Agnostic: I don't believe there is a God. Because I haven't seen
Atheist: There is no God. Because I'm an asshole.
Yes, this a serious discussion of atheism and theism, but, being that we are concerned with human beliefs, there is more than enough room for humor.
Mr. Day draws on innumerable sources, from history to sociology even to science fiction, to bolster his arguments. In particular, I like his references to "Accelerando" by Charles Stross, since I am also a fan of science fiction.
One of the best illustrations that Mr. Day makes is when he answers the paradoxes of God's omniscience and omnipotence vis a vis humanity's free will. How can an omnipotent -- and, hence, omniscient God -- exist where there is free will?
He looks back on his career as a computer game designer, specifically the experience of a friend, nicknamed Big Chilly, who finds himself surprised and shocked at the actions of his own AI creations in a computer game he had designed. In the context of this game, Big Chilly was, for all intents and purposes "god" to the various characters protrayed by his various AI's. He was capable of "knowing" everything they could possibly do. And yet, his AI's managed to almost outwit him, sneaking around behind him in this First Person Shooter game.
The points of similarity between the game scenario and Man's relation to God are obvious, yet Mr. Day's genius is to bring them into such clarity with a real world example.
Smart, funny, irreverant, devastating -- all are words to describe "The Irrational Atheist". In case I haven't made myself clear, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone -- atheist, agnostic, theist, or what have you.
One minor quibble, however, must be adressed. Mr. Day does a wonderful job demonstrating that religion, on the whole, is not the cause of war and violence in the world. However, he gave short shrift, in my opinion, to an examination of Islam and its scriptural basis for Jihad. The following e-mail exchange should illustrate the most satisfactory resolution of this question:
Hello, Mr. Day.
I have been reading your book, The Irrational Atheist, and I must say that I find very little that I can disagree with. However, I have one question.
On page 230, you wrote that religion "...can only be used as a scapegoat, because it does not provide the primary motivation or the means for crime, for war, or for repression and massacre." Not to question your knowledge in these matters, but Mark A. Gabriel make a rather compelling case that the Quran actually demands that the faithful wage war, not only on non-Muslims, but on those Muslims who do not adhere to the strictest interpretations of the teachings of Allah and his prophet, Muhammed. I was wondering if you could spare a few moments and share your thoughts on this matter.
For myself, while I do recognize the military, political and governmental aspects of Jihad, I can't seem to overlook the scriptural basis for such warfare.
Thank you for your time. I'd appreciate if you could get back to me on that. And if I haven't already made it clear, The Irrational Atheist is one great book! Keep up the good work and I hope to talk to you soon, my Friend!
Hi Gregory, I'm perfectly willing to grant Islam being an exception to
the rule for the very reason you provide. I hint at this when I point
out that one historically recent religion has caused more than half of all
religious wars in recorded history despite only being around for one-third
of that history. But that's a particular quirk of Islam alone, it's not inherent
to it being a religion, and even that aspect of Islam has been resisted for a
good part of Islamic history.
All in all, "The Irrational Atheist" is a compelling and entertaining read, well worth the time for anyone -- theist, atheist, agnostic or whatever.
Copyright Feb. 10th, 2008