Publishers decide that there IS a market for books that naturalize religion

September 22, 2006 | By | 1 Reply More

At the home page of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason, Dawkins explains that he wanted to write his most recent book, The God Delusion six years ago but his literary agent was horrified. He was told “don’t even think about it.”  But that was then and now is now.

But how different the cultural landscape looks today. After four years of Bush, my literary agent changed his tune. He started begging me to write The God Delusion. And publishers around America are now falling over themselves to bring out atheistic books from which they would have run a mile only a few years ago. Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell (thoughtful and persuasive as we have come to expect of that scientifically savvy philosopher) is selling very nicely, as are Sam Harris’s scintillating and more militant The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation (books whose almost every sentence makes you want to phone somebody up and read it out to them). Another that I am looking forward to is God: the Failed Hypothesis – How science shows that God does not exist, by that lucid and knowledgeable physicist Victor Stenger, due out early next year.

Why is it important to quit treating religion with kid gloves? It might be a matter of survival:

America, founded in secularism as a beacon of eighteenth century enlightenment, is becoming the victim of religious politics, a circumstance that would have horrified the Founding Fathers. The political ascendancy today values embryonic cells over real people. It obsesses about gay marriage, ahead of genuinely important issues that actually make a difference to the world. It gains crucial electoral support from a constituency whose grip on reality is so tenuous that they expect to be ‘raptured’ up to heaven, leaving their clothes as empty as their minds. More extreme specimens actually long for a world war, which they identify as the ‘Armageddon’ that is to presage the Second Coming.

The non-existence of God is the main conclusion of the The God Delusion. The second half is devoted to questions that arise from the non-existence of God.  Here’s how Dawkins describes the second half of his book:

  • Why, if religion is false, do so many people believe in it? (I am one of those who see it as an unfortunate by-product of otherwise useful psychological predispositions).
  • Where, if not from religion, does our morality come from? Don’t we need religion, in order to be good? (I cannot believe that those who advocate a morality based on the Bible have actually read it. We not only shouldn’t get our morals from religion, we don’t. Believers and unbelievers alike participate in a slowly shifting moral Zeitgeist rooted in Darwinian rules of thumb).
  • Even if religion is false, doesn’t it do some good? (Yes, but only by accident). And weren’t Hitler and Stalin atheists? (The answer is: No for Hitler, yes for Stalin, and your point is . . . ?)
  • Religion may be nonsense, but isn’t it harmless nonsense, like astrology and crystal balls? Why be so hostile? (Scientists have a particular reason to be hostile to any systematically organized effort to teach children to reject evidence in favour of faith, revelation, authority and tradition. Religion teaches people to be satisfied with petty, small-minded non-explanations or mysteries, and this is a tragedy, given that the true explanations are so enthralling. Moreover, such hostility as I have is limited to words. I am not going to bomb anybody, behead them, stone them, burn them at the stake, crucify them, or fly planes into their skyscrapers, just because of a theological disagreement).
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Category: American Culture, Meaning of Life, Religion, Science, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Speaking of the Christian belief in being 'raptured' up to heaven, I recently saw some evangelicals on one of the religions television stations discussing this very topic. They were talking about how airplanes will drop from the sky and cars will spin into ditches, because some of the operators of these vehicles will inevitably be born-again Christians whom Jesus will pluck out of their vehicles when he comes back.

    These are some of the same people who insist that America must protect Israel's existence at all costs, because Jesus will only return if Isreal exists.

    And it's all going to happen any day now…any day now….

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