Reviews of Hitchens’ book are already appearing. Here’s one from Bruce DeSilva of the Associated Press. I found two items of interest.

The first is an amusing instance of an error in word choice. DeSilva writes:

Hitchens is the reincarnation of H.L. Mencken, the penultimate social critic of the first half of the 20th century, who used words like gunshots and considered most Americans “boobs.” Of course, reincarnation is another notion that could induce paroxysms in both of them.

I suspect both gentlemen would also be driven to distraction by a writer who says “penultimate,” (which means “next to last,”) when he surely meant “preeminent,” (which means “of maximal distinction.”)

But that’s just me being snarky. The point I really wanted to discuss was this:

This is, of course, a familiar augment. Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well.

But what is the point of writing such a book? Surely, it will change no minds. Surely, with a title like this, it will not be read by anyone who does not already agree with it.

Hitchens is, if he will forgive the religious reference, preaching to the choir.

The idea that no minds will be changed by Hitchens’ book (and before that Dawkins’ book and before that Harris’ book) is one of those cheap little points that permits the critic to seem amused and above it all without having to engage in any actual arguments.

But what, precisely, is the evidence that no minds will be changed by the book? The contrary bleats from the intellectually lazy notwithstanding, the fact remains that people change their religious opinions all the time. Even within my own small circle of acquaintances I know people who have gone from atheism to Christian faith, from Christian faith to atheism, and from one religious group to another religious group. Something is causing all of this movement.

DeSilva protests that Hitchens’ arguments are unoriginal and familiar. Well, familiar to whom? To people already immersed in this sort of literature, perhaps. But now try to imagine that you’re a teenager growing up in a culturally conservative midwestern town. All of the religious influences you encounter are not merely Christian, but probaby evangelical or fundamentalist. Then you’re browsing in Barnes and Noble one day and stumble on to books with titles like The God Delusion or God is Not Great. Is it really so far-fetched to think that such books might point such a person to a different way of looking at things?

So, yes, I think some people’s minds will be changed by these sorts of books. But mere persuasion is not the only reason for writing them. You also write them to inject certain ideas into the cultural conversation. It might be a relatively small subset of the population that actually reads Hitchens’ book. But the ideas he expresses will also reach people via his public presentations and his television appearances. Through blog reactions and press reviews. All of this coverage adds up to a real influence on the culture. Every major news outlet has done stories on the resurgence of atheism over the last few years, precisely because of people like Dennett, Dawkins, Harris and now Hitchens. Can anyone seriously claim that the cause of gaining public acceptance for atheism has been hurt by this fact?

That is why I am so amazed by non-religious people who believe the proper approach is for atheists to be very polite and deferential and to basically be quiet about their views. Has that approach ever been successful at anything? Minority opinions don’t become majority opinions when the minority cowers in the corner, or asks politely that people consider its point of view.

Hitchens and the others are performing a valuable public service by writing their books. The folks who worry overmuch about offending religious people, or who protest that some bit of irrelevant theological esoterica has been overlooked, or that religion is too irrational a phenomenon to be treated logically should be ignored.

Comments

  1. #1 Gerard Harbison
    May 1, 2007

    Agree completely.

    For example, I don’t recall much in Sam Harris’s book that was new to me, but I do think I was persuaded by it that religious claims deserve the same strong scrutiny we apply to other claims of the paranormal, and that there is no logical or even pragmatic reason for being over-deferential to religion.

  2. #2 Joe
    May 1, 2007

    Although I detest philosophy, I found this post enlightening. Excellent!

  3. #3 Adrian Clement
    May 1, 2007

    It’s too bad there is no Big Brother to record the cultural drift.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    May 1, 2007

    If DDH&H have been “preaching to the choir”, how can we get off calling them “New Atheists”? I mean, if you’re just telling people who already agree with you that you agree with them, you’re not being “New”. Preaching to the choir presumes that the choir exists, while being radical and novel implies that you differ from all the people who came before.

  5. #5 writerdd
    May 1, 2007

    One could also ask “What’s the point of writing a Christian book?” to show how lame that argument is.

    Preaching to the choir is not a bad thing, anyway. A couple of years ago, the atheist choir was pretty darn quiet. Now it is making a lot of music and other people are starting to notice. Sometime’s it’s also nice to read something that resounds with your own thinking, particularly if you live in an area where you are isolated.

