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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Enforced blog break

I had an enforced blog break for a number of reasons ... but partly because for a while there Blogger wasn't working. People could comment but I couldn't post (apparently this was a problem affecting other folks on teh intertubez, not just me).

Now that it's working again, normal service from me will be resuming. I've spent the last few days working pretty hard on my current projects, not the least of it getting quite a bit of rough drafting done at my end for the 50 Great Myths About Atheism book. My head is spinning a bit because I'm tackling a lot of these myths at once, and have also been doing a lot of reading (partly to establish the provenance for as many myths as possible ... where possible, I'm looking for more reliable sources than relatively ephemeral ones on the Internet).

Over the last few days I've read Reasonable Atheism, by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse, which is interesting in that, to some extent, it fills the same niche as our book. I.e., it is aimed at disabusing people about atheism, rather than putting a full-blooded case for it. I think this book is very well written, but also rather weak in some ways. To be fair to the authors, that's partly because it's aimed at beginners in these debates. That will also affect 50 Great Myths: we can't assume an audience that is highly sophisticated in the sorts of debates that happen here on this blog, or over at Butterflies and Wheels or Why Evolution is true.

I'm currently reading an Alister McGrath book, The Twilight of Atheism, and finding it quite good for what it is. McGrath has an off-putting manner as a speaker, I think, but he's far from being an idiot. He writes well, and this book provides a useful source of some of the misconceptions, as I see them; I expect (at this early stage) that it's one that Udo and I will be referring to a fair bit. I need to read quite a few more books of this kind - not opportunistic ones of the "flea" sort, but more respected works of apologetics (on the other hand, I'm not necessarily talking about technical philosophical works; McGrath's book is at a good level for my purpose).

Nearly bed time here, but that's what I've been up to. Back soon.

8 comments:

steve oberski said...

McGrath has an off-putting manner as a speaker, I think, but he's far from being an idiot.

Damned with faint praise, made me laugh.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Two questions:

(1) What do you think is good about McGrath's book?

(2) Any similar books you think you'll be citing a lot in 50 Great Myths?

Russell Blackford said...

The book is well written, contains a lot of interesting facts, and makes an argument. I'm always happy to read a book like this by someone from the "other side". Although there's much for me to disagree with and react to - as we'll probably be doing in 50 Myths as well as here - that's all good.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

What facts did you find interesting?

It's been years since I've read the book, but my memories of it are more "competently written, lots of irrelevant facts, an obviously fallacious argument." Keith Parsons' review here fits my memories pretty well.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

P.S. - I am really curious about the second question. I think it might do me some good to read more apologetics that

(1) Isn't the same Josh McDowell/William Lane Craig style stuff that's been endlessly imitated among Evangelicals

(2) Isn't directly in response to the Gnu Atheists

What can you suggest?

RoBe said...

I've had McGrath's book for a while but haven't read it as I haven't read anything on the history of atheism, do you have any books you could recommend on that? I'd love to compare the two and see the different perspectives (maybe I'm cynical but I just assumed McGrath's book would be the norm for apologetics "misinformation and half truths")?

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Jonathan Israel's books are dense, but damned awesome IMHO. Not exclusively about atheism, but helped me get a much better picture of what the hell was going on in the Enlightenment.

Russell Blackford said...

I'd need to write a whole post to say what's good (and what's bad) about McGrath's book, but it was written before the New Atheist books were published, which helps a lot, I think. It came out in a different atmosphere and it has a much calmer, more scholarly, style about it than the various opportunistic and/or panicky books that McGrath and co. have been writing since. Though it has a strong bias, it contains plenty of useful discussion of all sorts of historical figures, whether it's Shelley, Freud, George Eliot, and on and on. And I think it's useful to see how someone like McGrath views all this.

As for what books will end up being discussed in 50 Great Myths, I'm afraid it's much too early to tell. We did some fairly intensive planning of the book, but we're only at the beginning of writing, testing, discarding, re-writing, re-thinking, etc., so I have no idea what will stick. I'll have a better idea by about this time in June, as May is proving a good time for me to make a big contribution to that at my end, but there's also work at Udo's end, and he'll only get up to the same intensity in June about the time I'm going to take a break.

All in all, this is a book at a very early stage of the writing process. According to current plans, we'll *really* know what it's going to look like in October or November.