Last week, we stopped in the middle of page 34, and Atheist Universe had already racked up 4 hasty generalizations, 2 rhetorically bolstered arguments, 1 epistemological nightmare and 2 strawman arguments. In the positive, the chapter also aspires to a worthy cause, and contained 1 well-spoken observation that everyone can agree on. Let's return to see how the next ten points go…
So, the first chapter in David Mills' Atheist Universe is titled, "Interview With An Atheist."
As I was reading, I quickly realized I was making lots of red marks in the margins and body copy. Of those marks, I include the strongest and most relevant arguments, and discard weaker, less persuasive ones. Even so, I could see as early as page 31 that my critique of Chapter 1 was going to take multiple posts. The chapter itself is over 40 pages long, and as a general custom, I'm won't critique more than ten points in any one post in this series. Ten is probably too many already.
I suspect much of this chapter's purpose was to rebut common misconceptions people have about atheists. This is a noble cause. I sympathize with any misunderstood minority party, because there's perhaps nothing more frustrating in life than having people insult you based on what they think you believe, which is often wrong. All in all, Mills does a good job setting some things straight, but unfortunately, he also affirms just as many common misconceptions about Christians. Nonetheless, considering that religious tension and distrust of atheists was still considerably high in this country when Atheist Universe was published (2004), I'd say the chapter was appropriate. Nobody deserves to be on the receiving end of ignorance, especially in a religio-political climate of hostility such as the first few years after 9/11.
Still, that doesn't mean "Interview With An Atheist" was without problems, and in my opinion, the first one worth mentioning comes on page 28.
I've decided to do a book review post series, and should you choose to follow along with me, the first book we'll be taking a look at is David Mills' Atheist Universe (Ulysses Press, 2006, 978-1-56975-567-9).
From the backcover: "Using simple, straighforward logic, this book rebuts every argument that claims to 'prove' God's existence."
Really? Every argument? I already smell an inflated claim and we haven't even peeked inside, but I suppose if we are to call ourselves rationalists, we'll have to suspend judgment until further evidence appears.
In the Forward by Dorion Sagan, we get a small taste of what Atheist Universe might be about. Sagan begins with some blanket statements about creationists – always fun to shoot fish in a barrel – then moves swiftly into personal views of the biblical God as a, "2,000-year-old petty Middle Eastern tyrant." Sagan concludes, assuring us that Mills' work represents, "impeccable logic, intellectual bravery and professional clarity," and these will be part of the criteria by which I judge the book.