11 November 2012

Three books on atheism

A month ago, I decided to get caught up with My People's sacred texts: Harris' The End of Faith from 2005, Dawkins' The God Delusion from 2008, and Hitchens' God is Not Great from 2009. It was helpful to read them in order as both Dawkins and Hitchens refer to earlier events and writings.

I didn't expect to learn too much, not out of arrogance but more that I swim in those waters so much that I thought I'd already been exposed to most of the ideas. There were, unsurprisingly, surprises. Harris opened with a scathing and convincing denouncement of politeness towards Islam. I dismiss it as just another religion as silly as the next, but he pointed out that religion in western society has been neutered by knowledge. The totalitarian violence that was possible in Medieval Europe is long gone, but there's no doubt that Catholics and many American Protestants would impose their ideas violently if they could. In the Middle East, Islam can. His concerns were echoed by the other writers. Dawkins was a delightful read and he is a very clear writer. It was like being lectured by Mr. Rogers! I was, however, most sympathetic with Hitchens' book, maybe because of his mix of world-wide travel stories, an encompassing understanding of religious and political history, and his barely suppressed anger at the primitivism that persists. Dawkins gets angry at religion as child abuse (indoctrinating them when they can't fight back), but Hitchens is just angry and how they've held back society as a whole.

The End of Faith
The End of Faith; Sam Harris
The God Delusion
The God Delusion; Richard Dawkins
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything; Christopher Hitchens
[ posted by sstrader on 11 November 2012 at 2:15:21 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature ]