Over the course of the last year, author James A. Lindsay and myself have discussed our thoughts on atheism as a movement, something we greatly disagree on. I am of the thought that movement atheism exists and Lindsay thinks otherwise, but it was his rationale behind it that intrigued me the most.
Lindsay would say that atheism cannot be a movement because atheism is not a “thing.” He argued that it was time for us to move past atheism, an almost post-atheist world and it was an idea I could not understand enough to support.
Well, thankfully, Lindsay has written a book on the very subject and sheds far greater light on the idea. The book is called Everybody is Wrong About God (Pitchstone Publishing, 2015), and dives into his thoughts on theology and moving to this post-atheism world he defended.
As I write this review and gather my thoughts on the book, I find it only fair to point out that I consider Lindsay a friend, he also references my own book in his, and we share a publisher. However, I want to be as honest as I can about the book and our differing views and I believe our friendship allows such a thing to exist, so I felt no obligation in picking up this book and writing a review to deliver a fluff piece that just helps my friend sell books.
The book starts by saying that in one sense, God is real, but he highlights that there is “God,” which exists and God, which does not. Understanding the difference is the only way to move past the argument of God’s existence.
I, like many other atheists am very tired of the God debate. I can enjoy it from time to time in an intellectual or fun conversation with a believer, but the debate itself is just old, theologians don’t offer up any new arguments, and atheists really don’t either, we just sometimes have new scientific data to tout about origins or evolution in action.
Lindsay’s “God” is more of a human need, an idea. Not a physical being like theists believe. So in that sense, Lindsay argues that atheists are more or less right.
Where I differ the most from Lindsay is that he is ready to walk away from the debate as a whole by saying that atheism has already won, so let’s pack up and move on. But while I agree we are correct, atheism is the most honest position on the existence of God, the rest of humanity has not caught up to that just yet and because of this, atheism as a “thing” exists.
Yes, it does exist, to a degree, as a counterpoint to theism as he argues, but until theism doesn’t exist, atheism will and must, and as a clear definition of someone who does not believe in God, atheism will always exist if the idea of God does, theistically or not. If we declare victory and walk away and try to build this post-atheist / post-theist world, we will be doing so alone and without the majority of the people on this planet.
But while I find myself in disagreement over this, I think Lindsay nails the overall point of this book towards the end when he lays out what he thinks this post-theistic world would look like. This is where the author comes alive and shines. I think Everybody is Wrong About God is ahead of its time and I think it is a book we should be reading now, as atheists who are ready to move past the God debate, even though society isn’t there yet.
This book, for me, shows a future I want to live in and inspires me to work to get there. For me, however, unlike Lindsay, I think that path is forged in movement atheism, through secular and humanist groups that will continue to chip away piece by piece at theology and bring about the kind of revolution that makes Lindsay’s vision a reality.
Blogger Ryan Bell called this book a manifesto, and I have to agree. Much like Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto to inspire workers to unite and forge a new future for themselves, such does Lindsay’s book for atheists. (And as friend of Lindsay, I will take great joy in imagining the cringing face he makes reading that he was compared to Marx.)
We have a goal, and Lindsay has a vision, and I believe combined, the world will greatly benefit from both coming into reality.
I encourage everyone who cares about the future of secularism to pick up this book and find a way to make use of Lindsay’s call to action in your own life and be inspired by what just may be next.