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But It’s Good for You

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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In today’s WSJ Sam Schulman takes the new crop of public atheists to task for failing to acknowledge the long, rich history of debate on theism, dismissing belief in God as addled superstition or pure ignorance. Schulman contrasts this with the nuanced understanding of religion displayed by old school atheists like Matthew Arnold, George Eliot, Carlyle, Hardy and Darwin. Those names I’m familiar with. Of the new atheists Schulman names – Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris, and Steven Weinberg – only Dawkins is familiar to me from the Selfish Gene and his interviews on Charlie Rose (See interview 1, interview 2). I have no idea who the others are. This led me to wonder if there isn’t still something to be gained by reading a few books I’m very unlikely to agree with.

WSJ: Without God, Gall is Permitted ($)

There are books one hates because they’re poorly written (Dan Brown’s book falls in this category for me) and there are those we consciously or subconsciously avoid because whatever anyone says about them, they’re ‘just not for me’ meaning they are ‘not likely to reflect and enhance my own personal values or worldview.’ If I look at the books I’ve read in the last year most come from a related group of authors or adhere to a fairly consistent demographic of thought. Of course we realize on some level that reading a book does not mean agreeing with it, but our actions so often belie this. I’m convinced I would probably learn more actively disagreeing with what I’m reading than seeing my own views marginally enhanced or parroted back to me. I’ve decided to start with Sam Harris’ Letters to a Christian Nation. Any other books out there I’m not likely to pick up on my own but should? Send me an e-mail or leave a note in the comments.

Category: of saints & sinners

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  1. [...] As previously posted, I’m genuinely fascinated with the current crop of evangelizing atheists and just read an excellent article in the New Yorker by Anthony Gottlieb on the subject – Atheists with Attitude. Since all the arguments against belief have been widely publicized for a long time, today’s militant atheists must sometimes wonder why religion persists. Hitchens says that it is born of fear and probably ineradicable. Harris holds that there are genuine spiritual experiences; having kicked sand in the faces of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, he dives headlong into the surf of Eastern spirituality, encouraging readers to try Buddhist techniques of meditation instead of dangerous creeds. Dawkins devotes a chapter, and Dennett most of his book, to evolutionary accounts of how religion may have arisen and how its ideas spread. [...]

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