  6. #6 Tyler DiPietro
    May 1, 2007

    The rhetoric used against the New Atheists (I don’t exactly a deep affection for that term, but it’s catalyzed and I’m insufficiently motivated to shovel the tide) has shifted rather gradually since the publication of (primarily) The End of Faith and The God Delusion. The first argument was that the upsurge was a flash in the pan that wouldn’t amount to anything. Now that Dawkins has been on the NYT best seller list for around six months, set an attendance record in Littlerock, Arkansas with a keynote speech on atheism, and the New Atheists have been profiled, interviewed, etc. in just about every major media outlet in America, to name a few things, the rhetoric has changed. It’s at the point now where it can be called more than a flash in the pan. Now it’s that they’re just recycling arguments and wasting their time.

  7. #7 A
    May 1, 2007

    Sam Harris’s and Richard Dawkin’s books are useful to those of us having to deal with the more religious-minded:
    + They collect well-formulated arguments, which we might use in a
    discussion (we might think similarly, but have not formulated our
    argument against religion so well as these authors, especially if
    English is not your first language).
    + Their existence can be used as an argument:
    - If someone tells you to read [ C.S. Lewis | favorite religious
    tract | Bible | Koran...] you can agree that you’ll do it, if that
    person agrees to read Dawkins.
    - Many religious people think that really everyone agrees with them
    (unless ignorant or in the clutches of a competing religion). The
    success of these books shows that this is not so.

    But I cannot forgive Hitchens his vicious criticism of Clinton, and cheerleading for Bush and Bush’s war in Iraq. After that, anything he writes is tainted. He is a fake ‘contrarian.’
    As said in the review quoted above, “Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well.” Perhaps Hitchens sensed that Atheism is now a safe topic which allows him to maintain his ‘contrarian’ image (and make some money in the process, by writing a ‘mee-too’ book for the same market as Dawkins and Sam Harris, who showed that you can actually sell such books.).

  8. #8 Rick Dakan
    May 1, 2007

    I agree with most of what you say here – the critique that someone is preaching to the choir is a bit hollow and you never know what weird thing is going to change someone’s mind. If Francis Collins can find faith in a triune of frozen waterfalls, then one could just as easily shed one’s faith after reading Hitchens’s book.

    However, having read it, I think the reason it probably won’t be very effective at convincing many people to change their mind is that it’s a freaking disorganized mess. Chapters wander far afield from their stated topics and the whole thing is just a mess of ideas. Interesting ideas to be sure, and lots of intriguing little anecdotes from the author’s life, and plenty of stuff to mull over. But the book is a mess, especially compared to something like The God Delusion which proceeded much more carefully towards its arguments. Hitchens is not good in the long form – he’s best in small, acerbic bites. And really, the three excerpts that ended up on Slate last week are some of the best and most organized in the book. I wonder if the Slate Editor’s chose them for this reason or if they’re better because they got a little extra editorial attention.

    Having said all that, I’m glad he wrote the book. I’m glad it’s getting attention. There’s nothing too embarrassing in there that might “hurt the cause” (whatever you take that to mean), and I’ve enjoyed reading it. Although again, his stupid joke about No Children’s Behind Left is vapid and puerile, as are some of his other snarks.

    But all in all, I think the shotgun approach of the book is it’s biggest weakness – with no logical flow from one point to the next, I would imagine that a curious reader who was on the fence might find him or herself overwhelmed and unsure where to proceed next to find more information.

    Still, any attention to the atheist cause is good in my point of view. The mere fact that writing it got him on the Daily Show and got the basic message out there makes the whole thing worthwhile in my opinion. Plus it is a fun read.

  9. #9 itchy
    May 1, 2007

    General personal comment: I’ve been a longtime Dawkins/Dennett fan, but I’ve skipped most of the atheist books, largely because it would be like reading “More Reasons Why Santa Doesn’t Exist.” Not very enlightening for me personally.

    On the other hand, it’s nice to see them taking stands, and I do hope they can make a difference. I’m especially liking Harris, who seems to speak matter of factly using words and phrases that are simple and powerful.

