November 13, 2013

Review: Philosophers without gods

Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular LifePhilosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great book of essays, each running from around 10 to 20 pages in length, about issues of "deconversion" to non-theism, all by people who are now professional philosophers.

Only one, Dan Dennett, is an outright Gnu Atheist. Only a few others might be called "evangelizing atheists." But none is a shirking violet as to how they address these issues.

Some spend more time on their actual deconversion and how that appears from a philosophic angle. Others, whether evangelizers or not, focus on their current relations with religion in general, or conservative apologists for the religion of their childhood, either Christianity or Judaism. (The one small down point: no ex-Muslim atheist philosopher seems to be in this book.) On this issue, the different philosophers vary within themselves on issues such as "respect" for Christianity in general (I'm taking this as the "default" in America and Britain alike), or how much respect, or whatever, more liberal versions of Christianity deserve.

Others focus more on their post-deconversion lives, including with bits of wistfulness, though not full regret, for some parts of their past.  One, Paul Farrell, whom has promised me some materials via snail mail, talks about second-order values and applying those in a secular way after having learned to in a Catholic way when younger. (I found this triggered thoughts of Catholic, and Lutheran in my case, "vocation," and also got me to thinking about Aristotelian flourishing, among other things.)

Anyway, per that last comment, you'll probably gather, if you're someone who follows my reviews, that this is a book to read. There's no formal logic or anything else even very close to being technical or jargonistic.

Update: She's had an interview with Gary Gutting, who oversees the New York Times' philosophy blog The Stone.

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