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Why Atheism? Paperback – November 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Atheism: The Case Against God returns to the fray with a more concise and somewhat more accessible argument against religion. Here he attempts to summarize in 250 pages every deceit and paradox of organized religion over the past 3,000 years, using the cold light of reason and logic in an attempt to rewrite the history of nonbelief. He also champions the cause of the coherent use of critical analysis in destroying mythology, which he believes is morally detrimental because it is based on fallacy. Though overambitious in terms of historical scope and detail, the book is still more compact and readable than Smith's similarly themed earlier work and less polarizing. It even becomes almost funny near the end, when a closing chapter filled with irreverent questions about God lightens an otherwise serious appraisal of theology as a game played with smoke and mirrors. While the initial chapters may appear tedious in their exposition of Western philosophy, patient readers who bear up until the end will be rewarded with a fuller understanding of the logical argument for atheism. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"...clear, straightforward...worth a look..." -- Journal of Church & State

"...prose is clear, straightforward, and relatively easy to follow--no small achievement when wading through centuries of epistemology and metaphysics." -- Journal of Church and State, Autumn, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573922684
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573922685
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,088,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By eunomius on November 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Once again we are fortunate enough to have a new book from the formidable George H. Smith, one of the greatest free-thinkers of our day. Both of his previous works were excellent, and "Why Atheism?" does not dissapoint. Smith marshals his great learning and wit to deal with a number of important issues surrounding atheism, religious belief, history, ethics, and philosophy. Although he is treading on largely familiar ground, there is little overlap between this effort and his earlier volumes.
Smith begins by discussing the credibility and methodology of atheism, and continues on to examine the relationship of belief with doubt, knowledge, and free will. A great deal of attention is devoted to the history of ideas and those who developed them. Such thinkers as Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Benedict Spinoza, and Arthur Schopenhauer, to name a few, are discussed at length. In addition to a chaper paying tribute to the philosophers of the seventeenth century, two others are devoted to a fascinating survey of the roots of modern ideas of atheism and secularism.
Objectivists and others interested in Ayn Rand's philosophy should be particularly interesting in his discussion of Rand's theory of knowledge. Drawing on the work of Rand's supposed "successor" Leonard Peikoff, Smith rejects the Objectivist theory of contextual certainty in favor of a more traditional variant of correspondence theory.
While each chapter is highly stimulating and informative, I particularly enjoyed those which dealt with the lifestyle of the philosopher, the Ontological argument for God's existence, and the atheistical view of death.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Francis A Olivo on August 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was first introduced to the author Mr. George H. Smith way back when he was Editor & Chief of Reason Magazine. I purchased his first book called, "Atheism: The Case Against God." It was brilliantly written. May I suggest perchasing this book first. In Why Atheism, Smith, often refers back to philosophies in his first book Atheism: The Case Against God, however, luckly, even though he expects you to have read that book, he still enlightens the reader to his old text, via a short review. The impression I got from Why Atheism was that Smith still had a few things to say about justification of being an Atheist. Why Atheism's concept was very straight forward. Smith wanted to give Atheists a leg to stand on while combating the endless war of being moral even though you're an atheist. Theists believe, through religious propaganda, that all atheists have no morals. This is not true in any way shape or form. Smith explains that the burden of proof is on the theist to prove that God exists. It's not the burden of proof for the atheist to prove that God does not exist. Smith breaks everything down very nicely for the reader. He explains that we must first give God some meaning or definition. In other words, we must first understand what exactly is God. Then if the theist cannot explain what God is, then how can he or she expect the atheist to understand what the theist is talking about. Smith goes on and explains how to view death as an atheist, hwo to live a good life as an atheist, and most improtantly how to use reason as a means to live your life. I say well done Smith! I'm also going to purchase his last book called, "Atheism, Ayn Rand, and other Heresies. Probably as soon as I'm done writing this review. Buy the book, he's ahead of his time...Regards Fellow Atheists....Another book worth reading is Atheism: A Philosophical Justification By Mr. Micheal Martin.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Drew J on December 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic book. I was impressed with Smith's first two books and I was satisfied once again with his work. If you care about philosophy, you should care about the history of it. Here, Smith does a great job of drawing on the roots of Atheism and of providing an general overview of famous philosophers who examined reason and although found it to be fallible, still seemed to be philosophical optomists (Locke and Bacon for example). In discussing a whole range of philosophers, he ends up presenting nice introductions into various philosophical theories including nominalism, realism, correspondence theory, and others. As well many chapters have extensive footnotes and mention a lot of books for further readings. This is a pro.

Ultimately, the layout is great. Here is why: He lays epistemological ground by defining terms, discussing knowledge, justification, faith, reason, Occam's Razor and burdens. Then he discusses what philosophers such as Locke and Bacon had to say about reason (they said it was fallible whereas Descartes said otherwise) in great detail. His critique of Ayn Rand's (and Leonard Piekoff's) contextual theory of knowledge is excellent in that he effectively refutes it in only a few pages. It's short and to the point!

Then he goes on to explore the Ontological argument which is one of the highlights of the book since it is clearly written and easily understood. Thankfully, draws on a lot of sources for criticisms of the argument as well. Next comes two fairly long chapters on the roots of modern atheism. In the first, quotes a lot of arguments from ancient Greeks, some of which still have validity today.
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