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Atheism Explained: From Folly to Philosophy (Ideas Explained) Paperback – January 15, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"A clear, concise, complete, and convincing presentation of the case for atheism. Covers essentially all the arguments for and against God, in science, philosophy, and theology, with sympathy for the believer's views even as they are shown to be untenable."

—Victor J. Stenger, author of God: The Failed Hypothesis

"Atheism Explained is a gem. It is clear, informative, well-argued, provocative, often witty, and unfailingly interesting. David Ramsay Steele ranges over so many issues that I should be surprised if he were right about everything, but it makes for a most stimulating read. The book is in a different league from Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, and deserves much greater success."

—Jeremy Shearmur, author of The Political Thought of Karl Popper

"A refreshingly readable introduction to the arguments for and against believing in God, and the implications atheism has—and more importantly does not have—for politics, morality, and even religion itself."

—Susan Blackmore, author of Conversations on Consciousness

"Steele explains atheism with scholarship, cogency, wit, and clarity. He aims at the nonacademic reader, but no professional philosopher I know of could fail to be impressed."

—Jan Narveson, author of This Is Ethical Theory

"Atheism Explained is a much better defense of atheism than the recent works by Dawkins and Hitchens."

—James Sadowsky, S.J., Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University

"Steele defends atheism by a comprehensive analysis of attempts to prove and disprove the existence of God. If you want to refute atheism, then you need to reply to Atheism Explained. It may well become the classic work on the subject. It is as readable as it is rigorous."

—J.C. Lester, author of Escape from Leviathan

David Ramsay Steele is author of From Marx to Mises (1992), co-author (with Michael Edelstein)of Three Minute Therapy (1997), and editor of Genius: In Their Own Words (2002). His articles have appeared in Critical Review, Liberty, National Review, and Ethics. He contributed to The Atkins Diet and Philosophy (2005) and The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (2007).


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Product Details

  • Series: Ideas Explained (Book 5)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court; First Edition edition (January 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812696379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812696370
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,180,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Saganite VINE VOICE on February 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a marketing nightmare. The title, the subtitle, and the cover art are all uninspired. But this is one of the best books outlining a case for atheism that I've read. It is clear, user-friendly, and logical. The logical evidence against classical theism is treated in a comprehensive presentation that does not feel labored, and manages to dodge some of the excesses of books by Dawkins and Hitchens. If I were told that a Christian friend were experiencing doubts about her faith and she was asking for recommendations for three books explaining atheism as a rational, satisfying alternative, this book might well be among the three. After years of having very few readable books on atheism, the last couple of years have witnessed an explosion of fine, readable texts. Put "Atheism Explained" on the shelf next to "Irreligion," "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality," "Godless Philosophy," and other such books. The place for "God is Not Great" and "The God Delusion" is important, because they have opened a window. I would argue that what they have opened that window for is gentler, wiser books such as this one.

One of the best contributions the book makes is in an appendix about arguments NOT to use for atheism. Every atheist who feels compelled to convert the religious to atheism should read it. I think reducing the toxic effects of fundamentalism is a noble, necessary aim. But sinking to the tactics that fundamentalists use should play no part in our strategy to combat fanaticism. This appendix outlines "arguments" that toe that line and cautions against their use.
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey A. Schaler on March 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Dozens of books for and against atheism are now coming out, and the quality is very mixed on both sides of the debate. Among books of a general and popular nature, Steele's book is by far the best pro-atheist statement.

He covers all the arguments, and the most committed believer would have to agree that he does so with complete fairness. His exposition is crystal clear: he makes the most complex issues easy to understand. The book is so fair-minded and such an easy read that a beginning Christian theology student could read it in a weekend, simply to get a quick outline of philosophy of religion. Steele is also quite critical of some ideas commonly held by atheists: for example he refutes the claim that belief in God leads to atrocities.

Although the author is often witty and ironic, he is sympathetic and without malice. The reader feels that if Steele could find a decent argument for the existence of God, he would gladly accept it, and he actually mentions one such argument that might be developed in the future. Meanwhile, he destroys all the standard arguments quite convincingly. The author is extremely polite, but without mercy when it comes to muddled thinking.
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74 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm Greenhill on February 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are two kinds of atheist books--the kind that make atheists say "Right on!" and the kind that turn believers or doubters into atheists. This book is in the latter category, and it's hard to imagine any sincere and open-minded theist who could read it and not be converted. It's easy to see why such outstanding thinkers as Victor Stenger and Susan Blackmore have given the book such fulsome praise. (And is this the first ever atheist book to have a cover blurb from a Jesuit priest?) Steele keeps his promise of dealing with every important argument for God's existence, and also presents some surprising arguments against. His discussion is amazingly clear, as well as being witty and thoroughly entertaining. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of "Why is there something instead of nothing?" and of the argument from "religious experience." Unlike some well-known atheists, he doesn't make crude mistakes about Christian theology. He concedes points to theists where he thinks they have a strong argument, and he obviously agrees with Christians on such issues as free will. It's difficult to imagine a better book on atheism than this one. And by the way, I just love the cover!
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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Atkinson on March 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
I have read well over a hundred books on religious criticism; and this book is one of the very best general single volume assessments of the rational merit of Theism and Atheism. The book solely deals with the rational merit of atheism versus theism, not with the social merit or demerit of religion, which many other popular atheist books deal with. The author is skilled at making very complex issues accessible to a general audience. The book covers a surprising amount of ground and deals with a wide variety of subjects; including many issues that other books of this nature often leave out, such as ND E's and even the Koran. The author was especially strong when dealing with the Anthropic Principle and the problem of evil. The author has a way of pinpointing the central issues that underlie many of the issues involved. He is a skilled philosopher and is more adapt then many other popular authors when it comes to analyzing the rational merit of key arguments. I highly recommend this book.
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