Waiting for God

I highly recommend Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, by Lawrence Bush.

This is more of an intellectual memoir than a comprehensive argument, and that’s exactly its merit. Bush comes from a background where New Age and liberal Jewish spirituality are the most prominent alternatives to nonbelief, and he details the very real attractions of such views as well as explaining why he remains skeptical of any sort of supernatural reality. The ambivalence about secular humanism he expresses throughout the book is also valuable. Bush is well aware of the weakness of Enlightenment atheism in matters of community, identity, and therapy, and he thinks these are important issues to be faced.

Nonbelievers should pay more attention to thoughtful, more ambivalent books such as these, as well as fire-breathing exposures of the absurdities of fundamentalism. There are many intelligent people out there who perceive atheism as a reactive, shallow point of view, not entirely without justification. It doesn’t hurt to take them seriously and see why they’re drawn to New Age ideas that seem utterly misguided from a scientific viewpoint. Sympathetic critics such as Bush are not just more likely to get through to such readers, he can also teach a few things to Enlightenment rationalists such as myself.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06394155516712665665 CyberKitten

    It sounds like the memoir of someone who wants atheism to be more than it actually is.

    Why should atheism provide community, identity *or* therapy. That's really not its function. I suggest that the author join some clubs or takes up an involving group hobby. Whilst it is apparently true that some (most?) people stay within their religious communities for such things, ceasing to believe in God doesn't mean you have to give them up & end your life wandering the world alone and unloved. You just have to look elsewhere for what your previous community used to provide.

    TE said: There are many intelligent people out there who perceive atheism as a reactive, shallow point of view, not entirely without justification.

    Maybe they think its shallow because it doesn't have much to say beyond lack of belief in God. I'm confused as to what else it *should * be saying? I'd be interested to hear your justification.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11300622174153812004 rushmc

    >>There are many intelligent people out there who perceive atheism as a reactive, shallow point of view, not entirely without justification.

    You lost your credibility with me here. How is a worldview based on what can be verified, rather than what can be imagined, "shallow"? And religion is always the reactionary position against default atheism, not the other way 'round. No one was born believing in any given religious system.

    Also, I fail to see how atheism is incompatible with community. Religion focuses more directly on community-building for reasons of fundraising and power-consolidation, but certainly atheists can easily participate in community based upon civic advantage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03743116454273042629 Sheldon

    Taner,
    Thanks for the provacative short review, it has piqued my interest. I wonder about the rather knee-jerk and defensive commenters though.

    “Also, I fail to see how atheism is incompatible with community.”

    Perhaps it is not neccessarily incompatible, but it does seem like it can be hard to find in most places in the U.S.A..

    And this is one of the theories as to why religion is so much more stronger in the U.S.A.. We are an alienating society with few bonds of natural community solidarity. Church is one of those places where one can find some form of community nearly anywhere in the U.S.. But good luck with atheist community in a rural area.

    “Religion focuses more directly on community-building for reasons of fundraising and power-consolidation,”

    But that again depends on the church. Not all are money grubbing Mega-churches.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09010421115826273321 Rourke

    Re Sheldon: “But good luck with atheist community in a rural area.” Finding one in small (30,000ish) urban areas in places like NH, VT and ME is hard, too. I live in a town that is almost entirely Christian, some 90% Catholic and the rest of various Protestant groups. Needless to say, there are no secularist, skeptical or humanist organizations there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    Rourke: I bet there are at least a few closeted freethinkers in such places.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09010421115826273321 Rourke

    Re Jim: I think you’re right. I just have to find them.


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