Book Review: Atheism Advanced
David Eller’s Atheism Advanced is not your run of the mill atheist tome, rehashing the old logical arguments against holding a god belief. It reads, instead, as an anthropological study, and it closely scrutinizes this thing that we call religion. I learned the answer to questions I never even thought of asking before; such as “Are there atheistic religions?” (yes) and “What makes a religion a world religion?” (the view point that they are the “one true faith”). You will definitely feel more educated about the world’s belief systems and how we fit into them after reading this. Packed with information, it could easily have been broken down into two of more volumes, if needed.
Being written to a Western audience, Atheism Advanced does still focus on the Christian religions, but it is careful not to get bogged down arguing against basic Christian rhetoric or dogma. What it does do is bring Christianity down to where it belongs, as just another belief system out of thousands of belief systems around the world. Eller points out that, even though there are some aspects that make Christianity unique, it is for the most part no different than any other set of superstitious beliefs.
The book starts out with a chapter that most atheist books oddly forget, the definition of theism and atheism, and makes it quite clear that being an atheist is simply not being skeptical enough. In following chapters, Eller defines “religion” in general, he analyzes the growth and evolution of religions and NRMs, explains why science is inherently atheistic, displays how Western tradition has shaped religion, and ponders on what we can do to keep religion in check.
Eller certainly made me realize how much religion, and Christianity in specific, has permeated our lives and affected how we act and speak whether we are religious or not. Instead of focusing on the minutia of theistic dogma, Atheism Advanced paints huge broad strokes that will help clarify exactly what this phenomena known as “religion” is and allow us to take a step back a bit and examine it in a much more scholarly and scientific fashion.