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Learn about atheism

A guide by Mark I. Vuletic (Phoenix, AZ)
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Beginners

If you have no background in philosophy of religion, I recommend starting out with Baggini's Atheism: A Very Short Introduction and Harris's influential Letter to a Christian Nation: both are short, portable, inexpensive, and very well-written. If you need other basic treatements, try Krueger's What Is Atheism?, Barker's Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist and Martin's The Big Domino in the Sky: And Other Atheistic Tales. Be sure to leave time for the two most successful "new atheism" books: Dawkins's The God Delusion, and Hitchens's God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. You may also wish to round things out with Stenger's defense of the new atheism, The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason.


Advanced Beginners

Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God (The Skeptic's Bookshelf) is probably the best-selling defense of atheism of all time. Joshi's Atheism: A Reader is an excellent anthology of literary pieces on atheism. Hitchens's The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever is an even more wide-ranging anthology. Thrower's Western Atheism: A Short History presents a quick history of atheism. Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon gives a friendly introduction to biological explanations of religion. Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist is an influential treatment similar to that of Dawkins, except from the perspective of a physicist.


Intermediate

At this level, you should develop a broader background in philosophy of religion with Rowe's Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction, Pojman's Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (the third edition is the last good edition), and Angeles's somewhat dated, but still good, Critiques of God: Making the Case Against Belief in God. Then continue on to LePoidevin's Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, which is a moderately technical book, but in my opinion one of the best. At some point, you really will need to read Hume's Dialogues and Natural History of Religion (Oxford World's Classics).


Advanced

The current touchstone of all advanced studies in atheism still is Michael Martin's Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Everitt's The Non-Existence of God is another good technical overview. Martin's The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy), and Martin and Monnier's The Impossibility of God and The Improbability of God, all are essential anthologies.

If you want to move on to more narrowly constrained scholarly works on atheism, I suggest Mackie's The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God, Drange's Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God, Parsons's God and the Burden of Proof: Plantinga, Swinburne, and the Analytic Defense of Theism (Frontiers of Philosophy), Martin's Atheism, Morality, and Meaning (Prometheus Lecture Series), and Wielenberg's Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe.


Debates

The only written debate between an atheist and a theist that I actually like is Atheism and Theism, a respectful debate between J.J.C. Smart and J.J. Haldane.

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Beginners
1.  Atheism: A Very Short Introduction  by Julian Baggini
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2.  Letter to a Christian Nation  by Sam Harris
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3.  What Is Atheism?  by Douglas E. Krueger
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4.  Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist  by Danny Barker
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5.  The Big Domino in the Sky: And Other Atheistic Tales  by Michael Martin
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6.  The God Delusion  by Richard Dawkins
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7.  God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything  by Christopher Hitchens
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8.  The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason  by Victor J. Stenger
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Advanced Beginners
9.  Atheism: The Case Against God (The Skeptic's Bookshelf)  by George H. Smith
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10.  Atheism: A Reader  by S. T. Joshi
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11.  The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever  by Christopher Hitchens
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12.  Western Atheism: A Short History  by James Thrower
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13.  Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon  by Daniel C. Dennett
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14.  God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist  by Victor J. Stenger
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Intermediate
15.  Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction  by William L. Rowe
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16.  Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology  by Louis P. Pojman
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17.  Critiques of God: Making the Case Against Belief in God  by Peter Adam Angeles
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18.  Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion  by Robin LePoidevin
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19.  Dialogues and Natural History of Religion (Oxford World's Classics)  by David Hume
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Advanced
20.  Atheism: A Philosophical Justification  by Michael Martin
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21.  The Non-Existence of God  by Nicholas Everitt
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22.  The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy)  by Michael Martin
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23.  The Impossibility of God  by Michael Martin
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24.  The Improbability of God  by Michael Martin
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25.  The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God  by J. L. Mackie
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26.  Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God  by Theodore M. Drange
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27.  God and the Burden of Proof: Plantinga, Swinburne, and the Analytic Defense of Theism (Frontiers of Philosophy)  by Keith M. Parsons
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28.  Atheism, Morality, and Meaning (Prometheus Lecture Series)  by Michael Martin
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29.  Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe  by Erik J. Wielenberg
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Debates
30.  Atheism and Theism  by J. J. C. Smart
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Worth buying if already an atheist 33 Apr 14, 2014
 
   

About this Guide

 

Author

Mark I. Vuletic (Phoenix, AZ)
(REAL NAME)   
Qualifications: Philosophy Instructor
Last updated: 5/10/10
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