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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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"