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Atheism: A Reader Paperback – November 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1St Edition edition (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573928550
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573928557
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #841,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Does agnosticism constitute a belief system? Are science and religion compatible? This compilation of views from the agnostic to the antireligious spans two millennia and poses those questions in excerpts from world history's great nonbelievers. Joshi's collection provides an unflinching look into the minds of doubters, atheists and freethinkers, exposing much that is wrong with religion and posing alternatives to it that constitute various nonreligious ethical systems. Many points of view are represented here, including the non- or anti-religious sentiments of Lucretius, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Clarence Darrow, Thomas Henry Huxley, Emma Goldman, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Bertrand Russell, H.L. Mencken, Nietzsche, Hume, Darwin and others. The delightfully readable Carl Sagan compares demonology to the modern UFO cult and a bitter, nearly ranting (but brilliant) Gore Vidal examines the threat of fundamentalist politics to American freedom. Some contributions display an openly mocking wit, as when Darrow wonders aloud why mint sauce is not offered with the sacrificial lamb. Well-conceived and thematically organized (though perhaps a tad long), this collection is definitely for persons who enjoy intellectually challenging reading and who are not offended when what the contributors see as the crimes of Christianity are called to the dock. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"...a worthy addition to any thinking person's library." -- Michael Martin, professor of philosophy emeritus, Boston University

More About the Author

S. T. Joshi (Seattle, WA) is a freelance writer, scholar, and editor whose previous books include Documents of American Prejudice; In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice against Women; God's Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong; Atheism: A Reader; H. L. Mencken on Religion; The Agnostic Reader; and What Is Man? And Other Irreverent Essays by Mark Twain.

Customer Reviews

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I will close with two of my favorite quotes from the book.
James Arvo
I won't give too many examples of the distortions and bombast contained in the essay; a few should suffice.
If you're an atheist, this book is a wonderful resource, full of good friends.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By James Arvo on August 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a marvelous and eclectic assortment of essays by freethinkers throughout the ages, including Thomas Paine, David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Charles Darwin, Gore Vidal, Carl Sagan, and Robert Ingersoll. Each essay is beautifully crafted by writers who knew the fine art of constructing a powerful and persuasive essay; each is riveting in its insight or its candor. While a few of the essays are no longer politically correct (e.g. with references to "lesser minds"), the core theses remain vibrant and still ring true.

While religionists will scarcely find an uplifting sentence in this collection, there is still much to recommend this book to such an audience. First, it dispels many of the common myths about atheists: that they lack morals, that they reject god for selfish reasons, that they are ignorant of theism, that there is no meaning in their lives, that they cling to their own religious dogmas, etc. Second, it provides an interesting glimpse into the religious views of a wide assortment of freethinkers, which will challenge your core beliefs, such as "life after death" and "absolute morality".

As an atheist, I found this book an absolute joy to read. Compared to the contorted logic that religionists often indulge to lend an air of respectability to their dogmas, these essays are positively bursting with the wit and acumen that only seem to spring from unfettered minds. Each essay does its part to clear away the cobwebs of mysticism. I will close with two of my favorite quotes from the book. I chose these quotes not only for their insightfulness, but equally for their mastery of language. This will give you a taste of what awaits you in this book.

page 49: Leslie Stephen, commenting on religionists: "They feel rather than know.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By calmly on August 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you're an atheist, this book is a wonderful resource, full of good friends. The selection seems strong and many selections are 10 pages long or less, so you can get acquainted with many atheists. Most wrote during the last 3 centuries.

Discussion with a theist about God seems a waste of time, so I am sympathetic to Joshi's introduction. Theists indeed do seem "incapable of comprehending the issues at stake", as Joshi maintains. I attended a meeting of a local atheist group recently. The meeting was open to all, so there were fruitless debates with a die-hard fundamentalist. A so-called "atheist" viewed everyone's position as relative and wanted to encourage further theist-atheist meetings. But in this book an atheist can feel at home with just atheists. And if you're not atheist, but open to understanding atheist views, Josh's collection is a great way to start, with outstanding atheist writers like Emma Goldman, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Kaufmann, H.P. Lovecraft, and Gore Vidal.

Avoid this book if you are a theist and wish to remain so. The thinkers in here are among the human race's best and might possibly reach even you.

This would make a good collection to any atheist's library, with a broad range of powerful statements to choose from on even the rainiest day.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mark I. Vuletic on November 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed much about this reader. The selections appear to be chosen as much for their literary qualities as for their defense of atheism, making for very pleasurable reading. Additionally, Joshi introduced me to a few historical atheists I had not heard of before, as well as a few figures I had heard of, but had not known were atheists. So I do feel enriched for having read it. However, three aspects of the reader bothered me. First, Joshi's introduction is too militant, and will unjustly ward off even reasonable religious folks, who would otherwise profit from the selections that follow. Second, the literary emphasis notwithstanding, a "reader" on atheism really should include selections from modern atheistic philosophers of religion, such as J. L. Mackie and Michael Martin. Finally, though I do not myself believe in an afterlife, the question of immortality is perfectly separable from the question of whether or not there is a god, and so it bothered me that Joshi included in his reader on "atheism" a section against immortality. But with these qualifications, my impression of the reader was, overall, a very favorable one, and I believe this book should be on the list of every person who wants to learn more about atheism.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Philip Challinor on July 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Any book bearing the name of S T Joshi is worth looking into, and happily there seem to be more of them every day. This one is a collection of miscellaneous writings by authors from Lucretius to Gore Vidal, from T H Huxley to Emma Goldman, and including along the way such luminaries as Bertrand Russell, H P Lovecraft, George Eliot, Charles Darwin and Clarence Darrow. All of the pieces are arguments against religious belief, whether from the point of view of logic (as in the delightful extract from Lovecraft's correspondence, or Anatole France's careful refutation of miracles), or morals (Eliot's attack on mean-spirited fundamentalism, Nietzsche's magnificent rant against the lily-livered hypocrisy that passes for goodness among Christians), or just plain disgust (as in Gore Vidal's coolly disdainful dissection of the way in which the original Enlightenment ideals of the USA were betrayed when "In God We Trust" sneaked onto the money). (Not that we in Britain do much better - we still have an established State church; many of us baptise our children before they are old enough to walk, let alone think or speak; and on our coins we have "Queen by the grace of God" - though at least we have it in Latin, so that nobody understands it). There are rousing and tightly argued condemnations of just about every Christian virtue - faith, meekness, ignorance, priest-worship, misogyny and so forth. The book also has a very fine introduction by S T Joshi, commending it to the open-minded and consigning the rest to their quagmire. He may well be unduly optimistic in his assertion that, for the intellectual world at least, "there is no going back to irrational piety"; but books like this one should certainly help.
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