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50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists

Russell Blackford (Editor), Udo Schuklenk (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-4051-9046-6
356 pages
October 2009, Wiley-Blackwell
50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists (1405190469) cover image


50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists presents a collection of original essays drawn from an international group of prominent voices in the fields of academia, science, literature, media and politics who offer carefully considered statements of why they are atheists.
  • Features a truly international cast of contributors, ranging from public intellectuals such as Peter Singer, Susan Blackmore, and A.C. Grayling, novelists, such as Joe Haldeman, and heavyweight philosophers of religion, including Graham Oppy and Michael Tooley
  • Contributions range from rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal, even whimsical, accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives
  • Likely to have broad appeal given the current public fascination with religious issues and the reception of such books as The God Delusion and The End of Faith
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Now More Important than Ever – Voices of Reason 1
Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk

Unbelievable! 5
Russell Blackford

My “Bye Bull” Story 10
Margaret Downey

How Benevolent Is God? – An Argument from Suffering to Atheism 16
Nicholas Everitt

A Deal-Breaker 23
Ophelia Benson

Why Am I a Nonbeliever? – I Wonder . . . 28
J. L. Schellenberg

Wicked or Dead? Reflections on the Moral Character and Existential Status of God 33
John Harris

Religious Belief and Self-Deception 41
Adèle Mercier

The Coming of Disbelief 48
J. J. C. Smart

What I Believe 50
Graham Oppy

Too Good to Be True, Too Obscure to Explain: The Cognitive Shortcomings of Belief in God 57
Thomas W. Clark

How to Think About God: Theism, Atheism, and Science 65
Michael Shermer

A Magician Looks at Religion 78
James Randi

Confessions of a Kindergarten Leper 82
Emma Tom

Beyond Disbelief 86
Philip Kitcher

An Ambivalent Nonbelief 97
Taner Edis

Why Not? 105
Sean M. Carroll

Godless Cosmology 112
Victor J. Stenger

Unanswered Prayers 118
Christine Overall

Beyond Faith and Opinion 123
Damien Broderick

Could It Be Pretty Obvious There’s No God? 129
Stephen Law

Atheist, Obviously 139
Julian Baggini

Why I am Not a Believer 145
A. C. Grayling

Evil and Me 157
Gregory Benford

Who’s Unhappy? 161
Lori Lipman Brown

Reasons to be Faithless 165
Sheila A. M. McLean

Three Stages of Disbelief 168
Julian Savulescu

Born Again, Briefly 172
Greg Egan

Cold Comfort 177
Ross Upshur

The Accidental Exorcist 182
Austin Dacey

Atheist Out of the Foxhole 187
Joe Haldeman

The Unconditional Love of Reality 191
Dale McGowan

Antinomies 197
Jack Dann

Giving Up Ghosts and Gods 200
Susan Blackmore

Some Thoughts on Why I Am an Atheist 204
Tamas Pataki

No Gods, Please! 211
Laura Purdy

Welcome Me Back to the World of the Thinking 220
Kelly O’Connor

Kicking Religion Goodbye . . . 226
Peter Adegoke

On Credenda 230
Miguel Kottow

“Not Even Start to Ignore Those Questions!” A Voice of Disbelief in a Different Key 236
Frieder Otto Wolf

Imagine No Religion 252
Edgar Dahl

Humanism as Religion: An Indian Alternative 259
Sumitra Padmanabhan

Why I Am NOT a Theist 263
Prabir Ghosh

When the Hezbollah Came to My School 270
Maryam Namazie

Evolutionary Noise, not Signal from Above 274
Athena Andreadis

Gods Inside 279
Michael R. Rose and John P. Phelan

Why Morality Doesn’t Need Religion 288
Peter Singer and Marc Hauser

Doctor Who and the Legacy of Rationalism 294
Sean Williams

My Nonreligious Life: A Journey From Superstition to Rationalism 300
Peter Tatchell

Helping People to Think Critically About Their Religious Beliefs 310
Michael Tooley

Human Self-Determination, Biomedical Progress, and God 323
Udo Schüklenk

About the Contributors 332

Index 338

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Author Information

Russell Blackford is a freelance writer, critic, and editor, based in Melbourne, Australia. He teaches part-time in the School of Philosophy and Bioethics at Monash University, where he specialises mainly in philosophical bioethics and legal/political philosophy. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Evolution and Technology, an on-line peer reviewed journal devoted to rigorous consideration of future prospects for the human species or its possible descendants.

Udo Schüklenk is a German-Australian philosopher. He has written or edited five books and published over one hundred articles in peer reviewed journals and books. His latest books are the co-edited volumes The Power of Pills (2006) and The Bioethics Reader (Blackwell, 2007). He is the Joint Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Bioethics and currently the Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics at Queen’s University in Canada. His current research focuses on ethical and policy issues in drug research and development.