  10. #10 Eternal Gaijin
    May 1, 2007

    Perfect summary.
    When we look at history we tend to see change as progressive and even peaceful and forget the struggle and sacrifice that people make to get progress. We see the pattern but not the details.
    To change the status quo someone has to complain, protest, argue, fight; the world doesn’t wake up one morning and realize that they’re exploiting others or are deluded in their world view. Only by putting the ideas out for the public to see and debate (and by sometimes getting kicked in the shorts) can we effect any sort of change.

  11. #11 Blake Stacey
    May 1, 2007

    I have to say that the ad copy I’ve seen for Hitchens’s book — “The Fourth Musketeer” — is astonishingly silly. I suppose that means the entire American religious establishment is Richelieu.

    Although, fencing with creationists through the cobblestone streets of Lyon and the mirrored halls of Versailles does sound like a pleasant change of pace from writing blog posts.

  12. #12 Janne
    May 2, 2007

    A, what has support or opposition of a certain political administration to do with atheism? Atheism isn’t a political point of view. Just because a lot of (though not all) conservatives in the US see their political cause as one with their religious affiliation, doesn’t mean that by necessity non-religious people must shun conservatism. And in plenty of other societies that same connection between religiosity and that kind of hawkish militarism just doesn’t exist.

    You may disagree vehemently with Hitchens on his political views, but that doesn’t diminish his stance on religion. Or do you similarly turn your back on war protesters that happen to go to church?

  13. #13 Gerdien
    May 2, 2007

    “people who have gone from atheism to Christian faith, from Christian faith to atheism, and from one religious group to another religious group.”
    A know many people from religious backgrounds who ended up as non-believers – mostly in their teens – , and one Catholic priest that married and became a Protestant minister, but what makes people go from atheism to Christian faith? Would all those have been raised Christian, and do they simple resume older habits? Or is the crowd rousing of Evangelicals emotionally attractive?

  14. #14 Blake Stacey
    May 2, 2007

    Gerdien:

    According to Francis Collins, it’s all about the waterfalls.

  15. #15 Bruce
    May 2, 2007

    “people who have gone from atheism to Christian faith, from Christian faith to atheism, and from one religious group to another religious group.”

    What makes people go from atheism to Christian faith?

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    This is something I am interested in as well, esp. C.S. Lewis. Does anybody know of a biography or essay of him where this is discussed?

  16. #16 Heleen
    May 2, 2007

    Let’s suppose most people experience nature, but what would a waterfall even if beautiful have to do with ‘a scary leap of faith’? It seems very sentimental, but not to the point. Anyway, Francis Collins says (cite with Blake Stacey) that he had struggled for a couple of years with the scary leap of faith. What was his starting point? Non-religious parents? Sunday school? Was Collins ever an atheist, or is he raised a Christian and did not have the stomach to dissent?

  17. #17 David Heddle
    May 2, 2007

    What makes people go from atheism to Christian faith?

    God made us do it. (Really, that’s the correct answer–dead in trespasses until “quickened”, Eph. 2, etc.)

    Collins’s waterfall is an example of secondary means–i.e. the messenger, as it were. That, of course, is different for all of us. That’s why it is so fascinating for Christians to hear one another’s testimony.

  18. #18 Ginger Yellow
    May 2, 2007

    That’s a truly appalling article for the AP to put out. Even beyond the juvenile style – “Hitchens is the reincarnation of HL Mencken” – and the complete lack of engagement with Hitchens’s argument, it’s absolutely littered with basic lexical and punctuation mistakes: “penultimate” for “preeminent”, “augment” for “argument”, “poison’s” for “poisons”. Did nobody edit it at all?

  19. #19 Heleen
    May 2, 2007

    David Hedde:
    So, if God did it, why do not we all believe without ever doubting? What is (see Collins) scary about a leap of faith – apart from no rational argument available? Or do you support the idea of predestination? Predestination seems the darkest twist of religion possible.

  20. #20 David Heddle
    May 2, 2007

    Heleen,

    Yes I strongly support predestination, which I reckon sufficiently answers your question (from my perspective.)

  21. #21 Josh Rosenau
    May 2, 2007

    I don’t disagree with your point about the broader cultural debate, and I think it’s always a little odd to insist that someone have the intention of changing people’s minds, rather than informing people and improving the state of knowledge within a group that basically agrees.

    OTOH, there’s an inconsistency in your criticism of the reviewer’s saying that these books don’t change minds without citing evidence. Your response is not to cite evidence, but to say that these books get published all the time and minds change all the time and, post hoc ergo propter hoc, these books might well be changing minds. Either of you might be right, and I wish there were actual evidence being offered.

