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50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists Paperback – October 19, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"For students in comparative religion this volume offers ample material and powerful reasons to make them subject most if not all religious claims to a highly critical appraisal, preparing for a constructive and public debate." (Acta Comparanda, 2011)

"50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists brings together many scholars and intellectuals from a variety of academic fields who explain the reasons why they do not believe in God. Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk's unique collection of original essays not only consists of short, digestible essays which are full of introductory presentations of both positive and negative arguments in support of atheism, but also in its candid testimonials which are more personally oriented." (Reviews in Religion, 2011)

"The international cast of contributors includes many well-known names, from a diversity of fields-notably philosophy (about a third of the writers are philosophers) science, journalism, politics and science fiction.  By no means do they agree on everything, but the unifying themes of rejection of conventional religions and acceptance of secular humanism shine through brightly.  A descriptive list of contributors and an excellent index complement the essays, many of which are accompanied by useful endnotes and references." (Quadrant, September 2010) 

"It was mostly fascinating reading, in particular, those articles that abstained from using dull polemics and cynicism. Some of the articles-most notably from Nicholas Everitt, Thomas W. Clark, Michael Shermer, Peter Tatchell, Michael Tooley, and Udo Schüklenk-can indeed be used in undergraduate courses concerned with the existence of God in philosophy, ethics, and theology. I recommend this volume especially for all those who need to grasp a general and easy introduction into atheistic reasoning." (Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2010)

"I recommend this volume especially for all those who need to grasp a general and easy introduction into atheistic reasoning." (Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2010)“The essays in this book reveal a great concern for our human plight, a concern that is the equal of religious impulses; they raise a richness of issues that are too often ignored, including the ultimate fear of the theists that perhaps in time it may well be possible to settle the question of God’s existence. The fifty voices in this book have spoken out with more than a small amount of courage. What emerges from thinking about these essays is a realization of what human reason is up against, within ourselves.” (Free Inquiry, August/September 2010)

"Good writing and clear thinking don't always go hand in hand. It's a pleasure, then, to find both in a recent book about going it alone -- no deus ex machina for us, please -- titled 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. In one volume, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk, you'll find idiosyncratic essays by a range of atheists from science fiction authors and philosophers to scientists and activists." (Psychology Today, Creating in Flow Blog, May 2010)

"Many of the pieces in this book are full of superior contempt for the intellectual inadequacy of theism. Tatchell is forthright in his criticism of religion, but he never sneers. The essays in this book are all clearly argued, and will reassure the already faithful that they are neither daft nor deluded." (Church Times, April 2010)

"The contemporary relevance,and timeliness of this book is unsurpassed. It is ... an account of various well known non-believers [and] personal viewpoints, directed at a popular audience. Very approachable at all levels, containing a wide range of stories, anecdotes and personal statements about why each of the authors considers themselves to be a non believer. Overall, this book is well suited for a mainstream audience, interested in questioning the power that religion holds over our lives. It [also] has good references ... which will also serve to guide the reader if further information is wanted. Thus, I recommend this book to anyone (regardless of their views concerning religion) interested in understanding why different people hold certain views concerning religion." (Metapsychology, April 2010)

"By turns witty, serious, engaging and information, it is always human and deeply honest, and immensely rewarding to read." (Times Higher Education Supplement, December 2009)

"Carefully considered statements … .Contributions range from rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal, even whimsical, accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives. Likely to have broad appeal." (Australian Atheist, November 2009)

"I am strongly recommending it as a present for anyone who has an interest in atheism/theism from either side of the debate. It's just a great read, from great authors." (Stephen Law Blogspot, October 2009)

"It’s a very good book, and I recommend it for all of us godless ones — or those who are considering abjuring the divine. It’s far more than just a collection of stories about 'How I came to give up God.' Many of the writers describe the philosophical and empirical considerations that led them to atheism. Indeed, the book can be considered a kind of philosophical handbook for atheists." (Why Evolution is True Blog, October 2009)

"Wow! A book about atheism and it’s not written by Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett or Harris! So this book is welcome partly because it helps break that knee-jerk reaction. But it’s also welcome because many of its contributors advance interesting ideas. There’s plenty to choose from. And one advantage of a collection like this is that you can dip into it wherever you want. There is something for everyone. And there is the opportunity to discover new ideas." (Open Parachute, October 2009)

"For many who have spent some time involved in any form of engagement in these matters, the names should appear familiar: from the great AC Grayling to the revolutionary Maryam Namazie. Finally, in one book we can hear their stories – if not about themselves, then about the aspects of religion or lack thereof they find most important. If all these contributors were speakers at a convention, it would be sold out many times over." (Butterflies and Wheels, October 2009)

"In their excellent collection of essays exploring and defending the philosophical stance of atheism, Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk had an inclusive vision. Contributors to the book range from those with science-fiction backgrounds to modern-day philosophy." (Kirkus Reviews, October 2009)

