Good writing and clear thinking don't always go hand in hand. It's a pleasure, then, to find both in a recent book about going it alone -- no deus ex machina for us, please -- titled 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists.
In one volume, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk, you'll find idiosyncratic essays by a range of atheists from science fiction authors and philosophers to scientists and activists. Only a few names were previously familiar to me (Michael Shermer, James Randi, Peter Singer, Dale McGowan). It's a geographically diverse group, too, with writers from India, Scotland, England, Australia, Germany, Nigeria, and the U.S.
There's even an enlightening essay by Sean Williams, an Australian speculative fiction author, titled, "Doctor Who and the Legacy of Rationalism." Williams, noting that the popular television show features "frequent references to the Judeo-Christian faith," goes on to explain:
So whence arose my burgeoning sense of a-religiosity? The answer is not difficult to find. It resides in the series' steady commitment to rationalism and the scientific method. 'Everything that happens must have a scientific explanation,' the Doctor says, 'if you only know where to look for it.' This message is consistently emphasized when church and faith rear their heads, as they do on numerous occasions, along with the show's other enduring villains.
Other personal turning points in this volume include such incidents as the following:
1. When she read the World Book Encyclopedia from A to Z, Margaret Downey (founder of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia) "discovered the difference between mythology and reality. The many gods that had been created by man became evident."
2. When Michael Shermer, who had become a "born again" as a high school senior, attended a college class in which it was "okay to challenge any and all beliefs without fear of psychological loss or social reprisal," he realized how insular his worldview had been. He is now Executive Director of the Skeptics Society and editor of Skeptic magazine.
Read an excerpt and the table of contents from Voices of Disbelief here.
AND ONE WARM (BUT NOT FUZZY) VOICE
Written in another voice entirely, that of psychotherapist and creativity coach Eric Maisel, is The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods. A rare resource for seekers beginning to shift away from faith, as well as those already firmly without supernatural beliefs. The Atheist's Way is a prod to mindfulness. More than half the chapters focus on meaning (making it and dealing with it), and coping with meaninglessness. Maisel doesn't tiptoe around his view of the wrongness of all religions. (Nor does he eschew the use of plentiful exclamation points, but that's a quibble.) Above all, he admonishes, instead of pointlessly talking to the sky, change your life to allow yourself more meaningful options.