If you are like most people, you wonder about the existence of god, if there is an afterlife and whether there is any meaning to life. Certainly, our thoughts regarding these matters profoundly influence our behavior and our lives. But when there are so many conflicting faiths, how can any person know which one is the best? To work through these questions, you will be interested to read The Path of Reason: A Philosophy of Nonbelief by Bruce Smith (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse 2006), which tells the personal story of the author’s intellectual journey from the Bible Belt to atheism.
In this well-written and carefully argued book, the author uses critical analysis to provide an alternative philosophy for life and living that many people have never have seriously considered or have completely ignored. By carefully examining the principles of various faiths and of reason, he provides clarity and insight into long debated and highly controversial issues, including reincarnation and evolution.
Smith’s thorough understanding of both liberal and conservative ideologies that are in contention in today’s culture wars combined with his critical thinking skills will open new avenues of philosophical consideration for the reader.
When I left the Christian faith, and throughout the years later, I knew my motives were good. I reasoned that if God knew what was in my heart and mind, I could not be condemned. A God that would condemn me for doing what I thought was right would be an unfair God. I do not know of a philosophy in which God is accepted as being unjust, but if a God like that existed, then I would have to oppose such a God. The whole situation would be an interesting, albeit terrible, scenario in which the being in charge of the universe was an evil sadist. Then we would all be doomed. A universe with no God at all would be vastly better than that alternative.
In the end, the author constructs a “truth over conformity” philosophy that is both clear and life affirming while providing a newfound appreciation for what it is to be human.
The book is a trade paperback consisting of 254 pages. It is divided into seven parts with titles such as: “Faith and Reason Collide” which outlines the basics of this collision; “Reason Applied” is where the author applies reason to some basic philosophical questions; “Critical Thinking” clearly explains the often-misunderstood principles of critical thinking and applies them to philosophical debate; “Skeptical Specifics” shows what happens when you take these tools and apply them to mystical and New Age ideas; “Origins” which deals specifically with evolution; “Christianity Explained” deals with certain tricky problems associated with christianity; and Atheism and Beyond” which discusses how to get the most out of living in the moment while also planning for your future. In the end, the author argues for a life that values intellectual honesty and reason over mere social conformity and he lays the groundwork for an appreciation for what it is to be fully human.
Reason deserves our respect and it needs to be utilized. The long-term reward for doing so is priceless — a greater understanding of the world. That, in turn, gives us the basis for much more.
By living a life based on reason, the author argues that it provides genuine and realistic meaning in our lives, rather than basing our lives on fantasy. Reason allows us to recognize suffering, injustice, and all the unpleasant aspects for the reality of what they really are so we can then deal with them in the best possible way. Reliance on reason brings our attention to the present, rather than to some unrealistic future. With our focus clearly on the here and now, our lives are richer and can be enjoyed more fully.
Additionally, this fascinating book shows that philosophy does not have to comprise unwieldy and largely inaccessible tomes that were published centuries ago. Instead, the author is a modern day thinker who presents his arguments in an accessible, witty and down-to-earth style. But make no mistake about it: this book will challenge you to think about life in general, about your beliefs, and how you live each day.
Bruce Smith has a bachelor’s degree in communications. He has been a lifetime student of philosophy and is also the author of a syndicated humor column. Smith lives with his wife in California.