    If the intent is to promote atheism to theists/agnostics (and like I said, maybe it isn’t), surely it is fair to ask for data on what actually works. I’d be very interested in knowing whether any theists bother picking up a book titled “God Is Not Great,” “The God Delusion,” or “Why I Am Not A Christian,” and whether reading those books actually changes their thinking.

    Maybe it does. Maybe that provocation draws them in, and then they find the arguments compelling (even though some other atheists do not). If that approach doesn’t change minds, and if that is indeed the goal, isn’t that worth knowing?

  22. #22 Heleen
    May 3, 2007

    David Hedde:
    With predestination, even thinking one is a born-again Christian does not guarantee one is saved. God’s power is free. Does this not clash with a loving God?

  23. #23 David Heddle
    May 3, 2007

    Heleen,

    I’m sure Jason does not want me to start preaching reformed theology here, but I’ll just point out that scripture is very clear that there will be some with a false assurance of salvation. e.g:

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:21-23)

    So the problem you allude to is (thinking one is saved does not guarantee that one is saved) is real but not dependent on a Calvinist interpretation.

    And I would say this does not clash with a loving God. Now I do believe the simple fact anyone (predestination or not) is sent to eternal torment definitely clashes with the common idea that “God loves everyone, just the same,” but I don’t see that taught anywhere in scripture.

  24. #24 Ginger Yellow
    May 3, 2007

    Maybe it does. Maybe that provocation draws them in, and then they find the arguments compelling (even though some other atheists do not). If that approach doesn’t change minds, and if that is indeed the goal, isn’t that worth knowing?

    I can’t speak for the other books/authors, but Dawkins’s intent with The God Delusion isn’t to persuade hardened theists, but to reach people who simply haven’t thought much about their religion, people who believe because their parents did or because it’s the done thing to do. I suspect that if the publication of these books does have an effect, it’s more through the attendant publicity – TV interviews, newspaper articles etc – for many people it may be the first time they’ve heard a serious argument against theism.

  25. #25 Heleen
    May 3, 2007

    David Heddle,
    As to the common idea that “God loves everyone, just the same,” isn’t it that Jesus said: “come all to me you all that are weary and oppressed, and I shall give you rest”? That is definitely ‘all’.
    To go back to the starting point, i.e. what makes people go from atheism to Christian faith: do any people go from atheism to Christian faith, western people that have not been brought up religious?

  26. #26 David Heddle
    May 3, 2007

    Heleen,

    No, it is obviously not all, it is all those who are “weary and oppressed”. Do you think Richard Dawkins is in the set of people who feel weary and oppressed and in need of God’s comfort? I hope so, but there is no evidence of that.

    Jesus also said that he comes for the sick, not for the healthy. And he also said that he did not come for the righteous. All those sayings indicate an exclusivity of sorts.

    As for for you second question:

    do any people go from atheism to Christian faith, western people that have not been brought up religious?

    of course, there are many of us. I was not brought up religious. In fact, I had a PhD and was a practicing scientist before I was a Christian. It happens all the time–not common perhaps, but certainly not hard to find such examples. Go into any church–you’ll likely that a significant minority of the adults did not have Christian parents or a Christian upbringing. In my experience, anecdotally, it would be around 20%.

  27. #27 CortxVortx
    May 3, 2007

    David Hedde:
    With predestination, even thinking one is a born-again Christian does not guarantee one is saved. God’s power is free. Does this not clash with a loving God?

    Posted by: Heleen

    Take this a step further: Heddle can’t be sure he’s saved just because he believes in the Jesus god. He may be one of those saying, “Lord, Lord.”

    In any case, his answer to the atheist-to-Christian shift is a non-starter, being a case of “begging the question.”

    I, too, find the phenomenon intriguing. It’s rather like an adult returning to a belief in Santa Claus. I suppose there are some emotional needs that, for some people, only god-belief will satisfy.

    — CV

  28. #28 David Heddle
    May 3, 2007

    CV,

    Take this a step further: Heddle can’t be sure he’s saved just because he believes in the Jesus god. He may be one of those saying, “Lord, Lord.”

    On the one hand, this goes without saying, so it’s not really “a step further” is it?

