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4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful window into an emerging political force, December 2, 2012
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This review is from: Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless (Paperback)
Atheism in the U.S. is emerging on the public scene. According to a 2012 Pew study, atheists now comprise about 7% of the population. That's about the same share we see from GLBTs. And like gays prior to the 1980s, atheists have long been treated as second-class citizens who are still largely in the closet in many parts of the country because of Christian-fueled bigotry that dominates many aspects of the culture.

Being in the closet has meant the opponents who motivate one to be in the closet have the luxury of describing those they despise. In this case the atheists' chief opponent in this country happens to be an incredibly dishonest group, conservative Christians, who eagerly defame atheists. Bigotry towards atheists remains pervasive enough it's an inherent part of our public policy, in spite of the disproportionate contributions by atheists to society - e.g., only about 7% of U.S. scientists are theists. However, atheists are becoming less tolerant of being defamed, more demanding of securing the protection of their equal rights, and now enjoying an increasing opportunity to have a voice given the rise of people in the country who are not religious.

Greta Christina is an emerging leader in the second wave of new atheism. The first wave's leaders - Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett, made `in-your-face' arguments that atheism was the only compelling and intellectually honest conclusion that scientifically literate and reasonable people can take. Ms. Christina instead promotes non-atheists end their bigotry and defamation of atheists by revealing what many atheists actually think and act like. She also promotes atheists take on a progressive political agenda where Ms. Christina is an influential leader in the "A+" political movement, which is comprised of atheists promoting progressive politics.

The `nones', those who are affiliated with no religion, is also growing according to that same Pew study. They're also a little over a quarter of the Democratic Party's voters where atheists also comprise more than a quarter of the `nones' and are seemingly the most vocal. So politicians will increasingly need to listen to the `nones' and by default, atheists, merely for their own political survival. Especially given how the `nones' are disproportionately young while their chief U.S. nemesis, white conservative Christians, are a dying demographic. A dying demographic who are increasingly incapable of convincing their progeny to hate and persecute gays and atheists or reject experts, history, and reality.

Just because Ms. Christina is part of the most vocal and activist aspect of this emergent group of `nones', that's not a sufficient reason to read what she has to say about atheists interacting in the public square. Instead she's worth reading because:
a) She vividly illustrates the perspective of many well-educated atheists steeped-in and supportive of founding American values. And the type of thinking that has led to moral and technological progress.

b) The value to society of considering both the agenda and people she represents in the public square. Where Ms. Christina is prudently careful to repeatedly note that she doesn't speak for all atheists. I do think her positions are highly correlative to those atheists who are well educated, well informed politically, and scientifically literate.

c) Ms. Christina presents a credible, compelling argument, both because she's a wonderfully interesting writer and has developed a very cogent argument. Maybe she's not as entertaining as Christopher Hitchens from a literary perspective, but she presents a much tighter more defensible argument than Mr. Hitchens' always interesting though frequently sloppy arguments.

Understanding the perspective of U.S atheists is of paramount importance given their both being in the closet and the gross defamation they suffer from Christians. So truth alone should motivate us to consider her book.

We've been lied to regarding the nature of atheism and atheists, where those lies hurt even the liars. The latter because their children are less apt to enter STEM-degreed jobs, especially those in the physical sciences given those children's parents' fierce anti-intellectualism and antipathy towards scientific methodology and inconvenient facts which they dishonestly deny as true.

Conservative Christians are especially eager to bear false witness against atheists, e.g., Rick Warren. Mr. Warren goes on national news shows like Meet the Press and falsely claims U.S. atheists are authoritarians like Stalin or Mao. That's an ironic and hypocritical psychological projection given Bob Altemeyer and other scientists' findings that conservative Christians are predominately rightwing authoritarians. See Chris Mooney's The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality to both validate and understand this phenomenon beyond Altemeyer's work.

These Christians also falsely claim atheists are all moral relativists when in fact more than 50% of atheist philosophers subscribe to an objective moral framework. Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape provides a vivid illustration of one aspect of atheistic morality that is objective. So Ms. Christina's `99 reasons atheists are so angry' provides enormous utility in helping to clear the public water regarding atheists and atheism. It also serves nicely as a handy reference guide when these all-too-popular mischaracterizations crop up.

In addition the `new atheist' leaders were often iconoclasts and therefore not representative of atheists in general, particularly Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens frequent advocacy of rightwing positions. Ms. Christina appears to be far more representative of the group for whom she advocates. So by understanding her perception, we've better advanced our understanding of this emergent group whose politics will begin to have more influence on public policy.