"In more than 50 brief statements organized by Blackford and philosopher Schüklenk ... contributors share views—their routes toward nonbelief and their feelings about the place of religion in the world ... including James (the Amazing) Randi, a well-known magician and debunker of spurious psychic phenomena. Considering the popularity of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great, and Sam Harris's The End of Faith, [these] memoirs and observations will be of interest to disbelievers." (Library Journal, October 2009)

From the Back Cover

50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists presents a unique and thought-provoking collection of original essays that address personal disbelief in a higher power . Drawn from an international cast of professionals in the fields of academia, science, literature, media and politics, contributors offer carefully considered statements of why they reject the idea of a deity governing the universe and human affairs. Several essays also address such issues as the social role of religion and its alternatives. The responses feature a stunning diversity of viewpoints and tone, ranging from rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal — at times even whimsical — accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives. Whether you're a believer or not, 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists offers an intellectually stimulating journey into the possibilities for rational and reasonable people everywhere to live without the crutch of religion.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (October 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405190469
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405190466
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,266,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This is a very refreshing and stimulating book for three reasons. First, It was written by 50 authors - some philosophers, some physical scientists, some biologists, some science writers and some journalists. The diversity of the authors' backgrounds provided an exhilarating multiview of the subject, the non-existence of god. Secondly, the individual contributions were written in short, precise, and lucid styles. The reader has many articles from which to choose his personal favourites. I like Stephen Law's bold assertion that one can easily prove the non-existence of god; and he did so in fine surgical manner, cutting away the assertions of god's existence. Adele Mercier's critical analysis of the first and second orders of belief was fascinating, pointedly stating that 'most people who claim to have religious beliefs have scarcely ever analysed the contents of their belief, and indeed are reluctant to do so, even when prompted.' She explained that the belief in the existence of god is a first order belief; the belief that one's belief in god is a second order belief. She employed the two orders of belief to explain persuasively why theists always end up with non-answers when questioned about their god. Victor Stenger exposed the ignorance of science of some Christian apologists such as Michael Craig; and in the case of Craig, a stubborn persistance in repeating a false claim even when proven wrong (see pg.113) Some of the authors like Tamas Pataki injected a bit of their personal experience and early introduction to religion, explaining how their came to reject the belief in god. The third reason I found this book to be refreshing is that none of the 50 voices came from either Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, or Sam Harris. This is a very handy book for atheists, born-again atheists, and people wishing to learn more before they accept or reject the belief in god.
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I have given it the once through, and am going back methodically. I am amazed at the variety. If you are not familiar with arguments for and against God, this is a great place to start. It is not a good place to conclude. Most unfortunate is that the authors asked the essayist to comment on an "omniscient, omnipresent, all loving, all knowing God". This is a particular concept of God and one of the easiest in which to shoot holes. Fortunately a few essayist manage to sidestep this and talk about how religion fits in to the process of our evolution. J.L. Schellenberg's is particularly good for this.

Very few of the essays acknowledge where their reasons fall short. Many engage in hyperbole and sometimes misinformation, starting with the introduction that claims "concerted attempts are being made at the level of the United Nations to cement a new concept into international law, the dangerous idea of `defamation of religion'." This is an overstatement about a non-binding resolution.

A few of the essays work at examining history and philosophy and religion, and like Peter Singer suggest it is up to us to examine the conclusions of our ancestors and "work out which of them need to be changed."

I hope this book encourages more people to do the same. For a thorough review of all of the essays, I have a blogged titled "Religious Atheism" in blogspot. They start in November 2009.
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I'd really like to give this 4 1/2, but we don't have that option. So why the half star deduction?

It certainly was not any failure to meet my purposes. I read it with the herding cats problem at top of mind and Blackford and Schuklenk have done quite a job herding their 50 cats. And it is certainly not any failure in production, in quality of writing or anything else technical. They are all excellent.

Yet I finish up with at least three little niggles:

The "problem of evil" is greatly overplayed. Beyond being just plain boring, it is really a straw man argument, focusing on rhetorical fragments used by delusional celebrants of misplaced hyper-authoritarian fantasies. Even worse, the very use of the word "evil" is playing by their rules. Solid atheists delete it from their working vocabulary.

Then there are a small minority of contributions which struck me as just plain wacky. I've already had a chance to tell Russell that he got the wrong Sean Carroll. Counting any string theorist as an atheist is stretching credulity. There were others with pet theories earlier, but the double act who found it necessary to reinvent Freudianism are still stuck in my mind.

And thirdly, the book is pervaded by a sad lack of humour. It seems most serious atheists must share the problem that has bedeviled me all my life, of taking things way too seriously.

However none of that is reason to pass on reading it if you have any reason to suspect that the range of views of 50 generally very credible atheists could be worth your reading time. It certainly was worth mine.
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By Carl on October 30, 2009
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Great book on how different walks of life came to the conclusion they could live well with out gods in their lives. Great writing on the reasons to live a rational and scientific way of life and how to reconcile with other people who don't share the same views. Great book for any one who likes to think for them selves.
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