Friday, November 25, 2005

Not Very Recommended

The other day I read through Atheism: A Reader, by S. T. Joshi . I don't particularly recommend it; the general impression it gives of atheism is that it is very intellectually lightweight. That's not the fault of atheists, however, but of the editor, whose only genuinely redeeming choice was George Eliot's delightful 1855 "Evangelical Teaching". Feuerbach and Marxist atheism are missing; there's a completely irrelevant section on immortality (as has been known since the eighteenth century, there's nothing particularly theistic about immortality and nothing particularly atheistic about its denial), and the whole thing comes across as piecemeal eclecticism. Nietzsche-inspired atheism simply cannot mix with Feuerbach-inspired atheism; neither sits well with Hume-inspired atheism; and it scarcely needs to be said that none of these really fits with Spinoza-inspired atheism. Pick it up at a library to read George Eliot; Shelley's essay is perhaps worth a scan as well. Everything else is rather unimpressive; even for the big names we don't really get a sense of why they are atheists. And if we looked more closely we would see that the reasons are all inconsistent: theists may be theists together, but atheists are usually atheists alone. That's the difference between a reasoned affirmation and a reasoned denial of an existence claim.

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