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An atheist defends religion?
Posted: 16 July 2009 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Anyone know anything about a new book coming out, An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off with Religion Than Without It by Bruce Sheiman?  It’s published by Penguin’s Alpha imprint, which includes the Complete Idiot’s Guides and other how-to and reference titles.

The Web site of the publisher says “For centuries, the theism-atheism debate has been dominated by two positions: stringent believers committed to the ‘yes, there is a God’ argument, and atheists vehemently driven to repudiate not only God, but also religion as a cultural institution. To date, this is the first and only mainstream book in which a nonbeliever criticizes atheism and affirms religion. An Atheist Defends Religion persuasively argues that religion is overwhelmingly beneficial for humanity, regardless of whether God exists, based on a new paradigm of 10 affirmative dimensions that make up religious experience. It also puts to rest the theory that religion is behind most of the world’s sectarian violence by showing that religion becomes evil when it is politicized. Readers will learn they do not have to be fundamentalists to be believers, and about the value and benefits of religion itself.” (http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781101080597,00.html)

Since I’d never heard of him, I tried to learn a little about the author.  Amazon’s page on the book says “Bruce Sheiman has been a student of philosophy and theology for 30 years and is the author of Getting into Graduate Business School. His interest in the atheism/theism debate led him to the Unitarian Universalist Church of All Souls in Manhattan, one of the nation’s most influential progressive religious communities.” (http://www.amazon.com/An-Athiest-Defends-Religion/dp/B002AU7MHW )

According to his profile on Meetup.com (http://philosophy.meetup.com/202/members/3868614/, assuming it’s the same Bruce Sheiman), he belongs to an alternative-medicine group promoting “herbalists, naturopathy, chiropractic, energy healing, accupuncture [sic], Chinese and Eastern medicine, non-conventional medical research, integrated medicine, Ayurveda, massage therapy, nutrition, and so on” (http://alternative.meetup.com/2/ ) and a meditation group celebrating (“Eastern meditation theory and practice . . . particularly focused on Hindu, Buddhist and so-called ‘New Age’ varieties of meditation. This group is meant to be a community of believers, for those who believe in Eastern and Eastern-influenced spiritual philosophies) (http://meditation.meetup.com/33/ ).

Here’s a mostly positive, Christian review of the book:

An Atheist Defends Religion is a compelling read

Paula Parker
Christian Entertainment Examiner
http://www.examiner.com/x-2770-Christian-Entertainment-Examiner~y2009m7d16-An-Atheist-Defends-Religion-is-a-compelling-read

[...]

A self-proclaimed “aspiring theist” Sheiman presents a compelling argument in response to the militant atheists who proclaim the the rejection of God is a sign of intellectual superiority and will bring about the betterment of society. Instead, the author maintains that religion has been a force for good throughout history, for the individual, family, communities, globally and historically. . . .

However, this book is not intended to simply prove that militant atheists are in the wrong. With abundant research, the author takes on the role of mediator, presenting arguments for both sides. He explains the benefits of science and religion in the world, the dangers of extremism on both sides and offers suggestions for the two to co-exist with respect. . . .

[ Edited: 16 July 2009 12:13 PM by josh_karpf ]
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Posted: 16 July 2009 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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So it’s basically A New-Age Woo-Meister Defends Religion, then?

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Posted: 16 July 2009 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Now, now, Doug.  Here at my publisher, we never call new-age stuff “woo.”

We call it “woo-woo.”

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Posted: 16 July 2009 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Man, I gotta become a Snake-Oil salesman. That’s where the dough is!

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Posted: 16 July 2009 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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VYAZMA - 16 July 2009 12:26 PM

Man, I gotta become a Snake-Oil salesman. That’s where the dough is!

No kidding ...

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Posted: 16 July 2009 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I had to laugh at, ” Unitarian Universalist Church of All Souls in Manhattan, one of the nation’s most influential progressive religious communities”.  While there has been a wide range of ideas among the congregations of different UU churches, the minister at that one is a real crackpot (if she’s the same one who was there about ten years ago).  She’s written articles strongly defending tha value of Christianity, and belief, and criticizing “narrow-minded” atheists.

His book is like Rush Limbaugh registering as a Democrat then writing “An Expose’ of the Democratic Party by a Democrat”.

Occam

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Posted: 17 July 2009 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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josh_karpf - 16 July 2009 11:54 AM

Now, now, Doug.  Here at my publisher, we never call new-age stuff “woo.”

We call it “woo-woo.”

Down my way, out here in the back country, we prefer the term “fluffy-bunny”. wink

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Posted: 17 July 2009 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I think the biggest consideration is that we simply can’t do much about religion. All the evidence indicates that religion is no mere cultural accident, but instead something deeply rooted in the human psyche. It is possible by education to get some portion of the population rational enough to ditch religion, but I think the odds of eliminating crime are better than the odds of eliminating religion.

