Reasonable Atheism

Reasonable Atheism

A Moral Case for Respectful Disbelief

Book - 2011
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A recent poll from the University of Minnesota finds that atheists are America's least trusted social group. Perhaps compounding this negative impression is the attack-dog persona taken on in the past decade by the "New Atheists." Not only have they been quite public about their disbelief, but they've also stridently lambasted religious belief generally in a number of bestselling books.

Disturbed by this negative public perception and the deterioration in the tone of open debate, the authors of this eminently reasonable work attempt to introduce a note of civility and rational clarity. To both religious believers and fellow atheists they counsel a measured approach that combines serious intellectual engagement with respect for the reasonableness of the other side's position.

The heart of the book is the authors' moral case for atheism. Atheism, they contend, manifests a decidedly moral concern for others and their wellbeing. The authors further argue that atheism is driven by the kinds of moral considerations that should be familiar to all religious believers. Atheists are motivated by a moral concern for others, a desire to alleviate suffering and combat evil, and an appreciation for the value of life, freedom, and responsibility.

In the end, the authors make not only a compelling case for atheism but also for the value and necessity of mutual respect in a democratic society composed of diverse citizens.
Publisher: Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2011.
ISBN: 9781616143831
Characteristics: 219 p. ; 23 cm.
Additional Contributors: Talisse, Robert B.


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roaddogg09 Jul 02, 2012

Right off the bat, I was actually looking forward to what the authors had to say. I've read all the 'new atheist' books and thought that most of the book would be dedicated to an indictment of the Dawkins and Hitchens types. I was surprisingly wrong. The authors don't disagree with the 'new atheists,' nor do they necessarily disagree with their tone (which is a big discussion in and of itself). What the authors make clear is that, if you're going to take a confrontational tone, you better be on your A-game. This is the only legitimate charge against the 'new atheists.' They claim that the 'new atheists' aren't giving arguments for the existence of God their credit, and the authors use the example of the Ontological Argument (see book for full discussion).

But, I truly did enjoy their discussion of the reasonableness of open and honest criticism of deeply-held beliefs. We should argue in mixed company about politics and religion. I've met many people who claims religious people are somehow intellectually inferior and 'idiots.' This is divisive, as the authors make clear. Theists, the authors claim, are just highly mistaken about the way the world is.

The authors' goals isn't to convince anyone of the merits of atheism, but that reasonable people can reject theistic claims and still be good, moral people. On this point, the authors do well. Throughout the book, the authors make it clear that morality isn't contingent on God's existence, nor should it be. The authors discuss how a moral system derived from God isn't moral anyway, and that a non-theist conception does much better.

One major issue I had throughout the book were the examples used. Yes, I completely understand who the intended audience is, but many of the examples seemed out of place in this kind of book. The authors used extreme examples which I feel will make certain readers miss the important points being made.

Overall, this wasn't what I expected, but I may borrow it out to some theist friends I have.


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