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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting collection of essays
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...
Published on February 19, 2003 by Amazon Customer

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Different kinds of atheists
Just as there are different kinds of religionists, theists, atheists come with different perspectives. Just as religion and governments (the state) are and ought to be kept separate, just so non-religionists and politics ought to be kept separate. There is no justification for mingling theism or atheism with politics.
Published 4 months ago by Not Really


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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
This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
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. Faith is intellectually dishonest, and it should be rejected by every person of integrity.
The book is a loosely connected series of essays that discuss a variety of Christian and social heresies. He begins with his own philosophic journey to atheism. He is certainly a libertarian, and the essays on public education and the War on Drugs reflect that philosophy. But the reason I began this book was to discover his writing about Ayn Rand. He devotes two substantial chapters to her and the Objectivist philosophy.
Rand evokes fierce passions, both pro and con. "Accounts of Objectivism written by Rand's admirers are frequently eulogistic and uncritical, whereas accounts written by her antagonists are often hostile and what is worse, embarrassingly inaccurate." The situation has been made worse by her appointed heir to the throne, Leonard Peikoff, who has declared Objectivism to be a "closed" philosophy, i.e., no critical analysis will be tolerated; one must accept it as he says it is and that's that. Whether Objectivism will survive such narrow-mindedness remains to be seen. It's a classic case of the true believer "unwilling to criticize the deity. Thinking for oneself is hard work so true believers recite catechisms and denounce heretics instead." Typically, this was contrary to Rand's philosophy of individualism and critical, rational thinking where "truth or falsehood must be one's sole concern and the sole criterion of judgment -- not anyone's approval or disapproval."
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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 review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
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
By 
David Kerr (Calgary AB Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
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
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This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS BY A REKNOWNED LIBERTARIAN ATHEIST, February 28, 2012
This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
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. 190)

He criticizes Rand for rarely quoting anyone except herself, and for actions such as criticizing John Rawls' book A Theory of Justice: Original Edition based on a book review, rather than actually reading the book. Smith comments, "Having herself been victimized by such tactics, one would have expected better from Rand." (Pg. 214-215)

Smith's observations are always thought-provoking, and well worth reading for any students of philosophy in general, or Objectivism or atheism in particular.
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12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy follow-up to "Atheism: The Case Against God", June 9, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
This is a loose collection of essays by Smith. They cover a variety of topics, like Smith's personal atheism, heresies over the years, and Objectivism. His critiques of Objectivism are well-written and, IMHO, spot-on.
I wish I could give the book five stars, but there doesn't seem to be much of an underlying theme, as the title suggests. I would've liked to have seen something where the chapters lead to an inevitable conclusion, as in A:TCAG.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Different kinds of atheists, February 12, 2014
This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
Just as there are different kinds of religionists, theists, atheists come with different perspectives. Just as religion and governments (the state) are and ought to be kept separate, just so non-religionists and politics ought to be kept separate. There is no justification for mingling theism or atheism with politics.
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7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lucid, thoughtful, sometimes way off., January 30, 2005
By 
This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
Most anthologies of essays are like a loose pile of sand, but thematically, I thought this one hung together fairly well. The style varied from popular to almost bibliographical.

The Ayn Rand essays were informative, though I thought Smith bent over backwards a bit too far to shield Rand herself from the charge of fanaticism. (As is so often done with Marx.) The essays I liked the best were "My Path to Atheism," "Atheism and the Virtue of Reasonableness," (good advice for theists as well), and "Frantz Fanon and John Locke at Stanford," which I read as a stirring defense of free thought against the PC mind control so prevalent in our academic establishments. If everyone (including Smith himself)would follow his rules for debate in that second essay, we might be in for a lot of good, healthy debate!

