Notes on Atheism


BBC Brief History

Page one
Page two Academics
Page one
Page two
Page three


Adult Humor
Page one
Page two
Page three


Atheism in Asia


Atheist Websites


Atheist's Bookshelf

I have come to research atheism through the back door of theism. My library is filled with tomes of theology and philosophy, much of it Asian, all of it wonderful, yet not fully appropriate to this theme. Atheism is a new infatuation, here are a few books I have recently enjoyed and feel worth considering.
Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' is the book everyone references and the one in which I would begin. His public debates are equally entertaining and food for thought. He will infuriate you if you are deeply invested psychologically in some faith. He is one of those authors Theists love to hate, as they nick pick through each volume of his work looking for technical error. Trouble is, many of his arguments are too darn sound.
Talking about author's Theists love to hate, one step up from Dawkins would be Christopher Hitchens. He is by far the most infuriatingly elegant of spokesperson for the new atheist movement. Like his books, his debate style is lucid, acidic, and always filled with clever barbs. Listen to his audiobooks as you drive to work, but be weary of road rage if you are a practicing theists of any flavor.
Sam Harris is a relentless advocate for a very unromantic truth, many of our treasured beliefs are as intellectually defendable as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. But you say you love these wonderful superstitions and childhood myths that paper the walls of your faith system, then you will learn to despise Harris as he meticulously undervalues your most treasured spiritual baubles with a string of argumentive gems, one after another.
I thoroughly enjoyed Alister McGrath's 'The Twilight of Atheism' and so enthusiastically looked forward to his closing chapters, where I had hoped he would again justify Theism. After page after page of documenting the historical arguments for atheism, of which he so loved in his youth, surely an older and wiser McGrath would again well justify his born-again belief in God. Unfortunately, the failed experiment of Communist atheism is not an argument for God, merely an expose of the theocracy of State.
I had a similar hope for the monumental work of Charles Taylor 'A Secular Age'. Once again here was an author who would face the inevitability of secularism, baring witness to its evolutionary and revolutionary brilliance, while justifying theism, all in the same book. It may be simply that I am not bright enough to weed through his verbose arguments, but I never found God in Taylor's 'Secular Age'. I sympathise with his quest but failed to see the Grail.
Victor J. Stenger approaches this subject strictly as a scientist, and so you have both his primary asset and, for those of us not scientifically minded, his deficit. If you are in fact scientific, you will find this, like most of his books, superably researched and articulated. His arguments create a foundation for logic in defense of his hypothesis, in other words, his writing serves his noble purpose for a specific audience, of which I am not.
Ken Wilber is a philosophical voice which attempts to bridge the New Age Spiritual community with the academic/scientific community. While the New Age community embraced Asian philosophy early, there was often a naive understanding of rather subtle and deeply sophisticated concepts. As translation and research of key Oriental text improves, a new generation of articulate theorists create a fresh interpretation. Ken Wilber does this in his "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" and "The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe, and Everything".
Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. 'God's Mechanics, How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion' is the perfect antidote to the dry scientific analysis of atheistic scientists. He doesn't win his argument, but you are thoroughly entertained and reassured that bright people can also believe in God. For anyone who feels threatened by atheistic argumentation, this is the perfect feel good book. Filled with historical and scientific references and lots of charm, one can almost believe in believing again.
There are literally hundreds of books on Atheism scattered throughout history, many are truly breath taking in consideration of their place under the thumb of public opinion. Most recently there has been a robust interest in Atheism, if only as a social perversion to be lambasted. But there is also a very strong under current of popular support, which has helped promote academic interest, as books on the subject become best-sellers.

As a child of the New Age, I also have volumes of motivational text and spiritual 'feel good' classics, next to these dry and persistently hard-nosed treatise on Atheism. Ironically I have no specific recommendation which could properly bridge the divide. For those of us who want our cake of faith without all the calories, there seems to be no quick fix diet.

New Age spirituality is delicious, sexy, inspirational, and gratifying. Classical theology (here I mean main-stream religion in its many reincarnations) is rich in imagery and subtle detail. Atheism is logical, defendable, and dry for those of us centered more in the arts than the sciences.

Sure wish I could have both, my calorie-rich religion and my mean but lean atheism. When it comes to intellectual precision our faith systems are a heavy load in comparison to the simple ethos of non-belief. There is no one perfect book I have found, to replace the grueling exercise of personal reflection and honest inspection of these two divergent hypothesis.

Permitted, within the limits of our mind and our brief life time, how best can we decipher the truth in the historical debate between Atheists and Theists? My library keeps expanding, but my opinion becomes less clear. The proof may be in the pudding, but, so far, my tasting all sides has proved nothing but how delicious (and profitable for publishers) these mind games can be.

previous page