Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Atheism by Kerry Walters

Atheism: A Guide for the Perplexed by Kerry Walters. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 2010. Paperback, 195 pps., incl. Works Cited and Index.

I had two professors who used a book they'd written for the textbook of college courses they were teaching. One was a man who taught Phonetics. I loved everything about that book, from the soft red leather cover to the typeset used on the pages to the subject matter. The other was a creative writing instructor. I did not find his book to be as worthy. I judged that book to be as stilted as the writer-- not terribly creative and more concerned with pumping up his false ego. It was with these past experiences that I picked up Atheism: A Guide for the Perplexed written by a college professor who also uses it in undergrad courses that he teaches.

Atheism: A Guide for the Perplexed is designed to make atheism accessible to the average intellectual. On that level it succeeds admirably. It is an easier read than Richard Dawkins, cites numerous philosophers and theologians in its' pages, is careful to define what is meant by key words, and distills the framework of both worldviews into easy-to-follow ideas.

Where the book fails is in Kerry Walters' constant apologies for the outspokeness and brashness of Dawkins and other "New" Atheists. Those theists who are turned off by Richard Dawkins' take no prisoners style are unlikely to convert to atheism anyway. I see no reason to apologize for Dawkins just as I also see no reason for a theist at an A.A. meeting to apologize to the sole atheist in the room before sharing her spiritual experiences.

Apart from the constant mention of Dawkin's presentation, I enjoyed this slender volume. I came away with a deeper understanding of Aquinas' Five Proofs for the existence of God. I also gleaned from its' pages the multifactorial nature of a decision to believe or not to believe. And finally, I was able to identify the commonality vs. causality concerns inherent in a naturalistic historical narrative of religion itself.

Atheism: A Guide for the Perplexed is unlikely to win any converts from the fundamentalist crowd to non-theism. Nor will it suit the reader who possesses only a rudimentary understanding of logic and discourse. Although I do not agree with Kerry Walters' final supposition of where the atheists and believers may begin a constructive dialogue, there was much in this book I found to be informative.

sapphoq reviews says: cautiously recommended.

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