While in Oregon I managed to knock a couple of books off the pile: The Religion War, by Scott Adams, and Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, by Julian Baggini.
I think about God a lot. Not in a worshipful way, but in a curious way: why do humans tend to want/need to believe in some mysterious personality running the universe? Why do folks that are seemingly rational in every other way, throw it out the window when it comes to religion? Is there a God, and if there is, why would it have to be the way humans have characterized it? Isn't God more a reflection of our fears and desires than an actual picture of reality?
Well, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction doesn't provide any answers to those questions (nor did I expect it to). It's kind of a work of atheist apologetics, a short course in the anti-belief (not anti-god) arguments that exist. If you've done much philosophical or theological reading at all, none of the arguments will be new to you. It was a quick, enjoyable read, and kind of nice to have the arguments available in a short format, but I felt that some of the arguments were not presented as forcefully as they could have been. Perhaps that's due to the limitations of the "very short introduction" format.
One useful tidbit I gleaned from the book is that (at least according to the writer) christian apologetics is not really useful in proving the existence of God or promoting belief, but is more geared to attempting to show that belief in God is not completely inconsistent with rationality. In other words, apologetics is preaching to the choir.
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The Religion War actually suggests some interesting answers to the questions I ponder. It's another thought-provoking book from Scott Adams, who seems to like to cleanse his palate with a bit of philosophy in between the "Dilbert" books and comics. This book is sort-of a sequel to God's Debris, his first short-form foray into philosophy, cosmology and theology.
The setting is earth, approximately 30 years from about now, when the Christians and Muslims have raised the stakes of their religious war to global, all-encompassing proportions. The leaders of each side, each absolutely convinced that he knows the will of God, and indeed that God is on his side, are locked in a struggle of wills and weaponry.
The narrative of the story concerns how the strife is resolved, but that's not as interesting as the proposals about the nature of reality and "god" that are thrown in almost as an afterthought in various exchanges between "the Avatar" (AKA "the smartest person in the universe) and other characters. The interesting thing is that Adams manages to challenge conventional beliefs about, and conceptions of, God without coming off as overly antagonistic to any particular side (but that's coming from me, and I'm impossible to offend in this area).