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A.C. Grayling


Six polemics on religion and an essay on kindness

Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Polemics is an accurate description of the tone of these short pieces, which are uncompromising and tough, very much in the Richard Dawkins style. Grayling makes this clear in his introductory first chapter and the remaining chapters amplify the theme.

In Chapter 2 he attacks the notion that religions deserve special respect, any more than do, say, political parties. Chapter 3 counters the notion that there are 'fundamentalist atheists'. In fact, Grayling dislikes the term 'atheist', because he thinks it concedes the default position of belief in God to theists. He prefers 'naturalist'. I am not fully persuaded by this argument, because to most people 'naturalist' conveys something different—it brings up the picture of someone pottering about in the countryside studying the birds and the bees.

Chapter 4 continues the discussion of names, distinguishing humanism, secularism and atheism from one another. It also includes a rather odd aside on the sufferings of Jesus, which Grayling thinks were less severe than those of women in childbirth (how does he know?). Chapter 5 is about the absurdities of faith and how it corrodes reason. Chapter 6 is about the superiority of science as a guide to knowledge, Chapter 7 advances the view that, despite claims to the contrary, religion is declining and moribund.

The final chapter is a statement of humanism. "For convenience, I use the term 'humanists' to denote those whose ethical outlook is non-religiously based—which is, in other words, premised on humanity's best efforts to understand its own nature and circumstances."

There is no real argument in this short book, just a statement of position. As such, its interest is largely limited to readers who want to know how Grayling sees these questions.

20 May 2008

%T Against All Gods
%S Six polemics on religion and an essay on kindness
%A Grayling, A.C.
%I Oberon Books
%C London
%D 2007
%G ISBN 1-84002-728-2 / 978-184002-728-0
%P 64pp
%K philosophy, religion

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