Sunday, August 25, 2013

First reader reviews for 50 Great Myths About Atheism are in

Our book is finally out, virtually at least. Since mid August 50 Great Myths About Atheism is available on amazon as a Kindle edition. The print version should be rolling out in Europe in early September, North America in early October etc. We are on, so to speak. The first reviews of the Kindle version have already appeared on the site. Here's a flavour:

4.0 out of 5 star Ambitious, and mostly very satisfying Aug 25 2013
By J.A. Rousseau - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
I spent a little time mulling over whether this should be a four- or a five-star review. In truth, I'd have liked to award a 4.5 star rating, because the book is perhaps slightly too ambitious, with the authors setting a standard that was always going to be difficult to full satisfy. The main concern I have can perhaps be summarized in saying that it's sometimes unclear who the audience of the book is intended to be, and the tone and content of various chapters ends up seeming slightly inconsistent as a result. Sometimes one gets the impression that the book is "arming" atheists against the caricatures of theists, and at other times, that theists are being addressed in an attempt to dispel their confusions. This gives rise to an unevenness in the level of detail, and also the tone, of various chapters.

As for the reasons why I'd want to award at least 4, and ideally 4.5 stars, the book is enormously instructive. For the patient reader, the level of detail in many of the chapters is superb, and even for "myths" that you're already very familiar with, you'll often find a citation or example you didn't yet know about. The book begins by asking you to consider what are quite tricky questions, even before proceeding with discussing the myths - namely in discussions of who "counts" as an atheist, and what should count as myths. In my view, this could be described as one of the more challenging elements of the book to write, in that there are all sorts of opportunities for readers to take issue even at that early stage, rejecting the authors' definitions, and choosing to adopt an uncharitable attitude to the rest of the book as a result.

However, Blackford and Schüklenk set the tone for the rest of the book in those introductory sections, explaining with great clarity and to good persuasive effect that certain questions can be set aside, or at least resolved to a sufficient extent to make the myths that are dealt with worth focusing on. As I say, that rhetorical and argumentative skill is then carried throughout the book, leaving the reader feeling both enlightened and entertained in the reading of it.

I'd highly recommend this book for (at least) two sets of readers: first, the honestly curious theist, who is suspicious of the easy dismissals that some of his or her kind deploy against atheists. Second, the atheist who wants to develop a thoughtful, well-reasoned set of defenses against some of the stereotypes that are assigned to atheists - not only by theists, but also in popular culture.

(Disclosure: I am personally acquainted with both of the authors, and one is a colleague of mine. I do not however regard that as having influenced my comments unduly.)
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as the editorial reviews said Aug 24 2013
By peter veitch - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Excellent thinking about this important topic. Some good ideas that are new to me. I have changed some views after reading this.

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