Monday, November 23, 2009

50 blogs on disbelief - The best one

50 Blogs on Disbelief
My thoughts on the book, 50 Voices of Disbelief, Why We Are Athiests, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk. Written as I read them in no particular order. The page number of the essay is provided at the top of each entry.
p 191 Dale McGowan “The Unconditional Love of Reality”

Dale is another one of the few authors in the book that I am familiar with. He has a great website. I highly recommend it for parents. This is a great essay from the first sentence to the last. It starts with an honest statement:

“It’s all too easy to get one’s own narrative wrong.“

He tells a personal story beginning with his father’s funeral as a boy to his discoveries of free thinking authors in his 30’s. He was an avid reader and read the entire Bible more than once, and was reading books of other cultures at the same time, noting the similarities. He found Greek and Roman mythology more interesting. He admits a predisposition for wanting Christianity to be true, but then says,

“The truth itself is more beautiful than an illusion, even when that truth is uncomfortable.”

He discusses the many hurdles he needed to overcome. He is quite open about how difficult it was to learn of “any significant presence of articulate disbelief in our cultural history.” even though he was an anthropology college student at Berkeley. This was pre-Internet and pre-Richard Dawkins. He lists a number of famous names that, after a lot of digging, he found to be what he calls “freethinkers” including some of America’s Founding Fathers, Einstein, A. N. Wilson, Seneca, Twain and others. He claims

“A systematic cultural suppression of the rich heritage of religious doubt keeps that heritage out of view.”

Even after immersing himself in that heritage some doubt of his doubt still lingered. Lengthy correspondences with two theologians, who were also friends, finally sealed it.

I’m not so sure about a cultural suppression, at least not in any “conspiracy theory” sense. I will give Dale the benefit of the doubt and suggest the book “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” for those who want to explore that further. It includes an analysis of how textbooks are selected and indicts all of us for them being watered down and inaccurate.

He ends with two sentences that are as beautiful as any hymn:

“But I know that all the comforts and assurances I need, all we’ve ever really had, are those we get from those around us who have inherited the same strange, scary, wonderful conscious life that each of us has. We are cosmically insignificant, a speck and a blink in time, inconceivably unimportant – except to each other, to whom we should therefore be unspeakably precious.”



  1. Thanks for the link to McGowan's Web site. I just put in a request for "Lies My Teacher Told Me" at the library--sounds like an interesting read.

  2. Thanks for the lovely post, and especially for granting the benefit of doubt, something seldom offered in reviews. You are correct -- I don't see the suppression of the history of disbelief as conspiratorial, nor even conscious -- but it manifests itself reliably enough to have the same effect.