So there is a claim to universality there implied by choice.
But I think it is true— and this is where, perhaps, you get some moral seriousness in an atheistic world view that some people claim to be lacking—that simply by virtue of the need for consistency your choices inevitably express values which go beyond your own preferences.
Now, why should this be troubling? Some people say you do what God tells you to do. So, as far as Abraham is concerned, is God trying to test him? Even if you have a religious belief, you may still have this issue. But he talks, sometimes, as if you could wish yourself into any kind of existence.
Certainly at this point in his career, he did overestimate the extent to which we are free to do what we want. As I understand it, Simone de Beauvoir had a more realistic view of human freedom, coming at this from the perspective of a woman of her time.
You need other people or social structures to be different in order for you to really realise this. I brought this book in because when I was writing my book on atheism, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction , I was looking for some history. There was very little written about that. It may be a little bit different now, but this was the only decent book that I could find.
It looks at atheism and its precursors in different periods: the pre-Socratic period, the Hellenistic period, and then going up to the Renaissance and Middle Ages. I know from talking to others that a lot of people are like this. But what I do get from books, apart from information, is this: a good book changes the way I think in some way. Support Five Books. Five Books interviews are expensive to produce.
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If you're enjoying this interview, please support us by donating a small amount. He died in Going back to Hellenistic periods, it does seem that most thinkers believed in a supernatural world. Plato did believe those things: everybody did. Again, some people believe that educated Romans, the Roman aristocracy, were at least agnostic about the gods, but thought it important that the masses believed in them for Machiavellian reasons.
That sounds implausible. Even Richard Dawkins has argued that before Darwin you could be an intellectually respectable religious believer. Atheism is only really something that becomes intellectually complete and robust at a time when you can understand the world with a high degree of scientific sophistication. Your next book is by somebody who is inspired by Darwin in some aspects of his work, Daniel Dennett. It is the spell of religious belief.
Broadly speaking, it is the spell of supernatural belief. The reason I wanted to include this was that we have had this recent phenomenon dubbed the New Atheism which is, of course, like all these labels, a label put upon people from the outside looking in, rather than a self-proclaimed one. If people want to read a New Atheist book, they should read this one.
That would be a good way of trying to counter some of those myths that contemporary atheists are all just very cross, angry, and belligerent. A common complaint against the New Atheists is that they caricature religion and so are attacking a straw man. This is a charge often levelled at Richard Dawkins: the criticism that his target is a view of God as an old man in the sky, pulling the levers, controlling the weather and so on — that he fails to appreciate that there are many more subtle ways of understanding what God is.
Dennett, in contrast, is much more sympathetic and understanding about different views of religion and the nature of God.
But he tries to understand why religious belief is so prevalent, and to diagnose its causes. Often the most interesting books are those which challenge your position intelligently. There are books which counter the more belligerent forms of atheism straightforwardly, and others I find quite contentious.
I like this one. He raises some important questions. A lot of people have tried to explain the rise of science itself, and indeed, the worldview that it gives rise to, as deeply rooted in religion. Just as we know there are many ways of being religious, there are many ways of being an atheist.
Ultimately, Spencer thinks it is a dead end, that religion will come back and will dominate. But I do think that it presents challenges and arguments which deserve a response. So often I find that when people make criticisms of atheist positions, all you can do is point out the fundamental misunderstandings that they have of atheism, or the rather simplistic fallacies that their argument relies on.
All fundamentalist organized religion is inimical to reason, science, and social progress, as well as universal human rights. Agnosticism: The Croall Lecture for — In my article, I single out scientists who invoke science to defend their personal beliefs. Gould, Professor of paleontology, biology and geology at Harvard, and himself an evolutionist: "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. John A.
But behind all this, there are still claims about whether God exists or not, and arguments about whether God exists or not. One final question.
Atheism involves a philosophical belief, but presumably it also changes how you live. On a personal level, when you became an atheist, did you change how you lived? It depends partly on what kind of religiosity you escaped from. A very common experience people have is that when they come from a very moralistic, puritanical, strict religious background, they have all sorts of fears, hang ups, and repressions around sexuality.
Giving up the religious belief frees them in their sexuality, in some way. There was no big overnight change.
But there was a gradual shift to seeing the value, and meaning, and purpose in the here and now. It can produce a richer sensitivity to people and things around us. Issues of social justice, inequality and fairness have become more important. Far from it: theirs were lives that were hard, and difficult, and were ended prematurely.
All we can do is try and stop other people having to live and die in that way in the future.
A greater appreciation of life is one result of atheism. Five Books aims to keep its book recommendations and interviews up to date. If you are the interviewee and would like to update your choice of books or even just what you say about them please email us at editor fivebooks. We ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview.
This site has an archive of more than one thousand interviews, or five thousand book recommendations. We publish at least two new interviews per week. Five Books participates in the Amazon Associate program and earns money from qualifying purchases. There are two basic ways to design non-existence proofs.
On the reasonable assumption that a definition of something having logically incompatible characteristics can only be the definition of a necessarily non-existent entity, dialectical non-existence proofs can prove that specific kinds of gods cannot actually exist.
For example, many Christians believe both that god is perfect and that god can suffer along with us.
Figuring out how a perfect being can suffer requires some fancy refinements to god to avoid the harsh verdict of a dialectical non-existence proof. And even if these refinements go badly and one characteristic of god must go, theology is often flexibly accommodating to such modifications to its conception of god.
It also keeps theologians very busy. The other kind of proof confronts a specific kind of god with the actual existence of something else, where it is necessarily impossible that both can exist together. Of course, this sort of proof works well only if there is conclusive evidence of the actual existence of the disprover. Consider the example from the previous paragraph.
What sort of evil could disprove the existence of god?