Book Reviews

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god is redundant
By M. Anton Mikicic
2009 Dog Ear Publishing

Reviewed by Kurt Bocksenbaum
November 26, 2010

With the plethora of books about atheism that have been released in the past decade, do we need another? Well, if the book is M. Anton Mikicic’s god is redundant, then the answer is, yes. god is redundant is not a revolutionary, ground-breaking, masterpiece. However, it is a great book for someone who is frustrated with all of the hypocrisy of their faith and is looking for answers on how to lead a complete life. What we have is a very approachable, good introduction to why the concept of a personal god is, well, redundant.

Mikicic explains he wrote this book for his daughters as a way to explain why he went from being a Christian to an atheist. Every thing in the book has been said before, but it’s more of how it is said that makes this a relevant read. It has a softer tone that slowly introduces you to an atheistic point of view.

“We need to recognize religions for what they are, collections of myths. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of folklore. If understood as literature, I can appreciate many Bible stories as poetry, symbolism, or metaphors. But is understood as morality, many of these stories have simply not aged well, and we must muster the courage to prevent the immoral teachings of these ancient stories from being used to harm people today.”

–M. Anton Mikicic

The book is arranged in many short, but complete, chapters, almost like little essays. Each one is able to stand on its own if you would like to skip ahead to something that really interests you. He begins with a basic primmer on freethought and theism – complete with an excellent glossary of terms. Put the glossary in front so you know what you are reading about. Great idea! Mikicic then goes on to explain that there has always been a battle between science and rational thought on one side and religion on the other. He does an admirable job of showing that science has made vast contributions to humankind and religion has never advanced beyond the archaic stories told by the barbaric nomadic people who invented the original tales.

Mikicic explains why United States is not now, nor has it ever been, conceived to be a Christian Nation. This is a very timely and relevant chapter that should be bookmarked as it contains many wonderful quotes from past US presidents lauding separation of church and state.

Because he was a Christian, Mikicic is at his best when he exposes Christianity and shows that the Bible is full of horrible passages of violence. The Judeo-Christian faiths are shown to actually promote intolerance and hatred of others (especially women) – not to mention sanction murder for not following its flawed doctrines.

Mikicic takes on all of the common arguments for the existence for a god including the big ones like the causal argument, the design argument, and the authority argument to name but a few. He dispatches the faulty arguments easily with the words of other freethought authors and also includes simple but lucid personal accounts to sort of drive the message home. The number of arguments refuted is admirable. The whole format is especially effective because the treatment is short and to the point without a lot of superfluous examples or long proofs.

Mikicic demonstrate how really common the ideas of a virgin birth, resurrection, and miracles were in many early religions. In fact, he very clearly explains that there is absolutely nothing unique or special about Jesus. For example, you could substitute the stories of Dionysius or Mithra for Jesus’ birth and you would more or less have the exact same story.

The final chapter in the book deals with morality. It basically sums up earlier arguments about how religion, in general, is an amoral idea. People are much better off shedding the gods they worship and instead should endeavor to treat people with kindness and respect.

The book has many quotes from current authors like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Victor Stenger, as well as, plenty from older authors from Thomas Paine to Mark Twain to Albert Einstein. The quotes are carefully interspersed throughout the book to support conclusions Mikicic makes.  All in all, the book is entirely enjoyable. Unlike other similar books, god is redundant, is very easy to digest for the average, casual reader. Some of the concepts can be complex, but Mikicic does an excellent job of bring them down an almost child-like level. The book can be read in a few sittings without difficulty. I highly recommend god is redundant to both theists and atheists alike. Except perhaps for one quote from comedian George Carlin, the book is very kid friendly – certainly more appropriate than the Bible or any other holy book. Most of all, the book excels at explaining why you do not need a god to have a happy fulfilling life. God is, in fact, redundant.

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godless
By Dan Barker
2008 Ulysses Press

Reviewed by Kurt Bocksenbaum
March 30th, 2010

Few people you will ever meet in your life can say they have had a life quite like that of Dan Barker. Here is a man that was raised to be an evangelical preacher. A man who spend his life attacking everyone that did not share has warped, ignorant view of the universe. The man was a deranged borderline sociopath. And then he saw the light. Godless is a masterpiece in self-discovery and much more too.

The book is divided into four main sections. The first is an autobiography that reads like a thriller. I literally could not put it down. Barker has the ability to share his most candid thoughts and feelings in a way that brings you into his life. You can actually feel what he is experiencing at various moments in his history. For those who have absolutely no idea of what it is like to be such a religious zealot (yours truly included) here is an archetypical example. I started out hating him – the young Barker that is. He represents everything that is wrong with religion and his blind ignorance is despicable. He truly believes that Christ is going to return in his own lifetime and that only those who follow his doctrine will be saved from and eternity in hell. But as he matures, things start to change for him. The universe is not a simple two dimensional playground for his imaginary friend.

The second chapter of the book begins with, “It was 1979 and Jesus had not returned.” That sets the stage for what is to come. Something is definitely not right.  As time goes on Barker loses his faith and goes through one of the most incredible transformations you could imagine. He was not just Christian losing his faith. He was “thee” Christian about to make the largest paradigm shift you could imagine. And it was not easy. By the end of the first section Dan Barker has shared his most personal thoughts and feelings to the point where the reader really can not only relate, but has a sense of personal attachment with him.

The second section of the book provides excellent arguments against the existence gods and what it means to be an atheist. The third section attacks Christianity and Christ specifically. Both provide and outstanding treatise on why religion is ridiculous and harmful. These sections are not unlike similar books that Dawkins, Hitches, Harris, and the like have written. With the possible exception of Harris though, Barker is by far the most practical and easiest to grasp and relate to. This section makes an excellent resource to be used for future debates with theists.

The final section of the book talks about Barker’s current life, as well as his wife Annie Laurie’s near death experience while being pregnant – an ordeal that was surmounted without prayer. Barker also shares what he and the Freedom from Religion Foundation have done and are doing. The scope of Barker’s commitment to free thinking and rational thought is both exhilarating and inspiring. At the conclusion of the book I literally gasped out loud, “wow!” godless is an exceptional book that is worth reading regardless of your position on religion. I recommend it to both non-theists and theists alike. There is a far greater chance that godless could change the minds of theists than harsher in-your-face tirades by Dawkins and Hitches could. godless is wonderful story about a real person and a very lucid critique of religious dogma. It is a  “must have” for any freethought library.

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