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"For students in comparative religion this volume offers ample material and powerful reasons to make them subject most if not all religious claims to a highly critical appraisal, preparing for a constructive and public debate." (Acta Comparanda, 2011)

"50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists brings together many scholars and intellectuals from a variety of academic fields who explain the reasons why they do not believe in God. Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk's unique collection of original essays not only consists of short, digestible essays which are full of introductory presentations of both positive and negative arguments in support of atheism, but also in its candid testimonials which are more personally oriented." (Reviews in Religion, 2011)

"The international cast of contributors includes many well-known names, from a diversity of fields-notably philosophy (about a third of the writers are philosophers) science, journalism, politics and science fiction.  By no means do they agree on everything, but the unifying themes of rejection of conventional religions and acceptance of secular humanism shine through brightly.  A descriptive list of contributors and an excellent index complement the essays, many of which are accompanied by useful endnotes and references." (Quadrant, September 2010) 

"It was mostly fascinating reading, in particular, those articles that abstained from using dull polemics and cynicism. Some of the articles-most notably from Nicholas Everitt, Thomas W. Clark, Michael Shermer, Peter Tatchell, Michael Tooley, and Udo Schüklenk-can indeed be used in undergraduate courses concerned with the existence of God in philosophy, ethics, and theology. I recommend this volume especially for all those who need to grasp a general and easy introduction into atheistic reasoning." (Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2010)

"I recommend this volume especially for all those who need to grasp a general and easy introduction into atheistic reasoning." (Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2010)“The essays in this book reveal a great concern for our human plight, a concern that is the equal of religious impulses; they raise a richness of issues that are too often ignored, including the ultimate fear of the theists that perhaps in time it may well be possible to settle the question of God’s existence. The fifty voices in this book have spoken out with more than a small amount of courage. What emerges from thinking about these essays is a realization of what human reason is up against, within ourselves.” (Free Inquiry, August/September 2010)

"Good writing and clear thinking don't always go hand in hand. It's a pleasure, then, to find both in a recent book about going it alone -- no deus ex machina for us, please -- titled 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. In one volume, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk, you'll find idiosyncratic essays by a range of atheists from science fiction authors and philosophers to scientists and activists." (Psychology Today, Creating in Flow Blog, May 2010)

"Many of the pieces in this book are full of superior contempt for the intellectual inadequacy of theism. Tatchell is forthright in his criticism of religion, but he never sneers. The essays in this book are all clearly argued, and will reassure the already faithful that they are neither daft nor deluded." (Church Times, April 2010)

"The contemporary relevance,and timeliness of this book is unsurpassed. It is ... an account of various well known non-believers [and] personal viewpoints, directed at a popular audience. Very approachable at all levels, containing a wide range of stories, anecdotes and personal statements about why each of the authors considers themselves to be a non believer. Overall, this book is well suited for a mainstream audience, interested in questioning the power that religion holds over our lives. It [also] has good references ... which will also serve to guide the reader if further information is wanted. Thus, I recommend this book to anyone (regardless of their views concerning religion) interested in understanding why different people hold certain views concerning religion." (Metapsychology, April 2010)

"By turns witty, serious, engaging and information, it is always human and deeply honest, and immensely rewarding to read." (Times Higher Education Supplement, December 2009)

"Carefully considered statements … .Contributions range from rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal, even whimsical, accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives. Likely to have broad appeal." (Australian Atheist, November 2009)

"I am strongly recommending it as a present for anyone who has an interest in atheism/theism from either side of the debate. It's just a great read, from great authors." (Stephen Law Blogspot, October 2009)

"It’s a very good book, and I recommend it for all of us godless ones — or those who are considering abjuring the divine. It’s far more than just a collection of stories about 'How I came to give up God.' Many of the writers describe the philosophical and empirical considerations that led them to atheism. Indeed, the book can be considered a kind of philosophical handbook for atheists." (Why Evolution is True Blog, October 2009)

"Wow! A book about atheism and it’s not written by Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett or Harris! So this book is welcome partly because it helps break that knee-jerk reaction. But it’s also welcome because many of its contributors advance interesting ideas. There’s plenty to choose from. And one advantage of a collection like this is that you can dip into it wherever you want. There is something for everyone. And there is the opportunity to discover new ideas." (Open Parachute, October 2009)

"For many who have spent some time involved in any form of engagement in these matters, the names should appear familiar: from the great AC Grayling to the revolutionary Maryam Namazie. Finally, in one book we can hear their stories – if not about themselves, then about the aspects of religion or lack thereof they find most important. If all these contributors were speakers at a convention, it would be sold out many times over." (Butterflies and Wheels, October 2009)

"In their excellent collection of essays exploring and defending the philosophical stance of atheism, Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk had an inclusive vision. Contributors to the book range from those with science-fiction backgrounds to modern-day philosophy." (Kirkus Reviews, October 2009)

"In more than 50 brief statements organized by Blackford and philosopher Schüklenk ... contributors share views—their routes toward nonbelief and their feelings about the place of religion in the world ... including James (the Amazing) Randi, a well-known magician and debunker of spurious psychic phenomena. Considering the popularity of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great, and Sam Harris's The End of Faith, [these] memoirs and observations will be of interest to disbelievers." (Library Journal, October 2009)

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