The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions
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The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  194 ratings  ·  26 reviews

A book for nonbelievers who embrace the reality-driven life.


We can't avoid the persistent questions about the meaning of life-and the nature of reality. Philosopher Alex Rosenberg maintains that science is the only thing that can really answer them—all of them. His bracing and ultimately upbeat book takes physics seriously as the complete description of reality and accepts...more
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published (first published September 26th 2011)
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Vegantrav
This book argues unapologetically and brazenly for scientism, physicalist reduction, and complete nihilism. There is little nuance here and a flippant dismissal of the humanities as irrelevant because they do not examine their subject matter in scientific terms.

The book is too long, the prose is often stolid and boring, and the examples used are all too well known to anyone who reads popular science books on biology, evolution, physics, and cosmology. There is really nothing new in this book oth...more
Adam Omelianchuk
Alex Rosenberg's The Atheist's Guide to Reality is a hard-nosed and unsentimental answer to "the persistent questions," the sort of questions that keep one awake at night in a state of wonder or terror. The eminent philosopher of science from Duke University unhesitatingly offers the following answers to these softs of questions:

1. Is there a God? No.
2. What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is.
3. What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.
4. What is the meaning of life? Dit...more
Marjorie Elwood
This was a difficult book to rate since I agree with his conclusions but was unimpressed by his arguments which I found repetitive and impenetrable. He seemed fond of fobbing off the answers of difficult questions on what will be discovered by neuroscientists in the future. I also had questions about the accuracy of some of his facts, as have others, apparently: in the copy I read of the book, there were notes written in pencil by readers who questioned his facts.

There was the occasional (to me)...more
Bob Pearson
For the first half of this book, Rosenberg seems right on track. No fact that is known about the workings of the universe exists outside the laws of physics. Physics and physics alone explains all that we count as knowledge of the universe. Of course, there are a vast number of things we can't explain about the universe, but so far, every time an explanation has been found, that explanation has come from physics. "Everything in the universe is made up of the stuff that physics tells us fills up...more
Socraticgadfly
Alex Rosenberg is a poor man's Sam Harris, and friends of mine who know what I think about Harris know just how much of an insult this is.

This is hardcore scientism, which then leads to greedy reductionism within the sciences, according to Rosenberg. (All sciences lead to physics.)

Next, the head of the philosophy department of a major university makes half of a hash out of nihilism.

But, wait, it gets worse!

Rosenberg then claims that because introspection about ourselves is inaccurate that that,...more
Gary
In a lot of ways this book is the summation of the 100 plus science, evolution, and philosophy books I've read over the last three years. To understand our place in the universe the author asserts you must let the "physical facts fit the facts". No need to assume any items not in evidence. We don't any where else in life except in the spiritual realm and so why should we accept those premises while thinking about the universe.

