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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