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Spiritual Atheism Paperback – January 19, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A college instructor of philosophy and religion who spent 15 years studying Zen Buddhism in Japan, Antinoff's debut follows popular, provocative atheist tomes like Christopher Hitchen's God is Not Great, but is more a prod than a philosophical primer. As a jumping-off point, Antinoff uses a principal quotation from Dostoyevsky: "God is necessary, and so must exist... Yet I know that he doesn't exist, and can't exist." Antinoff seeks to answer, "What then?" Presupposing the lack of a divine entity, Antinoff is unafraid to alienate readers who believe in a God of any kind, and his fondness for quoting the great (Christian) philosopher Paul Tillich works to further antagonize believers, as well as atheists searching for meaning. Antinoff considers and dismisses only two concepts-intense romantic love and intense artistic output-as possible substitutes for religion and spiritual belief, a position sure to provoke atheists who find great purpose in, say, charitable work or science. Eventually, Antinoff turns to his own Zen Buddhist practice, using koans and received wisdom to create a non-answer to his central question, ultimately failing to please or enlighten. END

From Booklist

Slim but profound, Antinoff’s homage to the paradox or, to appropriate from the Zen Buddhist tradition, koan contends that the dilemma or koan at the heart of Western culture is simultaneously believing and disbelieving that God exists. The paradox is expressed most powerfully in Dostoyevsky’s Devils (aka The Possessed), Antinoff says, in which the character Kirilov posits, “God is necessary, and so must exist. . . . Yet I know that he doesn’t exist, and can’t exist.” Such spiritual atheism concludes that the experience of the self is ultimately unsatisfactory and intolerable. Antinoff makes the atheist with spiritual longings, seeking some form of transformation, the crux of his book. He deftly examines this figure’s untenable position in discussions of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Carson McCuller’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, with references to Marcel Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, and even Mark Twain, and lengthily assesses the various manifestations of meditation. In all, a bracing study of identity, self-consciousness, and the fear of death from an atheist perspective. --June Sawyers
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (January 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582435642
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582435640
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steve Antinoff was born in 1949. Questions he could not answer led him to train at a Zen monastery in Kyoto. He stayed in Japan for many years. Later he lived in Rome. Along the way he obtained a doctorate in religion. Currently he teaches philosophy and religion at Philadelphia's University of the Arts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John w on March 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Antinoff's description of the sensation of doubt, consciousness, and the mysterious need for God is both original and compelling. I have found in the reading of this book a renewed appreciation of spiritual practice and it would be my guess that others entangled in the the big questions would feel similarly. I don't claim to be knowledgeable about zen practice or theory, but having practiced some I can say that the overriding state of its practitioner is anxiousness. It is this way with myself and those I have sat with. It is with those I work and live with. For the most part, I and the majority of those I know find ways away from it- for tackling one's own anxiety is as elusive as catching one's own shadow. In any case, I would say this book is a truly honest and incisive display of the fortitude involved with the spiritual practice when faced against what looks like a guaranteed failure.
Whether one believes in God or not, whether one is a layman, artist, or corporate business person, the very real and singular obstacle embedded in one's being is a universally human trait that leaves no person unburdened. It is this 'call to duty' which, I believe, Antinoff makes his strongest case for action despite all logical odds.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Szekely on August 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very odd reflection on existential meditation. It's almost as though the book itself is one long, ongoing zen koan.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Casey P on January 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had Steve Antinoff as a professor at the university of the arts in Philadelphia and felt an immediate connection with his work. I love what he has done and often reference this book.
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