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Posted: 17 July 2009 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Chris Crawford - 17 July 2009 07:29 AM

I think the biggest consideration is that we simply can’t do much about religion. All the evidence indicates that religion is no mere cultural accident, but instead something deeply rooted in the human psyche. It is possible by education to get some portion of the population rational enough to ditch religion, but I think the odds of eliminating crime are better than the odds of eliminating religion.

I think, for a lot of people, they connect their religion to their family.  It is hard to see anyone severing ties to a family member that has given them comfort in times of need and allayed all their fears with dreamy tales of a wondrous afterlife.  I think it is easier to confront the truth about the inconsistencies and costly side effects of religion if you don’t grow up with a special family extension you visit every week.

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Posted: 17 July 2009 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Chicken - 17 July 2009 08:13 AM
Chris Crawford - 17 July 2009 07:29 AM

I think the biggest consideration is that we simply can’t do much about religion. All the evidence indicates that religion is no mere cultural accident, but instead something deeply rooted in the human psyche. It is possible by education to get some portion of the population rational enough to ditch religion, but I think the odds of eliminating crime are better than the odds of eliminating religion.

I think, for a lot of people, they connect their religion to their family.  It is hard to see anyone severing ties to a family member that has given them comfort in times of need and allayed all their fears with dreamy tales of a wondrous afterlife.  I think it is easier to confront the truth about the inconsistencies and costly side effects of religion if you don’t grow up with a special family extension you visit every week.

There’s the rub. Down here in the US South, “church” isn’t just a building you go to one hour a week, it’s the centerpiece of the local people’s entire culture. It’s where you see your friends and neighbors, it’s where your kids go when they’re Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts (you’d be amazed how many Scout troops are hosted in church basements), it’s where at least two people I know met and wooed their spouses (and where at least one person I know met the person he cheated on his wife with), and at the end of it all, it’s where the living go to bury their dead, knowing with certainty that they too will someday be buried there next to generations of their own people. Vacation trips, charity drives, study groups, knitting circles, art classes, the church is at the center of all of it for pretty much everyone who lives within driving distance of my house.


What do we secularists have to offer in place of this richness? The sad, barren truth, without even the dubious comfort of an uppercase “T” on the word? The truth that there is no God and when you’re dead, you’re dead? And we secularists wonder why we have, shall we say, a bit of a “PR problem”.

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Posted: 17 July 2009 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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There’s the rub. Down here in the US South, “church” isn’t just a building you go to one hour a week, it’s the centerpiece of the local people’s entire culture. It’s where you see your friends and neighbors, it’s where your kids go when they’re Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts (you’d be amazed how many Scout troops are hosted in church basements), it’s where at least two people I know met and wooed their spouses (and where at least one person I know met the person he cheated on his wife with), and at the end of it all, it’s where the living go to bury their dead, knowing with certainty that they too will someday be buried there next to generations of their own people. Vacation trips, charity drives, study groups, knitting circles, art classes, the church is at the center of all of it for pretty much everyone who lives within driving distance of my house.


What do we secularists have to offer in place of this richness? The sad, barren truth, without even the dubious comfort of an uppercase “T” on the word? The truth that there is no God and when you’re dead, you’re dead? And we secularists wonder why we have, shall we say, a bit of a “PR problem”.

Good hit! I agree. By the way, my Cub Scouts ceremonies were held in a(my) church basement. That’s up here in the Rusted out remnants of another time.

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Posted: 17 July 2009 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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VYAZMA - 17 July 2009 12:09 PM

There’s the rub. Down here in the US South, “church” isn’t just a building you go to one hour a week, it’s the centerpiece of the local people’s entire culture. It’s where you see your friends and neighbors, it’s where your kids go when they’re Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts (you’d be amazed how many Scout troops are hosted in church basements), it’s where at least two people I know met and wooed their spouses (and where at least one person I know met the person he cheated on his wife with), and at the end of it all, it’s where the living go to bury their dead, knowing with certainty that they too will someday be buried there next to generations of their own people. Vacation trips, charity drives, study groups, knitting circles, art classes, the church is at the center of all of it for pretty much everyone who lives within driving distance of my house.


What do we secularists have to offer in place of this richness? The sad, barren truth, without even the dubious comfort of an uppercase “T” on the word? The truth that there is no God and when you’re dead, you’re dead? And we secularists wonder why we have, shall we say, a bit of a “PR problem”.

Good hit! I agree. By the way, my Cub Scouts ceremonies were held in a(my) church basement. That’s up here in the Rusted out remnants of another time.

