Saturday, February 23, 2013

A reading list for atheists

OK, nobody was speaking of John C. Wright, but by goodness they ought to be.  Here he is, giving a list of reading materials he would and wouldn't recommend to the aspiring atheist.  It's a fair list.  Though I was shocked he didn't include Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens due to never having read them.  I admit I've not read Harris's later works, though his breakout book The End of Faith was riddled with all manner  of errors and false assumptions, and seemed to set the standard for the movement known as modern atheism (who needs facts when you know religion is dumb?).  I know he corrected some of the errors in later years, such as crime rates associated with secular/religious societies, and did back down on his basic call to eradicate religions he doesn't like from the planet.  But still.

Hitchens, also, was a factual train wreck,  and many things he spoke about as firmly rooted in fact were the stuff that would get you a D- in most college courses. His many errors in god is Not Great were examples of his fast and loose approach to facts.  I enjoyed reading reviews of the book as various individuals with expertise in different fields all disassembled the book and its inaccuracies,  while also deferring to experts in other fields as if to say 'he's probably only wrong with the facts I know, not those over there.' Hitchens was the living example of how a British accent and a caustic wit will get you bonus points in modern American debate, God rest his soul.

As for the others on the list, the only one I'm aware of I might question is the late, great Carl Sagan.  Yes, a popular evangelist for the pre-Harris styled atheism, Sagan still demonstrated some pretty weak knowledge of religion in general and biblical studies in particular   I will always remember seeing a lecture he gave ages ago in which he said if you believed the Bible, you must believe the world is flat with four corners, referencing images from the Book of Revelation.  Even fundamentalists could shoot that one out of the sky.  Brilliant man, but like Stephen Hawking, only within his particular realm of expertise.  Otherwise, a reading list worth looking at, for the atheist or the thinking believer.


  1. Carl Sagan was never great except inside his bloated ego. But he is late. Hmmm...wonder where he is now?

    Let us know how the new job goes.

  2. I always appreciated Sagan's love for astronomy, and his ability to convey information in a way that your average Joe could understand. When it came to reflections on religion and that Bible, of course, that was another matter. Will keep folks updated on the job. Thanks


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