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Reasonable Atheism: A Moral Case For Respectful Disbelief Paperback – April 26, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"…an intriguing view of the complexities of modern atheism."
-Kirkus Review

About the Author

Scott F. Aikin (Nashville, TN) is a senior lecturer in the philosophy department at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Pragmatism: A Guide for the Perplexed (with Robert B. Talisse) and Epistemology and the Regress Problem.

Robert B. Talisse (Nashville, TN) is a professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Democracy and Moral Conflict, Pragmatism: A Guide for the Perplexed (with Scott F. Aikin), A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy, and Democracy After Liberalism.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616143835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616143831
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,426,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Saganite VINE VOICE on April 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, it has to be said that I know these two academic guys are probably trying their hardest not to sound too philosophy-nerdy-wonky and be more reader-friendly...but they don't approach the readibility of, say, an A.C. Grayling (The Choice of Hercules: Pleasure, Duty and the Good Life in the 21st Century) or Julian Baggini (The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher). They do achieve a relatively high level of readability, however, given the often difficult topics the book aims to take on. And I'm delighted by the little conversational touches I notice often ending a "What gives?" following a fairly complex sentence.

Second it has to be said that there is something of the velvet-gloved and iron-fisted about some of what they write. I have no doubt that there are tactical and rhetorical advantages to remaining friendly and reasonable-sounding, but there is no more compromise on the actual likelihood of atheism being true here than there is in anything written by New Atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or P.Z. Myers. I suppose that's why I feel free to love both this book, which advocates a softer tone, and the acerbic, sarcastic tone struck in some New Atheist works. They're both right, in a way.

The intelligence, sanity, and sincerity of the religious person need NOT be called into question--as a formerly devout Christian, I can attest to that personally. And yet there IS something undeniably unreasonable in religion that occasionally borders on the ridiculous.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Book Trope 9 on July 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
In Reasonable Atheism, authors Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse set out to present a moral case for atheism. They attempt to "show religious believers that atheism is a morally and intellectually responsible position" (9). They do a rather decent job.

Reasonable Atheism is not a polemic against religion or belief. As they state on page ten, their aim "instead is to show that religious believers' beliefs about atheists are false." The authors make a point of noting that they are not merely trying to champion diversity - a worldview in which citizens respect all belief systems (a viewpoint they discount as nonsense) - but, rather, are presenting a cognitive case that the existence of gods is "entirely irrelevant to morality" (11). Indeed, they go one step further, asserting that atheism is a prerequisite in order to take good and evil seriously. In short, the authors wish to have their readers take atheists as seriously as they regard those who subscribe to different faiths from their own.

As the authors are philosophers, it probably goes without saying that it takes them quite a long time to get to meat of their argument. The first third of the book is taken up with clarifications and stage-setting. As late as chapter four (nearly 100 pages into the book!) the authors declare "our discussion thus far has been mostly preliminary." But perhaps so many pages of caveats and asides are necessary in order to assure the devout Christian reader to continue on, to turn the next page, and not fear for their soul. During those first hundred pages, Aikin and Talisse address several objections readers may have. Foremost is the objection that religion should not be discussed publicly.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Mefford on July 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Reasonable Atheism: A Moral Case for Respectful Disbelief by Scott F. Aiken and Robert B. Talisse turned out to be a major disappointment for me, though that is no fault of the authors. This book is not intended for atheists or theists with a background in philosophy, but for folks whose entire working knowledge of the Atheist/Theist conflict comes from the best seller list in the NYT.

The first two chapters were very slow going for me, and probably the part of the book I least enjoyed. I think the authors took great pains to make the book readable and understandable to any high school educated person who happened across this book, and the result is something that reminds me of a introductory lecture where a Professor has to guide the class by the hand through the basics argumentation. The substance was not a problem for me, and I can hardly hold it against the authors for taking this approach, but I think potential readers should be aware that you might be covering a lot of ground that seems like common sense to you.

The commentary on the "New Atheists" is where the book begins to earn it's keep. At several points I felt like clapping for the authors, as they made their case against the `New Atheist' approach to dialogue, which is a combination of aggression and ignorance. Their finest example has to do with the Ontological argument, which was by far, my favorite part of the book, and how this argument is useful is gauging people's understanding of the more complex issues involved. If you don't understand the Ontological argument, and do not have a reasoned response to it, your atheism is more than likely to be poorly justified.

I must confess that my biggest disappointment with the book is the poor way in which the authors discussed Psalm 53.
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