Yep, same here, and I lived within line-of-sight of the Empire State Building (which is as “sophisticated East Coast Liberal” as one can get and still be within the borders of the US of A). My Cub Scouts (I eventually attained the coveted rank of “Webelo”) and Boy Scouts meetings were also held in the basement of our parish church. This is just one small aspect of the myriad ways that “church”, broadly defined, answers a deep human cultural need.

Secular humanism will overcome “church” the day that secular humanism offers something better. And to be perfectly blunt, “the truth about how the world is” just isn’t perceived by most people as “better”. We need more than just “the truth”, much more. I’m not sure that secularism as currently constituted even has the potential  to replace “church”.  If for no other reason than the fact that it simply isn’t set up structurally to answer the same set of human needs that “church” answers.

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Posted: 17 July 2009 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Chris Crawford - 17 July 2009 07:29 AM

I think the biggest consideration is that we simply can’t do much about religion. All the evidence indicates that religion is no mere cultural accident, but instead something deeply rooted in the human psyche. It is possible by education to get some portion of the population rational enough to ditch religion, but I think the odds of eliminating crime are better than the odds of eliminating religion.

If we could eliminate religion, THAT would put one heck of a dent in CRIME!!

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 17 July 2009 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Yep, same here, and I lived within line-of-sight of the Empire State Building (which is as “sophisticated East Coast Liberal” as one can get and still be within the borders of the US of A). My Cub Scouts (I eventually attained the coveted rank of “Webelo”) and Boy Scouts meetings were also held in the basement of our parish church. This is just one small aspect of the myriad ways that “church”, broadly defined, answers a deep human cultural need.

Secular humanism will overcome “church” the day that secular humanism offers something better. And to be perfectly blunt, “the truth about how the world is” just isn’t perceived by most people as “better”. We need more than just “the truth”, much more. I’m not sure that secularism as currently constituted even has the potential  to replace “church”.  If for no other reason than the fact that it simply isn’t set up structurally to answer the same set of human needs that “church” answers.

Yeah, I know a little bit about you, from reading your Website. Dig it! Liked your McNamara/Col. Kurtz essay!! I also got as high as Webelos!! In the church basement. I became an altar boy as soon as possible, to alleviate the mind-numbing boredom of mass.
I also had an evil sense of self-satisfaction knowing that I was up there, partaking and assisting in the rites- as an atheist. Funerals and weddings too!! vampire
That Stanley Theater must have been pretty cool. I have a couple of Grateful Dead shows from there. 71 and 73 I think.

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Posted: 17 July 2009 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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VYAZMA - 17 July 2009 12:53 PM

Yep, same here, and I lived within line-of-sight of the Empire State Building (which is as “sophisticated East Coast Liberal” as one can get and still be within the borders of the US of A). My Cub Scouts (I eventually attained the coveted rank of “Webelo”) and Boy Scouts meetings were also held in the basement of our parish church. This is just one small aspect of the myriad ways that “church”, broadly defined, answers a deep human cultural need.

Secular humanism will overcome “church” the day that secular humanism offers something better. And to be perfectly blunt, “the truth about how the world is” just isn’t perceived by most people as “better”. We need more than just “the truth”, much more. I’m not sure that secularism as currently constituted even has the potential  to replace “church”.  If for no other reason than the fact that it simply isn’t set up structurally to answer the same set of human needs that “church” answers.

Yeah, I know a little bit about you, from reading your Website. Dig it! Liked your McNamara/Col. Kurtz essay!! I also got as high as Webelos!! In the church basement. I became an altar boy as soon as possible, to alleviate the mind-numbing boredom of mass.
I also had an evil sense of self-satisfaction knowing that I was up there, partaking and assisting in the rites- as an atheist. Funerals and weddings too!! vampire
That Stanley Theater must have been pretty cool. I have a couple of Grateful Dead shows from there. 71 and 73 I think.

Yep, the very place. Apropos of the whole “church” sub-thread, the legendary Stanley Theater (from the balcony of which a young kid named Frank Sinatra saw a crooner on stage and decided “that is what I want to do!”) is now a ... wait for it ... church. Jehovah’s Witness, if memory serves. My blood ran cold when I found that out. I graduated from grammar school in that place—got to stand up on the stage as valedictorian—and now some Jeebus Jumper is up there going on ad nauseam about The Lorrrrrudddddd? Oh, I am depressed about that.

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Posted: 17 July 2009 01:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Yep, the very place. Apropos of the whole “church” sub-thread, the legendary Stanley Theater (from the balcony of which a young kid named Frank Sinatra saw a crooner on stage and decided “that is what I want to do!”) is now a ... wait for it ... church. Jehovah’s Witness, if memory serves. My blood ran cold when I found that out. I graduated from grammar school in that place—got to stand up on the stage as valedictorian—and now some Jeebus Jumper is up there going on ad nauseam about The Lorrrrrudddddd? Oh, I am depressed about that.

Ughh…NO…NO!! How does that happen in NJ?

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