book "The Atheist Bible". It's a chronological collection of writing by different authors about religion, the first half being writings from history (ranging from pre-Biblical through to early 20th century), the second half being a more modern take on things- sound like any other religious books you can think of?
Instead they've played it safe and given it the title "Portable Atheist"- presumably tongue in cheek, as at 500 pages it's not a pocket book by any means.
On the back cover it claims- "Atheist? Believer? Uncertain? No matter", suggesting that the subject matter is suitable for everyone. Although that's not necessarily untrue, I think different sections will be of more interest to people with different standpoints. Some of the writings are very earnest pleas obviously directed at believers, and any atheists reading (like myself) will just nod and think, "I know this already, I don't need any more convincing". Some of the writings are by atheists, for atheists, and will do nothing to believers except infuriate or alienate them. So it's a mixed bag in that sense, but all the better because that's something for everybody.
I'm not an academic and I would say that a handful of the writings were too dry and longwinded for my liking. Writers like Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins specialise in exceptionally readable work, and there are a few little treats of short writing from Michael Shermer and Penn Jillette that should be hung on atheist's walls the way "Desiderata" hangs in some Christian houses. However the extracts from Karl Marx and Ibn Warraq (60 stone-dry pages) were too much like hard work.
Personally as an atheist I didn't need my views re-affirming, but it's still an entertaining read and provokes some thought. If you're agnostic or wavering in your world outlook, read this book. It's important.
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Initial post: 29 Jan 2009, 18:36:43 GMT
J. R. Crickmer says:
I enjoyed the review, and will eventually buy and read the book. The only quibble with your review that I have, is the strange comment on "Desiderata" as a Christian icon. The poem only mentions "God" once, in the phrase "be at peace with God whatever you conceive Him to be". That God could be Jesus, Satan, money, pretty women, or anything else. I have been an atheist for more than 60 years and Desiderata remains the best recipe for Happiness that I know, not Christianity. I recommend that you read it again with an Atheist's eyes.
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