Kindly Atheist Authors
Kerrie comments on my Robert M. Price post that she’s taking a look at her beliefs and has added Price to her reading list. It made me think about atheist writers and that there is quite a bit out there that isn’t nearly as confrontational as Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens.
First up, Daniel Dennett. He’s lumped in with Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens to make the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism,” but I think his style is radically different. Breaking the Spell is musing, philosophical look at religious belief that is very sympathetic toward the human impulses and needs that give rise to religion. True, its premise is that religion does come from purely human sources, and it could be an uncomfortable read for a believer in some ways, but I’d hardly classify it as “in your face.”
Carl Sagan is known in atheist circles for soft-pedaling his disbelief so much that some got the impression he was a believer. He eloquently uses both scientific and spiritual language to express wonder at the universe. Still, The Demon Haunted World is clearly about skepticism of religious belief as much as scientific thinking. What is a god but the invisible dragon in Carl’s garage?
Bart Ehrman is actually an agnostic. His books take apart the Bible and analyze it in its historical context. Misquoting Jesus discusses how the Bibles we know today came to us through the ages, and how error, philosophical editing, and outright interpolation may have altered it from its ancient origins. Jesus, Interrupted describes how the different gospel writers viewed Jesus’s identity and purpose differently, and thus tailored their narratives to support their perspectives.
I also need to put in a plug for the podcast Reasonable Doubts. While the guys aren’t what I would call gentle, they approach religious philosophy and history with both humor and great research, and have a great conversational style that I find really listen-able.
I’ve also got some freethinking authors in my reading list, who I haven’t gotten to yet. John Loftus and Dan Barker both used to be preachers, like Price. I know Barker doesn’t pull many punches, but he always comes across very personable when I hear him speak. I’ve also got Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing the Honesty of Atheism, by Dianna Narciso in my Amazon list, and Victor Stenger seems like an interesting and intelligent guy. Oh, and don’t forget Hemant Mehta – he is The Friendly Atheist after all! Bottom line: there’s a LOT of reading out there that doesn’t necessarily include the Big Names you usually hear.
Oh, and if you want some classic literary disbelief, it’s hard to go wrong with Twain and Vonnegut.