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Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies [Kindle Edition]

George H. Smith
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In this wide-ranging collection of articles, essays, and speeches, George H. Smith analyzes atheism and its relevance to society today.

The featured essay in this volume provides a full analysis of Ayn Rand's unique contribution to atheism, explaining how her objectivist metaphysics and laissez-faire economic principles rested on a purely godless worldview. Several chapters address the evolution of atheism; arguments in favor of religious toleration; the efforts of early Church fathers to discredit Roman polytheism and how these arguments can be used with equal force against later Christian descriptions of God; and a survey of the contributions to freethought made by the deists of the 18th and 19th centuries.

With incisive logic and considerable wit, Smith ties atheism to reason and argues that reason itself can be a moral virtue. In one penetrating chapter, Smith salutes three Christian theorists who he believes embody the spirit of reason: Thomas Aquinas, Desiderius Erasmus, and John Locke. This is followed by a philosophical drubbing of his "least favorite Christians" - St. Paul, St. Augustine, and John Calvin. In subsequent chapters, Smith examines religion and education; addresses the 20th century fundamentalist revival; offers suggestions on how to debate atheism with religious believers; critiques "new religions," including pop therapy, est, and tranactional analysis; and provides a comprehensive bibliographic essay on the literature of freethought.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

George H. Smith is the author of the world's most popular book on nonbelief,Atheism: The Case Against God, and Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2790 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (March 31, 1991)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036TG2OA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #837,334 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting collection of essays February 19, 2003
Heresy, Smith defines in his preface, is the rejection of the orthodox, and heresies are considered a threat to the established social order once the dogma of the institution (be it religious or otherwise) has become aligned with the power of the state or political force. The state, holding the reins of power, uses force, instead of persuasion, to enforce the orthodoxy. The Founding Fathers, most practicing Deists, itself a form of heretical thought, understood this and insisted on the separation of church and state, thus preventing the establishment of an official religion, preventing, they hoped, official heresies as well. Orthodoxy itself is not dangerous, only its alliance with political power. The central theme of Smith's book is the "crucial difference between the voluntary orthodoxy of organizations and the politicized orthodoxy of governments. "A free society, complete with orthodoxies and prejudices, is the best of all worlds for the heretic. Liberty permits the heretic to pit his beliefs against those of the orthodox majority." The paradox for the heretic is whether if and when his view becomes the dominant - to politicize the new orthodoxy or to permit liberty, which enabled the heretic to conquer ideologically, to possibly undermine the new orthodoxy?
Smith is unapologetically atheist; belief in God for Smith is simply unreasonable and irrational. Asked to prove the nonexistence of God, Smith's answer is simply that one cannot prove a negative and that the person who asserts the existence of something bears the burden of proof. He asserts that to believe in faith or to rely on faith is to "defy and abandon the judgment of one's mind. Faith conflicts with reason. It cannot give you knowledge; it can only delude you into believing that you know more than you really do.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for atheists and Ayn Rand admirers January 20, 1998
By A Customer
This is an excellent collection of essays on atheism, Ayn Rand, and miscellaneous issues. Smith is an excellent writer. I only give the book a 9 because some of the articles lack references. His essays on Rand are good medicine for those dogmatic Randians who have never read any other works of philosophy, and think that Rand can do no wrong. A previous reviewer questioned the relevance of "Franz Fanon and John Locke at Stanford", but this essay is important in analyzing the drastic effects of political correctness on the campus.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting collection of essays. October 3, 1997
While I enjoyed immensely George H. Smith's book, 'Atheism: The Case Against God,' this book doesn't live up to it's predecessor especially at such a high price.

Most of the essays are excellent: 'My Path to Atheism,' 'Philosophies of Toleration,' 'The Righteous Persecution of Drug Consumers,' and 'Children's Rights in Political Philosophy' are a great read and the last one really made me think.

However, there are some questionable essays; one wonders what interest anyone would have in reading 'Frantz Fanon and Jonh Locke at Stanford'. One thing I found annoying were constant spelling errors scattered throughout - was this book edited? Another thing I could not figure out was whether Smith was a libertarian or an anarchist - he certainly has no problem with the privitization of the justice system, yet on the back of his first book he is described as an advocate of the libertarian view.

If you have some extra cash to spend and want to add this to your collection, get it! If you haven't already bought 'Atheism: The Case Against God' or 'Atheism: A Philosophical Justification' buy those instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL READ AND VERY SOUND March 19, 2012
Reading this book in March 1991, I learned to respect Herbert Spencer in contrast to Leonard Peikoff's opinion of him through his Objectivist history of philosophy course, specifically in relation to Spencer's libertarian views on children's rights. I learned to appreciate Schopenhauer for his hatred of Hegel. I learned more of the necessity to be an informed atheist as well. I got some good advice, too, on the subject of the presumption of rationality with non-atheists. I learned more as to who was first in developing certain ideas on atheism and liberty and I learned of the necessity of knowing such developments.

I think George Smith was correct in pointing out two mistakes Ayn Rand made regarding standards and rules and on the equation between goals and moral perfection. George Smith was also astute and helpful in identifying psychological sanctions as a consequence of equating standards or morality with rules. George Smith was devastating in his analysis of public education in America for reasons of state. He was surprising and creative in his elucidations of justice and entrepreneurship in a free-market system, which was the last chapter of this solid, well-written, academically and intellectually sound book.

This book was a wonderful read. For further reading, based on George Smith's references: On contextualism, see "Knowing As a Function of Reason" by Richard I. Aaron and "The Theory of Knowledge": by D. W. Hamlin. See also H. Veatch's "Rational Man."
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5.0 out of 5 stars An example of clear, thoughtful, and critical thinking. January 17, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Atheists need not defend their non-belief, just as they do not have to (nor can) prove that zxtchkis do not exist.
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George Hamilton Smith (born 1949) is an American author, who has also taught classes under the auspices of the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies; and served as General Editor of Knowledge Products, and was scriptwriter for their "Great Political Thinkers" series. He has written other books such as Atheism: The Case Against God (Skeptic's Bookshelf) and Why Atheism?.

The essays in this 1991 collection are subdivided into three categories: Atheism; Ayn Rand; and Other Heresies (e.g., "Drug Consumers and Other Heretics," "Children's Rights in Political Philosophy," etc.).

In the opening essay, "My Path to Atheism," he recalls that Rand's lasting influence on him, as well as on thousands of other young people, was "to convince me... that ideas MATTER." (Pg. 30) He states that atheism is "not a belief; it is the absence of belief." The atheist is not a person who believes that a god does not exist; he does not believe in the existence of a god. (Pg. 183)

He rejects the "psychological atheism" of Freud and Feuerbach (i.e., that God is a "projection") on the grounds that they commit the genetic fallacy, which is the attempt to refute a belief through an examination of its psychological origins. (Pg. 185) He also criticizes linguistic philosophy: "Whereas medieval theologians made philosophy into the handmaiden of theology, analysts have transformed philosophy into the handmaiden of language." (Pg.
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