Book - 2015
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Over the last decade, "New Atheists" such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have pushed the issue of atheism to the forefront of public discussion. Yet very few of the ensuing debates and discussions have managed to provide a full and objective treatment of the subject.Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know provides a balanced look at the topic, considering atheism historically, philosophically, theologically, sociologically and psychologically. Written in an easily accessible style, the book uses a question and answer format to examine the history of atheism,arguments for and against atheism, the relationship between religion and science, and the issue of the meaning of life - and whether or not one can be a happy and satisfied atheist. Above all, the author stresses that the atheism controversy is not just a matter of the facts, but a matter of burningmoral concern, both about the stand one should take on the issues and the consequences of one's commitment.
Publisher: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780199334582
Branch Call Number: 211.8 RUS
Characteristics: x, 289 pages :,illustrations ;,21 cm.


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Jun 18, 2015

I came to this book, Michael Ruse's Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know, because of a favorable book review in the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal, and, too, because Oxford University Press published the book. Sad to say, having now read the book, I hold both Commonweal and Oxford University Press in less esteem. Dr. Ruse's book is repetitive, unfocused, and disjointed. He often separates arguments of believers on a particular issue from the arguments of nonbelievers, blurring the issues rather than sharpening them. His question-and-answer format fails to serve the subject well. At only 254 pages of text, the book nonetheless feels bloated. Time and again, rather than bring issues into stark focus, Dr. Ruse instead panders to Christians, such pandering likely the stimulus for Commonweal's favorable review. He himself a professed atheist, Dr. Ruse positions himself as the "Appeasing Atheist" by taking cheap shots at the "New Atheists" Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, accusing them of ignorance or unsophistication, but usually failing to substantiate his claims against them. Though Dr. Ruse said at the outset of the book that he would focus on the theism of Christianity and not other religions, he nonetheless commented several times on Judaism, most of those times revealing a shocking ignorance of and repugnant antipathy toward the subject. I myself am Catholic, not Jewish, but I felt angry that his misinformed and hateful anti-Judaic polemic had wormed its way into print under the imprimatur of Oxford University Press. To Dr. Ruse's credit, he does offer an informative history of atheism, and, too, presents some interesting studies on the demographics of atheism. However, I cannot and will not recommend this book. I suggest that your time will be much better spent going online and watching some of the premier debates between the New Atheists and some of their more articulate and erudite opponents. I recommend Christopher Hitchens v. Alister McGrath; Richard Dawkins v. McGrath; and Dawkins v. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. If you watch those three debates, you likely wll feel more edified, more informed on the principal issues, and certainly more entertained, than had you spent the time reading Dr. Ruse's book.

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