As a Christian, I was perturbed, but not surprised (having seen it so often), to find someone as apparently well-informed as Smith badly misunderstand what orthodox Christians mean by faith. He repeated the old canard that "Faith conflicts with reason," and a great deal of his discussion was saddled with this profound and oft-repudiated error. Faith, he argued,
"cannot give you knowledge." It is "intellectually
dishonest, and should be rejected by every person of integrity." He backed up his mangled argument with the writings of some obscure theologian. But when understood as orthodox Christians understand it (as I argue in my book Jesus and the Religions of Man), it is truer to say that nothing besides faith can give knowledge. "Never, never doubt the efficacy of your mind," Smith advised. Yes, and that is (in the Christian sense) an act of faith. Beyond a reasonable and tested faith in reason, memory, the fives senses, and other people, faith in God is the highest form not of blind faith (an un-Christian concept), but of the clear-headed act of reason by which rational beings perceive what is real in their environment. If you think faith is a wild and uneccessary leap in the dark, you misunderstand the Christian religion, and the nature of knowledge in general.

Suffering from this misunderstanding, Smith blames Augustine for the Dark Ages; which I think is radically unfair. (Especially considering that Augustine, one of the greatest thinkers in world history, died in a city under siege of the invaders who really did usher in the Dark Ages.)

Smith also tries halfheartedly to argue that Jesus fit the "profile" of an abusive cult leader. This is nonsense. In fact, compare the more detailed list of traits common to cult leaders compiled by such skeptical psychologists as Marcia Fabin and Anthony Storr with the Gospels, and it appears that Jesus was at the opposite end of the spectrum from that sort of person. I have been studying world religion, gurus, Messiahs, and "Living Buddhas" for many years, and I have not found any who resembled Jesus.

Despite these criticisms, I enjoyed this book and found a lot of value in it. Smith is extremely well-read, and writes with a style that is usually clear and reasonable. I look forward to reading his general defense of atheism.
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13 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dissenter's mind, September 5, 2000
This review is from: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Hardcover)
This loosely connected series of essays expands his earlier work, extending beyond Atheism to embrace various Christian and social 'heresies'. Beginning with his personal Path to Atheism, he provides the skeptic with methods of argument and several readings. He gives accounts of those Christian philosophers who wrote against atheists and heretics. Heretics, of course, have been subjected to the severest punishments in the Christian churches, for a soul lost is more serious than an unconverted heathen.
Smith's discussion of Deism is the highlight of this book. As a philosophy accepting a god without a structured religious organization, Deism was a major theme among critics of Christianity. Abolishment of church hierarchies, with their inevitable moral and monetary corruption, led many thinkers to leave Christianity in favour of a personal relationship with a deity. Many of the Founding Fathers of the United States adhered to this view, a product of the European Enlightenment of the 18th Century. Arising coincidentally with many philosophies of personal freedom, it was almost inevitable that a nation experimenting with democratic ideals would espouse it. Smith's essay on the writings of Deists is enlightening.
Smith's discussion of Ayn Rand's ideas came as a bit of a shock. It's difficult to find anyone, apart from a few feminists, in this era who knows who she was. Smith's account of her life includes a smattering of choice quotations, but the brevity of the entries demonstrates the paucity of adherents. There is an Ayn Rand Institute site on the 'Net, but seems hardly worth the bother.
The two essays on public education and the War on Drugs are heartfelt expressions of a true libertarian. Neither will add to Smith's popularity in a nation where 'Christian virtues' reign with such strength, but they're required reading for anyone who wishes to understand views other than the accepted 'norm'. Smith appears to forget that public education in the United States, even given its Puritan foundation, was furthered by a desire to free education from the thrall of an Established Church. The struggling economy of a growing nation would have led more children into hazardous and fatiguing work situations from which they would never recovered. Extending the years of compulsory education freed many children and opened job opportunities. The result put more women into the work force, ultimately leading to improving their role in society.
Smith confesses his lack of a formal education, but he's certainly managed a wealth of research to produce this book. Not a deep study of the challenges to established thinking, this book is a valid starting point for those seeking further knowledge of libertarian thinking.
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Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies
Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies by George H. Smith (Hardcover - June 1, 1990)
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