To understand the universe and our place in it one most first understa...more
Prooost Davis
Alex Rosenberg's purpose here is not to convert the reader to atheism; the assumption is that the reader is already there. But those "persistent questions" about Life, the Universe, and Everything (as Douglas Adams put it) remain to be answered. So Rosenberg attempts to answer them all scientifically, and with a great deal of success. There are a few things he says about consciousness and introspection, though, that are very counter-intuitive and hard to swallow. Those assertions (the inner voic...more
Jason Mahoney
A compelling defense of materialism supported by science no tougher than that which you learned in high school. Rosenberg can be a flip wiseass at times, but I say this to compliment him.
Al Bità
Right from the beginning Rosenberg states that his book is only for atheists. He advises the reader that he takes basic atheistic concepts as being just that: fundamental to what reality is all about. Thus: there is no god; reality is what physics tells us it is (there is no such thing as metaphysics — just physics); there is no purpose to the universe; we do not have souls; there is no ultimate purpose to our lives; we do not have free will. The book, therefore, does not argue about these thing...more
Kevin
My mental rating of this book varied greatly as I was reading. The first half was a 4 the middle was a 2 the end was a 3.5 probably. I decided to curve up for two reasons: 1 I agree wholeheartedly with most of the authors ideas. 2 I have to offset the religious people or emotional humanists who will rate this book under what it deserves. The author has some very good ideas about scientism in general but his views on behavior or the study of behavior were so exaggerated I found I had to force mys...more
Carolyn Amir
"The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions", by Alex Rosenberg, has been called by some the secular Bible, and demonstrates that with the right mindset it is possible to live happily without religion. Unlike the Bible, it is written in more technical terms rather than through anecdotes, and goes through a lot of aspects of religion and social life, but through a scientific point of view. Basically, it offers an alternative way to look at things. The basis of the book was th...more
Karate1kid
The more I read, especially about free will, the more I realize that the level of arguments presented in this book is inferior. Not their truth value, but the discussion itself. Rosenberg relies on a lot of repetition and does too little to provide supporting arguments and evidence for his view. The best way to see it is to read other books on the topic. Sam Harris, for example, does a better job at presenting the no free will argument, and I've also read good reviews about Daniel Wagner's book...more
Brian
Provocative, witty and a touch arrogant. The author acknowledges that this book will not convert any believers in god to atheism, but offers a reasonably complete set of rebuttals for atheists. It really isn't designed as a polemic so much as an outline for a philosophy of scientism—faith that science can answer all questions. There is an inherent contradiction in having faith in a philosophy founded upon skepticism that appears to be lost on the author. The extreme determinism that follows from...more
Ondrej Havlicek
Since I myself have wanted to write a similar paper (implications of nonexistence of God, soul, afterlife, metaphysical free will & truth of Darwinism etc. for ethics), I was mostly sympathetic to Rosenberg's approach regarding the topic of ethics and nice nihilism. However, I cannot agree with the supposed meaninglessness of intentionality, the self or free will. During the reading of those passages, two titles kept popping up in my mind: The Intentional Stance and Real Patterns. I wonder w...more
Stuart
This is one of those books like Sam Harris' "Free Will" where I am already there on the premiss, but am challenged on the conclusions he reaches. I'm not sure I totally accept that last 5% but am still thinking about the concepts.

Spoiler alert, the answers are on the back cover:

Is there a god? No.
What is the nature of reality? Just ask physics.
Does the universe have a purpose? There is none.
Why am I here? Just dumb luck.
Is there a soul? Are you kidding?
What about free will? Not a chance!
Dean
Rosenberg's main flaw is in his economic ideas. Throughout the book he relies on Darwinism and naturalism to support his arguments. But in economics, he believes that we should artificially help the weak, and redistribute other people's wealth. This makes no sense because our core moralities tell us that we have a right to what we earn.
Otherwise it was a great book.
Noah Richardson
Don't let the title sway you. Atheists should probably pass this book up. The author's stance that, in a nutshell, atheism's ultimate fate leads to nihilism (no matter how nice the nihilism is), was pretty hard to swallow. I don't forsee a desolate moral landscape in the future.
Mark
Reality...what a concept! This book is not meant to persuade anyone that there is no god. Instead, Rosenberg assumes that the reader is a nonbeliever, who wants to get a better grip on reality. An engaging read that will have your brain working overtime.
Frederic
In spite of interesting and provocative insights on ethics and what the author calls "Nice Nihilism", this book is seriously flawed by the smug,fatuous and condescending attitude that he evinces toward any school of thought other than "Science"...
BAKU
Reads this backwards, everything was pretty much something I already knew, except for some very ( to me ) interesting questions in the last two chapters. ( Hope I can get his book about economics someday )
Todd
Rosenberg's "nice nihilism" is a littler harsher, boarding on the bleak, than I prefer. But, the book premise is reasoned well and, let's face it, what else is there.
Peter
Stunning, of you are new to philosophy or atheism, try something gentle first , then come back to this. Otherwise, hold on for a wild ride.
Blake Reas
Shows where atheism logically leads (i.e. Denial of consciousness, ethics, reason, and everything else that makes life grand.)
Chris
Some very interesting chapters with very important messages, but it could easily have been said in under 100 pages...
Amy
Provocative, got me thinking. But ultimately his argument is pretty narrow-minded.
Ian
the physical facts fix all the facts
Imran Choudhry
Imran Choudhry marked it as to-read
Jul 19, 2014
Joan
Joan marked it as to-read
Jul 17, 2014
Angel
Angel marked it as to-read
Jul 16, 2014
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Alex Rosenberg is the R. Taylor Cole Professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy at Duke University and the codirector of the Duke Center for Philosophy of Biology. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.
More about Alex Rosenberg...
Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction Philosophy of Social Science Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Introduction Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy) Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology

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