Review: 50 Great Myths About Atheism

When I think about 50 Great Myths About Atheism, by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk two thoughts dominate my mind: first, “Is this really necessary?”, immediately followed by, “Yes, unfortunately, it probably is.”

Russell’s previous book, Freedom of Religion and the Secular State, impressed me with how it laid out almost uniformly sensible position with exceptional rigor. And I only add the “almost” qualifier because of a conditioned aversion to absolute statements. In 50 Great Myths, Russell* takes the same approach to debunking 50 myths about atheism.

Yet often, it feels like the myths being debunked are too silly to merit such a rigorous treatment. For example, there’s a considerable amount of effort devoted to debunking the idea that the “Brights” bondoogle is proof of the arrogance of atheists. My first reaction was to think that that claim doesn’t deserve more than a couple sentences refutation, and that anyone who really needed to be told why the claim was silly probably would be bothered to read such a relatively dry, academic debunking.

Yet Russell and Udo cite a number of examples of people who ought to know better repeating the myth. So maybe it is necessary after all, and dry, academic debunking will at least have a chance of getting theology professors to stop saying such things. Here’s hoping, anyway.

*Note: Apologies to Udo Schuklenk here. I’m less familiar with his work, and it’s possible that if I were more familiar with it, I’d see his finger prints all over the book, the way I can see Russell’s fingerprints all over it. As it is, it’s hard for me to avoid thinking of 50 Great Myths as “Russell’s book.”

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  • the Old Adam

    Sounds like an interesting read.

    I’d like to share with you a couple of myths that about 98% of Christians hold to:

    I’ll bet you’ve never hear anything like this before in your life.

    • JohnH2

      Acts 2:37-38: that’s to the sermon linked.

  • Chris Hallquist

    The claim that barely deserves a response is that this is proof of atheists’ arrogance. TLDR; but it was never intended to claim atheists are smarter than theists, indeed Dawkins and Dennett took steps to avoid that misunderstanding from the beginning. Maybe they should have realized confusion would be inevitable, making the label badly chosen, but its not evidence of atheists’ arrogance.

    • MaryLouiseC

      I have asked many atheists why they don’t believe in God and the #1 response is this: They say they are too smart to believe in him. If that’s not arrogance, what is?

      • Brian Westley

        What’s arrogant about not believing in common supernatural myths?

        If you want an example of arrogance, how about believing the creator of the universe is a personal friend?

    • Mick

      The very first moment I heard the story about “Brights”, even before I knew who was pushing the idea, I just knew that Christians would instantly grab that word and turn it against atheists.

  • Y. A. Warren

    It is amazing to me that anyone is attempting to codify a group of people, based on what they don’t believe. This is much like the sound of one hand clapping, to my way of thinking.