As an educational component of our FreeThinker Friendly Congregation, Westwood Congregation will be facilitating a monthly discussion group this fall.
The book club is designed to:
- provide participants with a broad and balanced look at the major ideas of atheism, humanism and ‘free hinking’.
- provide a critical response to atheism and humanist ideas and
- examine issues related to parenting secular children.
The book club meets in the basement of the Church on a monthly basis. In true Unitarian tradition theists, atheists, post-theists, agnostics and the unclassified are all invited to participate in one or all book club meetings!
After a very successful first year, the FreeThinker Book club is taking an extended summer break and will return in September 2017. If you have suggestions for titles for the Book Club please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overview of 2016-17 FreeThinkers’ Book Club.
This year we begin the book club series with a defensive overview by a prominent American Atheist – Victor Stenger. In this 2009 book, Stenger reviews the major challenges that atheism confronts and examines the impact of religion on society. This is a good overview book and if you only want to understand what “New Atheism” is – don’t miss the first book club.
In October we discuss perhaps the most widely read and cited new Atheist, Englishman Richard Dawkins. In the God Delusion, Dawkins overviews scientific critiques of religion and discusses the empirical evidence for religions’ benefits and harm to society.
In November we open the door to a critical discussion of atheist beliefs by reviewing one of the growing list of books written to refute new atheism. In this edited text, Tom Gilson gathers chapters from 16 leading, (but mostly Christian) theologists, apologists and philosophers.
We take a break in December and return in January with a book designed to help parents (and grandparents) raise ethical children – without religious belief. Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion is edited by Dale McGowan.
Our final meeting in February makes the case for combining atheism not with religion, but with various forms of spirituality. A series of earlier books (Atheist Spirituality, Comte-Sponville, 2006; Religion for Atheists de Botton, 2012) led to the a very surprising book by one of most widely read American new atheists, Sam Harris. In this 2014 book, Harris talks about his years of spiritual practice and meditation, while authoring numerous atheist best sellers (for example The End of Faith, Terror and the Future of Reason, 2006). Harris writes of the value of a Buddhist-like non-theist spirituality.
Below are extracted excerpts from Amazon.com describing the selected books as well as links for purchasing the books individually or as a set. All the books with the exception of True Reason are available from Edmonton Public Library (most with multiple copies). I have recommended EPL purchase a copy of True Reason, or it can be borrowed from other book club members.
If there is interest additional titles and times will be added.
For more information contact Terry Anderson. mailto:Terrydanderson2@gmail.com
Amazon.com Excerpts from Selected Titles
Sept. 29 – The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason by Victor Stenger
In this new book, Victor J. Stenger, whose God: The Failed Hypothesis was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007, reviews and expands upon the principles of New Atheism and answers many of its critics. He demonstrates in detail that naturalism—the view that all of reality is reducible to matter and nothing else—is sufficient to explain everything we observe in the universe, from the most distant galaxies to the inner workings of the brain that result in the phenomenon of mind.
Stenger disputes the claim of many critics that the question of whether God exists is beyond the ken of science. On the contrary, he argues that absence of evidence for God is, indeed, evidence of absence when the evidence should be there and is not
Wed. Oct. 26 – The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
A preeminent scientist – and the world’s most prominent atheist – asserts the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to 9/11.
With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into th e advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe’s wonders than any faith could ever muster.
Wed. Nov. 23 – True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism by Tom Gilson
Refuting the New Atheists’ claim to be ‘the party of Reason’. With clarity of thought and precise logic, more than a dozen contemporary Christian apologists have come together to unmask the self-aggrandizing claims of the New Atheists, including Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. In sixteen, carefully constructed essays, these Christian thinkers demonstrate that ‘reason is the New Atheists’ weakness, not their strength.’ They show that ‘Christianity is on the whole much more reasonable than atheism,’ and that ‘Christian faith as a whole supports sound reason, and Christians have applied it well.’ With coherence and competence these writers address the fallacies of ‘the party of Reason,’ and offer an introduction to the true reason of Christianity by making their case equally accessible to both the casual enquirer and the serious student.
Wed. Jan. 25, 2017 – Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion edited b Dale McGowan
In Parenting Beyond Belief, Dale McGowan celebrates the freedom that comes with raising kids without formal indoctrination and advises parents on the most effective way to raise freethinking children.
With advice from educators, doctors, psychologists, and philosophers as well as wisdom from everyday parents, the book offers tips and insights on a variety of topics, from mixed marriages” to coping with death and loss, and from morality and ethics to dealing with holidays. Sensitive and timely, Parenting Beyond Belief features reflections from such freethinkers as Mark Twain, Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, and wellness guru Dr. Don Ardell that will empower every parent to raise both caring and independent children without constraints.
Wed. February 22, 2017 – Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris
For the millions of Americans who want spirituality without religion, Waking Up is a guide to meditation as a rational practice informed by neuroscience and psychology.
From Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of numerous New York Times bestselling books, Waking Up is for the twenty percent of Americans who follow no religion but who suspect that important truths can be found in the experiences of such figures as Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history. Throughout this book, Harris argues that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow, and that how we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the quality of our lives.
Waking Up is part memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris—a scientist, philosopher, and famous skeptic—could write it.