Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An Atheist Apologist for Religiosity: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing?

There is a new book entitled An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off with Religion than without It by Bruce Sheiman. Mr. Sheiman says this about himself:

“I have repeatedly insisted that I am an “aspiring theist” -- an unbeliever who wants to believe. Interestingly, the ironic flip side of being an aspiring theist is being an unhappy atheist, an experience I explain later in this website.”

I hesitate to cast aspersions as to Mr. Sheiman's honesty about calling himself an “unbeliever”, I don't know the man. But something’s just not right here. It smacks of [self?] deception or a confused state of mind at best.

Let me state clearly -- I have not read this book. Thus, this is not a review of the work. Nor will I read this book for three reasons:

  1. With 84% of the planet/ 5 billion people being "believers" of some sort; and with the millions of tomes of apologetics produced by believers justifying and defending their unsupported belief/ doctrine/dogma, et al ... why would an atheist need to mount a defense for religiosity? They have been doing it themselves more or less effectively for at least the past 3,000 years.

  2. There can be no new argument for defending religion/faith.
    -Whether it is predicated on the false premise that religion= morality and without it man would be immoral or less moral, thus it should be promoted, promulgated; - or whether it's because it makes people "feel good" like alcohol or any other mind numbing drug or happy hallucinogenic and thus anything that makes one feel good is good; - or whether it's because it gives [false] hope / comfort to those who would otherwise have no hope
    … is hardly a justification for defending or endorsing a lie, delusion, self deception, that promotes less than full acceptance of reality and responsibility for ones own life. What's left after those defenses of religion ... Pascal's Wager?

  3. Finally, I find the premise of the book off putting. I can't think of one good reason why I'd want to read it. I've read plenty of works by genuine theists liberal/ modernist and conservative/ fundamentalist; agnostics who are biblical scholars; atheist philosophers and hard core atheist anti-theists. Some how I can't rally any enthusiasm at all for the point of view of an atheist who is sorry he is one and is a quasi/ would-be theist and theist apologist.

One last thought. The author says: "How, if religion is characterized by enormous institutional ills, is it not only a universal phenomenon, but one that is growing more prevalent all the time?" Is it just me, or could a blind man see that this argument is a new take on the same old fallacious justification for belief based on "popular acceptance" that religionists use all the time? I.e. “If there is no God how come so many believe?” I can't remember how many times I have debunked the "truth by virtue of popular acceptance" fallacy.

As for religion “growing more prevalent” … where exactly? Certainly not in industrialized progressive nations, where religiosity is in decline. No, it’s growing in third world countries where lack of education, abysmal poverty, drought, starvation, disease, institutionalized genocide and utter desperation make people susceptible to proselytizing by missionaries who dangle blankets & food in one hand while holding out a Bible or Koran and a promise of a better life after death in the other. What exactly does this prove?

I have always promised myself I’d never call a self proclaimed atheist “not a TRUE atheist” like Christians so often do to their brethren. But in Sheiman’s case, I don’t even think HE thinks he’s a true atheist. I’m looking forward to his next book, probably something akin to: "A German Jew Defends National Socialism: Why Judaism is better off with Nazis than without them"


NewEnglandBob said...

A good post, Hump.

I read the one review of the book at The reviewer gave it 5 stars but doubts that the author is actually an atheist.

A look at the editorial reviews seems to mark the book as a 'theism promotes mental health' scenario.

This is a quote from the author:

" For me, the core idea of religion is belief in a Transcendent Spiritual Reality that exists apart from the material world we experience day-to-day. In accepting that my here-and-now existence is all there is, in either Western or Eastern traditions I qualify as an unbeliever.

While I aspire to believe in God, I have found that belief is not something that we can turn on and off at will. Thus, as much as I want to, I do not believe that my life was created by a Transcendent Spiritual Reality and I do not believe that my life force survives my death in any viable form.

For the majority of the world, human dignity is predicated on human divinity. I do not personally believe that. But there's something in me that wants to. And at a minimum, if I cannot embrace the existence of God (no matter how hard I try), I can have regard for the belief in God. In my view, it is no longer only an issue of the veracity of religion, but an issue of the value of religion itself."

Dromedary Hump said...

Yeah, like I said Bob..this guy is one confused puppy, or a freekin liar.

eitherway... I see no value in his kind of mental masturbation.

i wonder how this so called atheist would frame his praise of religion if he was living through the Inquisition.

NewEnglandBob said...

I still may read his book anyway, but my list of books to read is long and his will not get any priority.

The reason I might read it is to see how he handles things like your question about the Inquisition.

His book is in the top 349,263 sellers on Amazon :)

Dromedary Hump said...

I wouldn't put a penny in his pocket personally.

But if you ever read it, give us a review.

Tracey said...

Bob, wait until you can buy it used. That way, he's not making any money off of your curiosity.

