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Atheist literature that has shaped your life [W:229]

RabidAlpaca

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I wanted to start a thread to talk about literature that has shaped my life, and would like to find out about works that have changed your lives as atheists as well.

One book had a particularly large impact on me, and helped give me the courage to give up my faith altogether.



Why I Believed was written by a former missionary, and documents his logic and arguments as he grew away from the faith. I found this book particularly helpful as it was targeted towards people who grew up as christians but were looking to take a leap away from it. The book is VERY well written, and for .99 cents for the kindle edition, WELL worth the change it invoked in my life.

The author also kept a blog for several years, and even answered my email I wrote to him. Definitely an amazing guy and an amazing writer!

Another amazing book is a collection of speeches by Robert Ingersoll.



This was an amazing read. It's free on the kindle and I highlighted so much of it. The way he presents his arguments just click perfectly with my moral and logical views. I HIGHLY recommend this one was well!

So what atheist/agnostic literature has shaped your lives?
 

Jredbaron96

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I wanted to start a thread to talk about literature that has shaped my life, and would like to find out about works that have changed your lives as atheists as well.

One book had a particularly large impact on me, and helped give me the courage to give up my faith altogether.



Why I Believed was written by a former missionary, and documents his logic and arguments as he grew away from the faith. I found this book particularly helpful as it was targeted towards people who grew up as christians but were looking to take a leap away from it. The book is VERY well written, and for .99 cents for the kindle edition, WELL worth the change it invoked in my life.

The author also kept a blog for several years, and even answered my email I wrote to him. Definitely an amazing guy and an amazing writer!

Another amazing book is a collection of speeches by Robert Ingersoll.



This was an amazing read. It's free on the kindle and I highlighted so much of it. The way he presents his arguments just click perfectly with my moral and logical views. I HIGHLY recommend this one was well!

So what atheist/agnostic literature has shaped your lives?
I read "The God Delusion" and "God is not Great" as part of the 4 books I read for the theological discussion. God is not Great really helped put down in words some key feelings I had about faith and beliefs, so it was a really nice and engaging book.

At one point, I actually read through a chapter of Why I Believed, and from what I cna tell it was fairly interesting.
 

RabidAlpaca

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I read "The God Delusion" and "God is not Great" as part of the 4 books I read for the theological discussion. God is not Great really helped put down in words some key feelings I had about faith and beliefs, so it was a really nice and engaging book.

At one point, I actually read through a chapter of Why I Believed, and from what I cna tell it was fairly interesting.
I am looking for a new book for sure. Would you say 'God is not Great' is better than 'The God Delusion'? I haven't read either.
 

spud_meister

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It'd be pretty difficult to write a book about a lack of belief. I'd imagine most of those books deal primarily with religion, rather than atheism.

As someone who's never been religious, I prefer, as an atheist, to be separated from the anti-religious.
 

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For me, it was the opposite development: I grew up in an atheist environment as an atheist, and later embraced religion. I understand very well that people who had been indoctrinated with religion as a child in a small-minded manner will often grow tired of it and turn passionately anti-religious -- to some extent, that's how I know it from my mother. But I've also grown tired of vulgar anti-religious atheists in my environment who know next to nothing about religion and just start bashing it, although religion is virtually non-existent in their environment... I think you should at least know what you're bashing when you feel the need to do so.

Anyway, as for interesting atheist literature: I like "Why people believe weird things" by Michael Shermer.

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time: Amazon.de: Michael Shermer, Stephen Jay Gould: Englische Bücher

Although it has a chapter about religion too, it's not limited to weird religious believes, but also addresses weird believes atheists can hold too: Conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, aliens, pseudoscience such as homeopathy, and so on. Makes pretty obvious that irrationality does not die out just because people are atheists. :)

Good book.
 

Jredbaron96

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I am looking for a new book for sure. Would you say 'God is not Great' is better than 'The God Delusion'? I haven't read either.
Definitely God is not Great. Not trying to diss Dawkins, but Hitchens was a superior writer.
 

Paschendale

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No book drove me towards atheism moreso than the bible did.

Why I Believed looks interesting, though. I'll have to check that one out.
 

zgoldsmith23

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Many pieces of literature shaped my atheism. Of course, the Bible is one. But philosophically, authors like Russell, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, Sartre, Peter Singer, J.L. Mackie, A.C. Grayling, Graham Oppy, Max Stirner, and Massimo Pigliucci. Scientifically (including the social sciences :doh), you have even more, people like Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan Lawrence Krauss, PZ Myers (no books), Stephen Pinker, Vic Stenger, Wolpert, Freud, Feynman, Hawking, Wundt; of course you have Watson and Crick, there's Susskind, Peter Higgs, Lee Smolin, Martin Rees, Sean Carroll, Roger Penrose, Pavlov, JM Smith, Stephen Jay Gould, Kurzweil, Fred Hoyle, Oppenheimer, and even Pauling. Finally, you have the non-Academics (I guess that'd be a good name for them). People like Hitchens, George Carlin, Camus, Stephen Fry, Asimov, Thoreau, Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein, Graham Greene, Rushdie, Thomas Pynchon, HG Wells, Shermer, George Bernard Shaw, Ayn Rand (ugh!), Marx (hehe right next to Rand), Vonnegut, Jimmy Carr, and Hemingway. There are plenty I'm forgetting, but that's a pretty wholesome list. Oh, and the last book that I almost forgot (can't remember the author, either):

 
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Paschendale

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I think that generally being well-read and well educated tends to disabuse one of religious notions.
 

zgoldsmith23

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I think that generally being well-read and well educated tends to disabuse one of religious notions.
I'd agree. I'd even go so far as to state the works of people like C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas, and other apologists is beneficial for atheists to read as it can hone one's arguments skills.
 

Spartacus FPV

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Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris
God is Not Great - Christopher Hitchens
Why I am Not A Christian - Bertrand Russel
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins

In that order.
 

ashurbanipal

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Paschendale said:
I think that generally being well-read and well educated tends to disabuse one of religious notions.
I suppose that whether I'm well-read or not is not for me to decide, but I suspect I spend a fair amount of time reading when compared to most of my fellow Americans, anyway. My reading has had the opposite effect on me. I started out relatively neutral about religion, and have gradually acquired a religious mindset. I do agree that becoming well-read leads one to abandon some notions that seem common in religion. But it's a complicated theater of problems. I don't know that it's so easy to overlook the issues that could be raised here.
 

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For me, atheism always was the default state: you don't believe in stuff in the absence of evidence.

In my youth, I have made an honest attempt to understand and embrace religion (in the form of Roman Catholicism, thanks to my family roots and the political situation in the country where I grew up). Eventually, I had to walk away - without any hostility or much disappointment (I was rather impressed by the intellectual intensity of Christian thinkers) - I simply was not convinced. In this sense my "shaping as an atheist" was done primarily by the likes of Aquinas, Chesterton and Polkinghorne - by their failure to re-organize my primitive brain, perhaps.

If I had to point to one "atheistic" book that made a lasting impression early on, that would be De Rerum Natura by Lucretius. The guy did not actually deny the possibility that gods do exist - but he made me realize that Reason is not a fluke - it was going on strong at least since the Hellenic antiquity, and there's no shame in joining the club. (Teenagers spend a lot of time ruminating on the issues of (undeserved) shame and (unearned) belonging, unfortunately).
 

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Finally, you have the non-Academics (I guess that'd be a good name for them). People like Hitchens, George Carlin, Camus, Stephen Fry, Asimov, Thoreau, Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein, Graham Greene, Rushdie, Thomas Pynchon, HG Wells, Shermer, George Bernard Shaw, Ayn Rand (ugh!), Marx (hehe right next to Rand), Vonnegut, Jimmy Carr, and Hemingway.
I hope you don't mean "no degree" with that list. Asimov had a PhD in Chemistry. Clarke had a degree in mathematics/physics from King's College. Heinlein graduated from Annapolis, but I'm not sure they handed out academic degrees at the time. I happen to know about those in particular because of my passion for SF. I almost grew up on those three, followed by Frank Herbert and others later. ;)


I also was influenced by many of the other scientists you listed: Richard Dawkins (though I've never read his atheism books the same logic and some of the ideas were first mentioned in his Darwinian/genetics books), Carl Sagan, Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Pinker, Feynman, Hawking, Penrose, Oppenheimer, and even Pauling.