And where conservative Christians wrap themselves into a false version of the U.S. founding to promote their theocratic authoritarian agenda, Ms. Christina promotes positions either consistent with conclusions or consistent with the same approach taken by our framers. So understanding her perspective helps one understand the evolvement of critical thinking emanating out of the enlightenment movement over time and this liberty- and truth-based approach to thinking leads to a progressive political agenda. So this book is a fine appendix to Susan Jacoby's authoritative history of secularism in the U.S., titled, "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Precisely because Ms. Christina's argument is a natural progression from the secularism our framers advocated and implemented to the present time.

And for those who enjoy a wonderfully crafted argument regardless of the topic, this book is easily worth your money and time on that aspect alone. There are few defectively narrow framings or logical fallacies while Ms. Christina comes across as smart, engaging, and heartfelt. Heartfelt in spite of the logic of her claims where that's no easy task.

My primary beef with this book is in regards to citations where I have two related aspects regarding my frustration.

First, there's a paucity of citations for some of Ms. Christina's more provocative claims. Intellectual atheists' biggest advantage over religionists is the approach these atheists take towards finding objective truth, which is wholly reliant on independently validated facts derived using the toughest approaches employed when it comes to understanding objective truth. And unlike the tribalism we encounter from conservative Christians who celebrate "Liars for JesusⓇ", those who are loyal to the approach scientists and historians employ hold our own accountable on their fealty to objective truth. Where in this book, there are simply too many provocative un-cited claims to earn this book five stars.

Secondly, I read the Kindle version of this book on my iPhone 4S using iOS 6.0.1. Many of the cites Ms. Christina did provide went to webpages displayed within the Kindle app, where it was impossible to resize the page to read on my iPhone or find and copy the URL of that page in order to read it in my web browser app where I could then resize the webpage to be readable. So reading even the insufficient set of cites provided was an exercise in futility.

However, in defense of Ms. Christina, it's my perception this was a book done on the cheap since she's new on the book scene. I would hope future book deals would come with a budget that will allow the extra effort it takes to properly validate a book via citations, where I'm confident I'll be reading her future work, but not at all tolerant if Ms. Christina again fails to sufficiently cite her work.

However, because I'm a high-information voter who closely follows the culture wars, while also a student of critical thinking, it's my perception that Ms. Christina is a very honest person sufficiently revealing an increasingly popular perspective within the U.S. So for those of us who work to remain high-information, we need to consider how atheists are changing the dynamics that frame our politics and policy debates. Ms. Christina's book provides great value in improving our perception of her movement.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 7, 2013 12:17:01 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2013 12:23:07 PM PST
Actually, it turns out that Republicans tend to get more science questions right on surveys than either Democrats or (especially) Independents. No doubt the rest of Mooney's book is similiarly defective.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2013 1:35:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2013 1:41:37 PM PST
David Marshall writes, "Actually, it turns out that Republicans tend to get more science questions right on surveys than either Democrats or (especially) Independents."

Citation requested which empirically and independently validates your assertion. That wouldn't include a biased survey, but instead something peer-reviewed which has been independently validated by another independent peer-reviewed finding; and accepted by experts in the relevant field.

What's your motivation making such as assertion without presenting any evidence at all?

I assume you already know that Republicans are vastly more prone to be creationists and deny the fact of global warming and the level of scientific consensus amongst climate scientists regarding that observation. So this a very extraordinary claim on your part where a wise man rightly noted, "extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence" (IIRC, Carl Sagan).

I of course would be happy to provide citations of my claims after receiving a convincing citation for yours.

Posted on Mar 26, 2014 11:41:08 AM PDT
While I found your review quite informative, it sounds like you read this book very differently than other reviewers. Your review makes this book sound pro-Democrat, anti-Republican rather than pro-atheist , anti-theist.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 26, 2014 2:48:50 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 26, 2014 2:50:33 PM PDT
William Johnston writes, "While I found your review quite informative, it sounds like you read this book very differently than other reviewers. Your review makes this book sound pro-Democrat, anti-Republican rather than pro-atheist , anti-theist."

I wouldn't refer to political parties, but instead political ideologies. From this perspective, the author, Greta Christina, is a liberal and very much opposed to conservative ideology as it's practiced in the U.S. While I don't regularly read her blog, I have observed her blast the Democratic party when it acts in a illiberal manner.

It's been a while since I've read the book, but I don't recall Ms. Christina being anti-theist. She certainly didn't demand we treat theists unequally as U.S. conservative Christians so often advocate for those they deem, "the other"; e.g., gay people, Muslims, secularists, and liberals. I do recall the author being opposed to the misrepresentation and mistreatment of atheists; that after-all is the primary theme of the book.

Ms. Christina's also opposed to laws that deny equal protection of basic human rights for all. E.g., those who seek to exploit their cultural religious privilege in leveraging the power of government to deny equal protection of marriage rights to gay people; where the author happens to be a gay married person.
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