    On the other hand, one can study the scriptural doctrine of “assurance of salvation” to dig deeper into this subject. The Matthew passage (and others) teaches that there are some who believe but are not saved (even the demons believe, James writes)–which demonstrates that simple intellectual assent is necessary but not sufficient. Yet many assume it is sufficient–among those will be the ones, presumably, to hear those dreadful words. This is one reason why so many reformed theologians are aghast at the “easy belief-ism” of many modern American evangelicals: walk up to the alter, recite the “Sinner’s Prayer”, really believe it, and your in.

    Do that, and believe as sincerely as you want–but if your life doesn’t change, you should question whether you are saved.

    It’s rather like an adult returning to a belief in Santa Claus. I suppose there are some emotional needs that, for some people, only god-belief will satisfy.

    Well you were off to a good start but then invoked the tiresome Santa Claus analogy and the meaningless (and manifestly true) “they must have some emotional need” explanation. If you were truly intrigued, as you say, I would think that a simple adage wouldn’t satisfy your curiosity.

  29. #29 CortxVortx
    May 3, 2007

    Doesn’t “go without saying,” because few people actually think it through.

    “Predestination” precludes the effectiveness of any sincere belief. God decides who gets into heaven and who doesn’t, saith some New Testament book or another. So I have the same chance of wafting skyward as any deacon or presbyter.

    (Not that I’m invoking “the Rapture” as most Protestants conceive it. That was shot down when Jesus didn’t return within the lifetime of his audience, as promised.)

    The “Santa Claus analogy” may be tiresome because it is so devastatingly accurate. People who reject gods on intellectual grounds are just as unlikely to go back to them as are adults to return to Santa Claus belief. People who reject gods on emotional grounds, however, are always susceptible to the siren call (or maybe hymn) of comforting religion.

    To address the topic of the original post: If, as DeSilva claims, these atheist books are being read only by those who are predisposed to accept the message in the first place, their prolonged presence on the best-seller lists indicates that this is a very large choir.

    — CV

  30. #30 David D.G.
    May 3, 2007

    David Heddle,

    Since you believe in predestination and believe that God causes us to have faith or not, then kindly quit trying to win converts among nonbelievers. If God meant us to believe, then we would. You don’t want to be opposing God’s plans for us, now, do you?

    ~David D.G.

  31. #31 David Heddle
    May 3, 2007

    CV,

    What’s to think through? It is patently obvious that if anyone has a false assurance of their salvation, and scripture surely teaches so, then in principle I might be one of those people. You are quite wrong that few people think it through. I absolutely guarantee that virtually every Christian thinks it through. Why? Because every Christian who encounters that passage in Matt. 7, especially for the first time, worries about it. A lot. It is probably one of the most thought-through passages in scripture.

    As to the original point, I think these books can have a huge effect on society. They won’t de-convert believers, because such a thing is not possible. However they can certainly change the dynamic between believers and unbelievers-for better or for worse. There is no question that how unbelievers and believers interact will change as a result of the so-called new atheism.How much and in what way is the only question.

    David D. G.,

    I never try to convert unbelievers. I do give the gospel, but not to convert, but rather because I’m instructed to do so and it is also an unspeakable privilege: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news–(Is. 52:7).

    Question. You wrote:

    If God meant us to believe, then we would. You don’t want to be opposing God’s plans for us, now, do you?

    When you wrote that, did you think: “A ha, now I’ve got him!” I hope not–because there is not a Calvinist on the planet who hasn’t heard a variant of that remark a gazillion times. Do you think Augustine or Aquinas or Calvin or Luther would respond: “Gee, I never thought of that!”

  32. #32 David D.G.
    May 3, 2007

    David Heddle,

    No, I didn’t seriously expect that you hadn’t heard such a remark before, and I meant it more in jest than anything.

    But I notice that your answer doesn’t really answer it, either.

    ;^D

    ~David D.G.

  33. #33 David Heddle
    May 3, 2007

    David D G,

    It requires a bit to explain, but in a nutshell:

    1) God predestines some to eternal salvation and at some point the Holy Spirit “quickens” them. That doesn’t give them an understanding of the gospel, but a “new heart of flesh” that now seeks God.

    2) The normative way they actually accept Christ is then to have the gospel presented to them. Where once it was foolishness, it now makes sense, and they choose God from their own free will.