I also add Weinberg to my list. Though he's said little directly about it I always laugh at one of his quotes:

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
 

Guy Incognito

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I think that generally being well-read and well educated tends to disabuse one of religious notions.
On the contrary, the more one understands the world around them the less easy it becomes to maintain the certainu of atheism. Atheism is such a wonderfully naive, childlike state. It is sweet and pure, but ultimately cannot withstand the hard philosophical questions.

That's why there are no truly grea writers listed in this thread; just pop schlock like hitchens and Dawkins, who are superficial thinkers at best. The great philosophers who reject organized religion are uniformly deistic or pantheistic.

Everyone who has listed Hitchens or Harris or Rand or some other pseudo intellectual would be well advised to read Spinoza's Ethics.
 
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MoSurveyor

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Everyone who has listed Hitchens or Harris or Rand or some other pseudo intellectual would be well advised to read Spinoza's Ethics.
I forgot Sam Harris but I haven't read his atheistic works any more than I have Dawkin's works in that field. Their works in their own fields is plenty for me. ;)
 

roughdraft274

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By a good margin, God is not Great was the best book about atheism I've read. It's well written, in depth, and has solid arguments. I've read The End of Faith by Sam Harris and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Good books but not as good.

The best book I've read that hasn't been listed yet, but was very good was Atheism: The Case Against God, an old book from the 70's. Surprised me how well it was constructed, and argues really well. Even has many arguments that aren't the typical ones that you see on every religions/atheist debate you see online. I'ts out of the box and makes you think. Right up there with god is not great.
 

zgoldsmith23

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I hope you don't mean "no degree" with that list. Asimov had a PhD in Chemistry. Clarke had a degree in mathematics/physics from King's College. Heinlein graduated from Annapolis, but I'm not sure they handed out academic degrees at the time. I happen to know about those in particular because of my passion for SF. I almost grew up on those three, followed by Frank Herbert and others later. ;)
Oh, heavens (pun intended) no. I just meant people that moved outside of the Academic world, to go on to write fiction books, etc. instead of pursuing things like Professorships.

I also was influenced by many of the other scientists you listed: Richard Dawkins (though I've never read his atheism books the same logic and some of the ideas were first mentioned in his Darwinian/genetics books), Carl Sagan, Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Pinker, Feynman, Hawking, Penrose, Oppenheimer, and even Pauling.


I also add Weinberg to my list. Though he's said little directly about it I always laugh at one of his quotes:

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
Weinberg is an interesting fellow. I know he attended "Beyond Belief" about 5 years back.
 

zgoldsmith23

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On the contrary, the more one understands the world around them the less easy it becomes to maintain the certainu of atheism. Atheism is such a wonderfully naive, childlike state. It is sweet and pure, but ultimately cannot withstand the hard philosophical questions.
Perhaps not, but I'd argue differently if you want. In lieu of this, religion (even deism / pantheism) is bitter and impure, and cannot withstand the basic scientific questions.

That's why there are no truly grea writers listed in this thread; just pop schlock like hitchens and Dawkins, who are superficial thinkers at best. The great philosophers who reject organized religion are uniformly deistic or pantheistic.
Who are these enlightened souls, Guy? Are you sure they aren't the Russell-esque atheist agnostics? You're going to say Mill, Nietzsche, Foucault, Mackie, Schopenhauer, Singer, and even Sartre weren't (or aren't) great philosophers who reject organized and who aren't deistic or pantheistic?
 

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I suppose that whether I'm well-read or not is not for me to decide, but I suspect I spend a fair amount of time reading when compared to most of my fellow Americans, anyway. My reading has had the opposite effect on me. I started out relatively neutral about religion, and have gradually acquired a religious mindset. I do agree that becoming well-read leads one to abandon some notions that seem common in religion. But it's a complicated theater of problems. I don't know that it's so easy to overlook the issues that could be raised here.
Same for me. I used to be atheist for most of my life, but the more I read and learnt, the more I felt a need for religion.

Now I'm far from being a student of philosophy, but the more I debated with an open mind, the more I found that even people I strongly disagreed with often have very good arguments, and that opposing worldviews often have their merits. And I realized that reason alone won't allow me to find the truth; I have learnt enough to know how much there is I'll never learn or know. I simply don't have the time and patience to study different philosophies so deeply that I can claim I really understand them -- hell, even thoroughly studying Marx, Sartre or Heidegger probably each takes more than a lifetime. And when it comes to political disagreements, you'll hardly ever have enough empirical data to really think a decision through to the end, or enough time to do that.

