In a time when more people than ever are questioning or turning away from their faiths, the number of atheists around the world continues to increase. Atheist used to be a term disliked by those who could not comprehend a person lacking faith in a higher being, but recently this has changed with people leaving the religions they once believed in, turning to science and reason for answers instead. This has become very apparent in the publishing world with the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens – to name only a few – topping bestseller lists. What follows is a guide to the growing genre of atheist literature.
While Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion is by no means the first on the topic, it has been the most popular, with continuing sales since publication. Dawkins is a strong spokesman for his book and his belief; he stands up for atheists everywhere, open to challenges from anyone, whether it be Bill O'Reilly or the former head of the New Life Church, Ted Haggard. In The God Delusion, Dawkins addresses the history of religion, giving its existence a loose scientific basis, but then going on to explain, with examples, why he believes it is not longer necessary.
Daniel C. Dennett has published a number of books, but Breaking the Spell is the first in which he takes on religion calling it a natural phenomenon. Dennett's angle is a philosophical one, as he rationalizes the need for faith in history, but not in the present, when so much is understood about the fundamentals of the world and the beginnings of life.
Sam Harris's first book on the effect religion has had on the world, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, tackles all religions, but mostly the Christian faith, citing and explaining numerous examples of why religion has caused the deaths of many, as well as the current state of the world and its prejudices. His subsequent Letter to a Christian Nation: A Challenge to Faith is a short hardcover that works as a companion piece to The End of Faith. Harris addresses the fundamentalist Christians of the world, calling them on beliefs that have led to the suffering of others. Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great is the latest bestseller to question the validity and value of religion. Hitchens' mantra is that religion poisons everything. He starts with examples from his own life, and then proceeds to cover every major faith around the world, as well as a variety of sects and minor religious groups; he provides countless examples of faiths that have led or still lead, to suffering.
Finally, Joan Konner's The Atheist's Bible: An Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts is a small almost-pocket-sized hardcover that serves as an entertaining coffee table reference book. It is not a bible by any means, but rather a comprehensive collection of sayings regarding atheism, evolution, and those who see little point to religion. It is the perfect little book for anyone wanting to have some catchy quotes at their fingertips.
Whatever your beliefs - or lack of them - there's a great deal of food for contemplation in the ever growing library of books that take positions against the influence of religions in world history and in modern life.
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