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Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life Hardcover – August 8, 2007

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Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh
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Battling the Gods is an impassioned and learned account of atheism's origins in antiquity. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews


"The authors answer, forcefully and intelligently, the standard arguments against atheism."--V.V. Raman, CHOICE

"This Atheists R Us compilation differs markedly in tone from Hitchens and Dawkins. Excellent fare for Christian small groups whose members are genuinely interested in the arguments raised by atheists."--Christianity Today

"Rather than the foolishness of Dawkins or Hitchens, these [essays] are compelling and sophisticated arguments that religious people ought to confront...."--Tikkun

"This collection strikes me as an excellent example of how comprehensible philosophical writing can be at its best. By and large, the essays are written in a clear and direct style, free of philosophical jargon. many who read it will find themselves also engaged at a level that is not merely academic."--George I. Mavrodes, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Taken as a group, these readable, personal, and provocative essays make it clear that there are many kinds of non-believers, and even many different elements that make up a single skeptical outlook. Contrary to the popular image, atheism isn't all rebellious trumpets and defiant drums. That part of the orchestra is essential, but here we have all the varieties of unreligious experience, a full symphony of unbelief." --Free Inquiry

About the Author

Louise M. Antony is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of A Mind of One's Own and Chomsky and His Critics.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195173074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195173079
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.3 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Saganite VINE VOICE on July 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For those theists who have recoiled from some of the more bravado criticism of their beliefs in the writings of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, comes a gentler critique. There is real wisdom in this volume, and real empathy, too. Several of the essayists go to great lengths to let the reader know that they understand religion's appeal, that they do not find belief to be ignorant, much less crazy, and that a shared humanity can propel common cause in many areas among persons with or without faith. The New Atheists have focused largely on such topics as science and history, having leap-frogged some legitimate metaphysical questions related to meaning, values, morality, flourishing, etc. Don't misunderstand--I love Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris. This atheist finds their fiery polemic highly entertaining and motivating. But I enjoy this more upbeat and humane writing as well. And there is a Daniel Dennett essay in the volume for those who miss more spirited writing.
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99 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on August 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Who are atheists? What do they believe? Can life be meaningful without religious belief? Is belief in God necessary to be moral? Should we respect religious views we don't agree with? Is religion dangerous?

Philosophers Without Gods is a collection of essays by twenty leading philosophers from the United States and Britain, all of whom reject traditional religious faith and endorse the secular life.

In the Introduction, editor Louise M. Antony, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, writes, "A naturalistic understanding of the human condition reveals a set of heroic challenges--to pursue our goals without illusions, to act morally without hope of reward--challenges that, if taken up, can impart a durable value to finite and fragile human lives."

Permit me to coin a word: "anthropodicy." Whereas theodicy is "the defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil" (Meriam-Webster Dictionary), anthropodicy is the rational defense of non-theistic, secular humanism. The philosophers in this volume present anthropodictic arguments for living without "gods."

Liberal theologians argue that there is no real conflict between science and religion, reason and faith. Many of them also accept the Darwinian theory of evolution and reject the claim made by Fundamentalists that the world was created by God some six thousand years ago.

Many traditional Christians, however, subscribe to a literal, fundamentalist creed that accepts Scripture as verbally inspired and infallible, and that seeks to excuse their God for the evil and suffering in the world, or, even worse, justify the God who perpetuates infinite evil by punishing billions of unbelievers eternally in the fiery, smoke-charred pits of hell.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Ford on November 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The first half of Philosophers Without Gods - Journeys - introduces a range of issues pertaining to the debate between theists and atheists with engaging, first-person narratives of how the philosopher in question moved from faith to atheism. Without saying so explicitly, these autobiographical essays reinforce the connections between philosophy and the lives of the real people from which it emerges. (Interestingly, the beginning point for most of these journeys is faith rather than neutrality or indifference.) For some the movement towards atheism was a source of unmitigated liberation while for others the movement entailed genuine costs. The acknowledgement by atheists that theistic belief, whatever its shortcomings, can nevertheless offer consolation and moral guidance is one of the collection's strengths.

The second half of the collection - Reflections - contains more conventional philosophical essays that raise issues such as how one goes about defining the God in which one does or does not believe, alternatives to theism such as Aristotle's notion of human flourishing, self-deception, and how much "respect" theism deserves. Like all collections, some of these essays are more compelling than others but there are several gems here, such as David Owen's essay "Disenchantment" and Elizabeth Secord Anderson's survey of the morality in the Bible.

Overall, this is a well-written and accessible collection that exposes the issues between theists and atheists largely without philosophical jargon and the unfortunate, but all too frequentr, rancor that typically characteriszes those debates. (The reviewer is the author of The Search for Meaning: A Short History.)The Search for Meaning: A Short History
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Niklas Anderberg on January 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of the readers complains in his review that this book presents no new arguments against the existence of God. Well, that's asking a bit too much. Throughout history all the arguments have been clearly stated - it would be like wondering why nobody has invented a pair of trousers with three legs. There are the standard proofs for the existence of God and the refutations of these. But let's not in the rush forget what the word `atheist' actually entails. To my understanding it means nothing more than the absence of belief in God. You can also have a positive belief that God does not exist, but to actually deny his existence is untenable. Not even Richard Dawkins goes further than to say that `God almost certainly does not exist'. (The God Delusion p.158)
PHILOSOPHERS WITHOUT GODS is a wonderful collection of essays. Some are more philosophical than others. Personally I enjoyed the first part, `Journeys', the most. Here the writers describe their departure from belief into a secular life. Most of them hold no grudge against religion but rather lost their faith through youthful inquiry or perhaps a change of environment. One writer describes the clash of influences when he left the Jewish `yeshiva' and went to public school in Los Angeles. After years of studying the Talmud he found himself making friends with the hippies of the 1960s counterculture.
Most reviewers point out that the tone is milder than in many other books and even if that's generally true, it's not always the case. In part two, `Reflections', you'll find some more rigid reasoning and the essay by David Lewis is uncompromising, to say the least. He argues that a theist has to take Scripture literally to be able to call himself a Christian. There is no middle ground for a more liberal or modern interpretation.
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