NewEnglandBob said...

Actually, Tracey and Hump, I was going to wait until it showed up at the public library consortium.

HoleyHands said...

Atheist Accommodationist 101

Rachelle said...

LOL! Yeah, I was also gonna say check it out at the library if you're at all curious.

The author says: "While I aspire to believe in God, I have found that belief is not something that we can turn on and off at will."

LOLOL!!! What's to aspire to?...Just take a "leap of faith" like all the other theists. Believe in whatever god/s you'd like, because who really gives a sh-t what you "believe" anyway? If you are interested in evidence and facts..."belief" means nothing. I can believe the moon is made of stinky green cheese. Doesn't mean that it is. "Belief" can and has been turned on and off at will. Kids believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy...but then kids grow up to become adults (they do...that's a fact, LOL!). Maybe they even pass those "beliefs" on to their children. LOL!

I do think this author is confused. He claims to not believe in "God" but he sees value in religion. Which religions? All religions?? Just the Abrahamic ones? Sounds like he's more interested in a "Philosophy" rather than a "Religion." Maybe he should look into Buddhism. Get the "religious experience" without the "God." LOL! Seriously though...anyone who sounds this miserable or guilty about being an atheist should probably "pretend" not to be one. LOL! I don't think this author has any idea yet about whether he's an atheist or not. I think his book is probably akin to a self-help manual for himself. It's a cry for help. LOL! Maybe he's hoping to be swayed one way or the other by feedback. Of course I don't know this cuz I haven't read the book either. LOL!

Josiah said...

That's funny, because I couldn't 'believe' even if I wanted to.

Some people have trouble throwing away the feeling of being 'special' is all, so they have to do gymnastics to try and put pieces together when Occam's razor is the best way to keep peace of mind.

Rachelle said...

And as Hump pointed out, the author is being dishonest when he praises religion. And like most theists, he's ignoring reality. There is good and bad in everything...and he should look at all sides of religion/s, not just the parts that makes him feel warm and fuzzy. LOL! Hump mentioned the Inquisition (as well as The Crusades, witch burnings, The Holocaust, etc. on this blog/in his book)...But you don't even have to go that far back to find the ugly in religions. There are still sectarian and "civil" conflicts going on around the world: in Iraq, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, N. Ireland...India v. Pakistan etc. Still some "witch" hunting going on too.

My cat is beautifully marked, graceful, and makes me smile when he nibbles on my ankles, but he also likes to hunt, torture and kill butterflies when I take him outside.

Don't ignore the reality is all I'm really saying. LOL!

cathyjo4moloch said...

i can understand the confusion. when i was a young girl in middle school, i was a bit confused about my homework assignment. anyway, i was in my bedroom studying when my mom walked in and caught me having sex with two mexican boys, when she asked what the hell was going on, i told her that my teacher said i had to do two "essays". needless to say i flunked out of school and later got married to jesus.

Dromedary Hump said...

Cathyjo4moloch!!! OMG what a great play on the name of a famously insane fundie whack job!!

Thanks for the laugh!!!

Tracey said...

You wouldn't be ripping this nut, would you?

Dromedary Hump said...

tracy, you know that whack job too eh?

did you ever see her engagement announcment to Jesus? Yikes!! Even the religious whackos got pissed at her for that one. From then on it solidified her position of Queen of the Religious Nut Jobs.

She has a daughter who is similarly impaired (no surptrise there). So when the Queen dies, there is a natural successor.

Henry said...

The guy's atheism seems about as well thought out as the supposed youthful atheism of Lee Strobel, C.S. Lewis and Francis Collins. I don't see what market he is selling to. Agnostics I guess.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks for your input.

I don't think he's selling it to ANY market, which explains his standings in amazon.

I.e. My book trends between 17th and 30th on the list of best selling atheist themed books on amazon, depending on daily sales. His doesn't even get a ranking.

Plus, the book came out Aug 4...and is already being sold marked down at amazon.

Badly thought out concept, with no market to sell it to.

I trust he didn't leave his day job.


zarton said...

Hey all,
I was thinking of reading an apologists book, so that I could say that I have read their arguments. I was thinking about Lee Strobels' "The Case for Easter", Dinesh D'souzas' "What's so great about Chritianity", or Francis Collins' "The Language of God". (at least he is a smart guy in some fields) I have heard all of them on youtube and have not really been impressed.
Do any of you guys have any recommendations? I am sure any of them will give me a great laugh, but that is not what I am looking for. I am looking for something sincere and thoughtful.

Dromedary Hump said...


If you absolutly want to read apologetics Lee Strobel is the guy lots of Xtians lean on to represent / justify their absurd beliefs.

But it would probably be his
"The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity".

Here's the link to amazon.

I have read exerpts, not the whole book.

Good luck,

Dromedary Hump said...

no sense in putting money into Strobel's hands.