So I felt than unless I want to be unable to have *any* opinion at all, I just need a mental anchor. Could be any, important is that I have one. Political ideologies are usually unsuited, IMO, no matter if Marxism, libertarianism or any other -- we all know that extremely smart and well-read people can still err deeply, when they cling to such ideologies. So I felt religion is attractive. It offers room not to view everything rationally, but to just accept some truths, which means it can serve well as anchor. It's "field-tested" over centuries and has proven it can help many people a lot, despite all bad flipsides (which still are harmless compared to the flipsides of radical political ideologies, IMO).
 

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Perhaps not, but I'd argue differently if you want. In lieu of this, religion (even deism / pantheism) is bitter and impure, and cannot withstand the basic scientific questions.



Who are these enlightened souls, Guy? Are you sure they aren't the Russell-esque atheist agnostics? You're going to say Mill, Nietzsche, Foucault, Mackie, Schopenhauer, Singer, and even Sartre weren't (or aren't) great philosophers who reject organized and who aren't deistic or pantheistic?
Pantheists (nietzche, schoepenhaur, mackie) or deists (mill) or agnostics (sartre, Foucault), no atheists among them (with the exception of Peter singer who doesn't qualify as a "great thinker"). Reappropriating great deistic or pantheistic thinkers as "atheists" when they were no such thing is a common mistake of the New Atheists. Thank you for exposing your like of familiarity with their work! I can now safely hold your opinion in contempt.
 
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ashurbanipal

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German guy said:
Same for me. I used to be atheist for most of my life, but the more I read and learnt, the more I felt a need for religion.

Now I'm far from being a student of philosophy, but the more I debated with an open mind, the more I found that even people I strongly disagreed with often have very good arguments, and that opposing worldviews often have their merits. And I realized that reason alone won't allow me to find the truth; I have learnt enough to know how much there is I'll never learn or know.
I agree. I may disagree with some intelligent and insightful individuals, but I always learn something from them and their arguments. I rather prefer to be curious than confrontational.

German guy said:
I simply don't have the time and patience to study different philosophies so deeply that I can claim I really understand them -- hell, even thoroughly studying Marx, Sartre or Heidegger probably each takes more than a lifetime. And when it comes to political disagreements, you'll hardly ever have enough empirical data to really think a decision through to the end, or enough time to do that.

So I felt than unless I want to be unable to have *any* opinion at all, I just need a mental anchor. Could be any, important is that I have one. Political ideologies are usually unsuited, IMO, no matter if Marxism, libertarianism or any other -- we all know that extremely smart and well-read people can still err deeply, when they cling to such ideologies. So I felt religion is attractive. It offers room not to view everything rationally, but to just accept some truths, which means it can serve well as anchor. It's "field-tested" over centuries and has proven it can help many people a lot, despite all bad flipsides (which still are harmless compared to the flipsides of radical political ideologies, IMO).
For me, I came to realize that there are deep mysteries which the human intellect probably won't ever illuminate. It seems more or less inevitable that we be left with a residue of mystery that just doesn't go away, no matter how hard we try. One of the principle characteristics that seems nearly essential to most religious experience is just that kind of mystery, confronted in a direct experiential manner. Indeed, the old pagan mysteries were called mysteries precisely because they could not be formulated in language, and so were not susceptible to rational analysis.
 

Paschendale

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On the contrary, the more one understands the world around them the less easy it becomes to maintain the certainu of atheism. Atheism is such a wonderfully naive, childlike state. It is sweet and pure, but ultimately cannot withstand the hard philosophical questions.
Name two. Any two philosophical questions where any theistic answer is actually a better answer. Of course, even that doesn't have any bearing on whether or not those answers are true.

Perhaps not, but I'd argue differently if you want. In lieu of this, religion (even deism / pantheism) is bitter and impure, and cannot withstand the basic scientific questions.
Probably not philosophical ones, either. Isn't the notion that our biological status as human beings is the source of our desire to be kind to one another a better one than that we're only kind to each other out of fear of divine punishment?
 
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