Book Review: Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World

David Silverman is one of the most recognizable faces of atheism. Known for his appearances on FOX News and his in-your-face brand of atheism. Unfortunately, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World could have been a much better manifesto if not for the small portions filled with assumptions and flawed cause and effect analysis. Nevertheless, it is a useful guide for integrating activism into the atheist movement.

While Silverman advocates atheists coming out of the closet, which would be a positive if it all happened at once, but like the person who says “Follow me,” only to look over the shoulder and find they are alone. That is the reality. Still, the idea of not hiding atheism is a positive contribution, which would help to normalize the word atheist and make it just another noun. Identifying yourself as an atheist makes it clear where you stand.

An interesting and provocative portion that ties in with coming out of the atheist closet  is Silverman estimates there may be millions of atheists in the United States that remain silent because of public sanctions. His assertion is not a far reach considering that there are now more than 100 million unchurched people in the country who abandoned religion all its trappings

Although, I thought much of the book to be unrealistic in its implementation, it is not impossible for it to happen. An interesting scenario in the book occurs when Silverman debates a preacher. The preacher asks Silverman to address him as “Reverend” to which he replied only if the preacher addressed him as President since he is indeed the President American Atheists.

There are other useful anecdotes showing how to deal with religionists without being a "dick" as he calls it. He even gives a list of the most common apologist arguments such as the "ontological" argument, the "teleological" argument, the  cosmological argument and the argument from the moralist, which is probably the weakest of all and how to make gravel of them all. 

Silverman points out the logical fallacies in the arguments and how to combat them. I thought the recommendations for activism to be especially thoughtful. It promotes the idea that even bad press is good press because it brings awareness. Much like the Evangelical Movement receives so much coverage that many of its leaders never consider the negativity associated with their bigotry and ignorance.

Silverman recommends not let statements like I'm offended bother you as you to can be offended also. Lastly, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World provides a step by guide to help the atheist cause.

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 11, 2016 at 7:56am
Silverman does give lists of things for atheist ammunition when dealing with rude religionists. He also outlines typical religion arguments and ways to interlude destroy them. He offers quite a compendium of solid advice for dealing with religionists. Those weren't my issues started he began a cause and effect analysis, which I found less than convincing. Nevertheless, it was a good attempt to explain the affects of atheism today.
Comment by Joan Denoo on January 11, 2016 at 12:43am

I agree with Silverman, stand tall, proud, confident and competent in my claim of being an atheist. It is something for which I am proud. I don't take my position on Silverman and on atheism lightly. I know the reasons I refute the claims of religion, any religion, and I know how it feels to be confident in this position. Silverman does not take the position of an apologist for being atheist as religious do for being religious. I like that! He looked at the position of those who claim to have faith in supernatural events and use ancient traditions to justify present confidence. Just imagine, if you will, being on the boat with Noah and smelling all that fecal matter! Oh! Yuck! Let's get real, here, folks. A silly little story told to wide-eyed children who trust the grownups to be honest with them and they grow up believing such nonsense. It would be funny if it were not so pathetic. They grow up hearing of all these supernatural events of history and their own little lives offer no such evidence. Their grandpas die, their pets have to be put to sleep, many don't get their wish at Xmas time. Some doubt their perceptions; other doubt the stories. 

Growing up means letting go of nursery rhymes, fables, religious drama recognizing them for what they are, constructs of the human mind. 

I feel for the individual who learned to be obedient to a non-god and then wonders about the utility of being obedient to anyone or anything.  Individuals learn many unintended things. 

Joan’s Stages of Learned Optimism

Learned Distrust vs. Learned Trust.
Learned Shame vs. Learned Autonomy.
Learned Guilt vs. Learned Initiative.
Learned Inferiority vs. Learned industry
Learned Identity masks vs. Learned Identity
Learned Isolation vs. Learned Intimacy
Learned Self-Absorption vs. Learned Generatively
Learned Despair vs. Learned Optimism

The painful process of growing up requires facing the things we learn from family and community. We learn distrust, shame, guilt, inferiority, diffusion, isolation, self-absorption, and despair by our daily interaction with people upon whom we depend. Each stage of development involves looking realistically at what we learned that is not helpful or useful. The learned behaviors either prevent us from going to the next stage or lead us in the direction that ultimately leads to despair. If we have a clear vision of our preferred future, we can avoid the detours and roadblocks. Sometimes we get off track and there is nothing wrong with that; it just means we need to clarify in our minds our goals, STOP, BREATH, THINK, ACT.

Comment by kathy: ky on January 10, 2016 at 10:37pm
Interesting. I'll probably read it.

It's only twenty degrees out what else am l going to do.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 10, 2016 at 10:20pm
Daniel, you are sure enough right. It's not worth the time or effort. By the way, I prefer Batman!
Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 10, 2016 at 9:05pm
In all honesty I wrestled with rating and words in describing the book. My initial draft said the book was at best mediocre. Then I changed it for some dishonest reasons that remain hidden from me. Nevertheless, maybe mediocre with a plus sign might have been more reflective of my original thoughts.
Comment by Pat on January 10, 2016 at 7:39am

I just finished Silverman's book this week. On a scale of 1 (lousy) to 5 (brilliant), I'd give it a 4. There's no doubt that Silverman promotes the "in your face" brand of atheism. He is, however, careful to qualify it throughout the book, that his criticisms of religion is directed to the belief, and not the believer. I did find his criticism of Judaism (the religion in which he was raised), unique and eye opening. Including debunking the whole "matriarchal lineage" nonsense by citing scientific studies that Ashkenazims' DNA is east European, not middle eastern. I see Donald's point about yelling "Follow me," then hearing crickets chirp. I'd counter that with what I thought was a good account by Silverman on how the Reason Rally started from a mere idea to a gathering of 30,000. My one major criticism is his use of numbers and statistics to account for both the current number of us, and to predict our future growth. I took that as enthusiastic optimism, and not very accurate calculations. All in all, it's a good read, and one that I would recommend.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 8, 2016 at 11:27am

Silverman's attitude about promoting atheism is simple: go big or go home, and I don't see any way David is going home any time soon.  I haven't obtained the book yet, so I cannot opine on the logic therein, but I have liked Silverman's brash, up-front brand of atheism practically from the get-go.  His strategy, to treat atheism as something normal, something to be proud about and urging others to do the same, is much the same as what Madalyn Murray O'Hair did half a century ago.  The world wasn't ready to accept her position back then, but in the wake of 9/11 and subsequent controversy about how religion has behaved in the modern day, on top of the advent of the internet, his approach becomes far more effective and his goals far more attainable.

I'll read Fighting God eventually, but I don't have to read it to support what David Silverman is about.

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