    3) The normative way in which they hear the gospel is that a fellow human being speaks it to them.

    4) Thus when speaking the gospel:

    a) There is no chance (as your criticism alluded to) of “opposing God’s plan.” On the contrary, preaching the gospel to everyone is clearly part of God’s plan.

    b) Your preaching cannot bring someone to a saving faith who was not already made alive, thus again you cannot thwart God’s will by “accidentally” saving someone he didn’t intend to save.

  34. #34 windy
    May 3, 2007

    God predestines some to eternal salvation and at some point the Holy Spirit “quickens” them.

    But if a believer’s head is accidentally cut off, the Quickening goes to whoever is standing closest.

  35. #35 David Heddle
    May 3, 2007

    Windy,

    Yes, that was a surprise when that verse was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

  36. #36 J. J. Ramsey
    May 3, 2007

    “Sam Harris’s and Richard Dawkin’s books are useful to those of us having to deal with the more religious-minded:
    + They collect well-formulated arguments”

    Well, they collect arguments, anyway. Dawkins’ arguments are almost always great rhetoric, but they can be hit-and-miss in the logic department.

    On a more serious note …

    windy: “But if a believer’s head is accidentally cut off, the Quickening goes to whoever is standing closest.”

    So are you saying that in the end, there can be only one true Christian?

    :p

  37. #37 Heleen
    May 4, 2007

    “If God meant us to believe, then we would.”
    Why would God mean only some people to believe, to start with? Believe is not their people’s own doing, but Gods. Why is grace limited? How does one get away with this inherent paradox in Christianity?

    But the most strange point is that people convert after having a PhD in physics: compartmentization of brain must be relatively easy.

    The following is intriguing too, given that evangelicalism seems The American Way: many reformed theologians are aghast at the “easy belief-ism” of many modern American evangelicals: walk up to the alter, recite the “Sinner’s Prayer”, really believe it, and you’r in.

  38. #38 Eamon Knight
    May 4, 2007

    Someone earlier wrote:

    What makes people go from atheism to Christian faith?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    This is something I am interested in as well, esp. C.S. Lewis. Does anybody know of a biography or essay of him where this is discussed?

    Well, the obvious place to start would be the autobiographical Surprised By Joy, which reveals some rather fuzzy thinking on Lewis’ part (IIRC, it’s all about the Moral Law). There are other biographies, but I’ve never read them (I was a fan of Lewis, back in my Christian days).

    As it happens, I was raised in an agnostic family, but became a fundamentalist as a teenager, for what seemed like rational reasons at the time. I now see that my critical faculties were undeveloped. I’m now an atheist. Yes, I’ve probably changed my mind more often than most people do.

  39. #39 aurora
    May 6, 2007

    Per the request for examples…I wouldn’t say that I was an atheist, but I was an agnostic. My parents were very nominal Christians (if not just churchians) who did make us go to church on rare occaision, but I tended to think of it as fairy tales or maybe nice stories. In that season of life I participated in debates against Christians. As a young adult I had an experience that was not as a result of someone preaching to me where I basically said…God if you really are there I guess I ought to know about it…at which point God came to me and basically said “this is who I am; what are you going to do about it?” It’s not something that is easy to describe in physical terms. I read the New Testament of the Bible in three days and then became a Christian. After sorting through the details over time, I’m pretty much in the reformed theology camp. I’m an advanced degree engineer finishing up a PhD after working in industry for many years as a MS level engineer.

  40. #40 Kevin
    May 6, 2007

    “I’m an advanced degree engineer finishing up a PhD after working in industry for many years as a MS level engineer.”

    oh, well, we see that a lot.

  41. #41 Heleen
    May 7, 2007

    The most effective promoter of atheism might be not atheist books but social democracy:

    http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge209.html#gp

    To put it starkly, the level of popular religion is not a spiritual matter, it is actually the result of social, political and especially economic conditions (please note we are discussing large scale, long term population trends, not individual cases). Mass rejection of the gods invariably blossoms in the context of the equally distributed prosperity and education found in almost all 1st world democracies. There are no exceptions on a national basis. That is why only disbelief has proven able to grow via democratic conversion in the benign environment of education and egalitarian prosperity. Mass faith prospers solely in the context of the comparatively primitive social, economic and educational disparities and poverty still characteristic of the 2nd and 3rd worlds and the US.