James Murphy's Reviews > Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life

Philosophers Without Gods by Louise M. Antony
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Dec 27, 11

Read in December, 2011

This interesting collection of essays about atheism by contemporary philosophers is divided into 2 parts: Journeys and Reflections. It's the Journeys I thought more meditative. They're essays dealing with how those philosophers, raised in religious backgrounds, came to their unbelief. They're more reminiscent and explanatory. The reflections of the 2d part are more characteristic of the heavy lifting philosophy does, disciplined argument steeped in logical thought.

The concepts supporting atheism are pretty much what I'd expected on beginning the book. It's the articulation of those ideas in such clear, reasoned argument which give the essays their power. And much of it, as several essays point out, is common sense based on irrefutable fact. The existence of God is central to everything here, and a thread running through it all is that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The logic of philosophy. Another major topic is the rationalization that the existence of God is neither necessary or sufficient for morality. Further, that there are many different standards of morality.

In the first section, dealing with the journey to unbelief, a main point made is that one can only come to realistic perceptions about faith if one has the background necessary to allow the formation of realistic conclusions. Children can't make such distinctions themselves. Other essays address self-deception as a component of religious belief. I found the writing of Georges Rey refreshing. He censures the polemics of Dawkins and Dennett claiming religious people are lacking in intelligence. The essay by Elizabeth Anderson I thought very forceful. It addresses the meaninglessness of religion today. The function of early deisms was to provide explanations, in the absence of science, for events which had no human cause, such as plague, drought, even good weather. Today's science provides proof.

The subtitle, "Reflections on Atheism and the Secular Life," suggests a gentler, more contemplative approach to the issues discussed, a reasoning for the advantages of a secular life. The essays are too rigorously professional for that. At the same time they're balanced and presented in ways that are inoffensive. Some of them do make for challenging reading. However, it's not so difficult as to be inaccessible. In the first couple of pieces I was confused by details of the Torah as described by philosophers raised in the Jewish tradition. And I got lost in the thicket of Richard Feldman's essay called "Reasonable Religious Disagreements." Mostly it's reading as manageable as the yachts in the cover painting, tranquilly maneuvering through a bay of sunshine.
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Comments (showing 1-15)




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James Murphy Thanks, that's cool. Right away I see a favorite, Alain de Botton.
Don't see how you could like the review, btw. Poorly written, though I didn't know how badly until I reread this morning.


message 13: by ·Karen· (new)

·Karen· No, not badly written. A small typo in the second line, and maybe a little more straightforward than your poetry reviews. But interesting, and clear.


James Murphy Good of you to say. I'm not proud of it, but it did result in the good link you sent.


message 11: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Have either of you read 'hart crane's poetry' by John T. Irvin? I just got a copy of it today. Cross your fingers for me since i'm a poetry idiot.


message 10: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia 'Other essays address self-deception as a component of religious belief. I found the writing of Georges Rey refreshing. He censures the polemics of Dawkins and Dennett claiming religious people are lacking in intelligence.'

I'm glad someone takes issue with such a blanket statement.


James Murphy Yeah, I dislike that kind of attitude.


James Murphy Cynthia wrote: "Have either of you read 'hart crane's poetry' by John T. Irvin? I just got a copy of it today. Cross your fingers for me since i'm a poetry idiot."


I don't know it but am sure it'll be helpful. Especially if it's recent. The only criticism I have besides the biographies of Crane is one by Samuel Hazo, and it's many years old. But useful. But if you're going to read Crane you have a wonderful experience ahead of you.


message 7: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Karen and Murph I get confused which of my lit friends know which other ones so in case either of you missed this Marion from the UK talked about a brand new pic of Jane Austen that's being debated. Here's a link;

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/cu...


James Murphy Thanks. I read Marion's talking about it but didn't pick up the link.


message 5: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia I searched it down. I'm not 100% that's the one she's referring to but I just had to see what was out there. It looks the most recent.


James Murphy She looks pleased with herself. Maybe she just wrote a really good sentence.


message 3: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia I'm leaning towards thinking it really is her. wdyt?


James Murphy I suspect it is her, too. No one can say for sure it's not.


message 1: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia I liked that the experts compared her features with the known ones of her brothers. Too bad they don't have a pic of her sister.


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