The best book defending atheism isn’t great.
I keep looking for a good book defending atheism. It’s not easy. Jon Mills’ Inventing God: Psychology of Belief and the Rise of Secular Spirituality is better than Grayling’s book, about which I posted a while back, but it’s not great.
Mills tries to do three things. First, to demonstrate that God does not exist. In this he joins a long line of aggressive atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens (2007), Sam Harris (2004), and Richard Dawkins (2006). Mills says he is not a “vociferous atheist,” but he could have fooled me with his remarks about “the believing masses [who] cannot accept the fact that we are ultimately alone.” (p 104)
The third thing Mills tries to do is construct a defense of a humanistic spirituality. He says a lot of good things about finding “intrinsic worth and meaning in living our lives for the present” (p 228), but the foundation of this claim was laid down by Camus and Sartre, and I don’t see where Mills adds a great deal to this argument. In Mills’ defense, it should be pointed out that this is not a book aimed at an academic audience, but to an educated public. Or at least that’s the way I read it.
The second thing Mills tries to do is construct a psychoanalytic argument explaining the need for God. He begins with Freud (1930), who argued that God is an infantile delusion of an enormously powerful father figure. I turn to another psychoanalyst to find a different way of thinking about God. I’ve posted about D. W. Winnicott before.