Sunday, November 11, 2007

Atheism: A Reader Edited by S.T. Joshi

This volume is a must for all rationalists. As Joshi says in the Introduction, “This book…is intended only for those who profess an open mind on the subject of religion and religious belief” (10). No candy-ass stuff here – this is the real deal. Every rationalist, atheist, agnostic, and free-thinker I have ever heard of (and many I have not) are represented. Joshi has collected an excellent gateway to the literature of rationalism – one that also includes an extensive list for “Further Reading.” I always love these lists, and have built my library of rationalism over many years using these resources.
He has divided the collection into the usual sections, and presents the best of Thomas Huxley, Leslie Stephen, Emma Goldman, Bertrand Russell, John Stuart Mill, Antony Flew, David Hume, George Eliot, Carl Sagan, Thomas Paine, and Clarence Darrow. These make up a brief list of some of my favorites.
Only one author has two essays – Robert Ingersoll. I have a couple of Ingersoll’s works, but I had forgotten what a wonderful writer he was – especially when compared with some of the stiffs from the 18th century. Back in the ‘80s, I attended an American Humanist Association conference in Scarsdale, NY. I met Gloria Steinem and Corliss Lamont the father of 20th Century humanism. The entertainment at the banquet on Saturday night was Roger Greeley, who performed a series of monologues from the writings of Ingersoll. He sold first editions of Ingersoll’s works, and I bought one along with a signed poster of the event. I highly recommend Ingersoll for your philosophy/religion/rationalist bookshelf.
--Chiron, 11/8/07

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