01/02/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Prometheus Books. 219 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: $20.00 (US), GBP18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61614-383-1.
check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com
Authors Scott F. Aiken and Robert B. Talisse declare that they had problems getting this book, ‘Reasonable Atheism’, published because the USA is more pro-religion than pro-atheism. When you hear that atheists cannot have governmental jobs in the states of Tennessee and Arkansas by law or even testifying in court, you have to wonder how lucky we are to live in the UK with a different sort of freedoms. So much for US freedom and its constitutional rights when you have to have a religion to get on.
I should point out that the sub-title for this book is ‘A Moral Case For Respectful Disbelief’ encapsulates these authors point that being an atheist doesn’t make you amoral, just not believing in religion or a god. I often find atheists are more aware of the Bible than those who swear by it. They point out the judge Samuel, on behalf of God, ordering Saul to commit genocide against the Amelekites (Samuel I: 15: 3) and deposed the king for keeping some choice animals alive for sacrifice later, never mind the number of people, including woman and children he had butchered, for the sake of taking over the land. I’ve pointed out other biblical irregularities in the past but hands up those of you who feel sick over what was done here? Can you see a benevolent god ordering such an action? It wasn’t even done for religious differences, just territory. The point the authors here are making is the questionable morals of the religious doesn’t make them any better than atheists. When you think of the wars over religion that have continued to the present day then maybe we are better without it.
One thing the authors don’t consider is how much religious leaders relies on the herd instinct to control their flock. People need to belong to something and in less enlightened times, a belief in a god made that easy until you disagreed with the rules of the club. Although the Protestant movement in Britain instigated by Henry VIII to allow himself to marry again and again is probably the most well known, it does show that religions are divided by rules more than belief. Atheists are considered as being too independent and outside of their control and seen as being apart. Then again, non-conformists are always considered wilful irrespective of their beliefs.
The indoctrination of belief and that if you don’t obey then an angry god will smite you or do worse probably kept people in line in less enlightened times but does it have a place in modern times? When you consider in the UK, that many people only consider church when there’s a christening, wedding or funeral, for the general population, the levels of crime or morality hasn’t changed much. Not all the world is like America hence a lot of what the authors discuss is centred on their own country’s people’s intolerances.
Although this book makes a good argument for equal rights for atheists, I do have to wonder who the target reading audience is here. Those religiously inclined aren’t likely to read it and I doubt if atheists need to be told what they are. As a case for inequality in the USA, I do wonder if its judicial people will read this book and ponder on human rights not being divided evenly. I mean it isn’t like there aren’t enough atheists out there. As to where do I stand? I don’t even believe in this world other than science. Now that puts me in a real non-conformist plateau.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA