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This interview is copied from Smashwords.com, one of the book retailers where my short, free e-book is published: The Reason Revolution: Atheism, Secular Humanism, and the Collapse of Religion. More info: dandana.us/atheism
There are many popular books about atheism. Why did you write another?
I applaud Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Darrel Ray, and other atheist authors for their excellent contributions to what I call the Reason Revolution. My small book, only a 30-minute read, is intended for people who may not have the time or interest to undertake a multi-hundred-page book on atheism. It concisely poses nine science-based “reasons for skepticism” to stimulate readers’ thinking about the plausibility of their beliefs, and offers several “reconciliation theories” to help doubters attempt to bridge the gap between faith and fact. I hope it prompts every attentive reader to make a choice between empirically known reality and supernaturalism.
Your book is free. Why?
Comfortably retired and approaching age 70, I don’t need the money. More importantly, and for obvious reasons, free books are “purchased” more often than books with a price. My objective is to explain atheism and secular humanism to the maximum number of people, especially those outside the secular echo chamber. So, I want to minimize barriers to access to this learning, such as cost and reading-time.
How and when did you become an atheist?
I was reared in a Protestant community in rural Missouri. My mother was the church pianist. My grandfather was the choir leader. I earned a Sunday school award for not missing a day for six consecutive years. So, I was immersed in a religious culture, although I was troubled by unanswerable questions from an early age.
About age 15 I happened upon a small book titled Bertrand Russell’s Best that changed my life. It showed me for the first time that there were answers to my troubling questions other than those provided by family members and our local preacher. I soon redefined myself as an agnostic, and by age 18 I was an atheist.
As an author, I am inspired by the prospect that other truth-seekers, young and old, may discover my little book and be changed as profoundly as I was by Bertrand Russell’s small volume, which remains on my bookshelf.
Is The Reason Revolution a rehash of ideas found in other books?
Some of its content will be familiar to people who have read other science-based books about atheism, although my treatment of the subject is edifying even to well-read atheists.
My book contains one concept in particular that I have not seen elsewhere, namely “The Accidental Human Population” (Reason for Skepticism #4). Other authors and reviewers assure me that this is their first exposure to the intriguing idea that no person who has lived in the past 10,000 years, including Jesus and other founders of religions, would have existed had not one specific, accidental, sexual event occurred in human history. Christianity, Islam, and all other contemporary religions would not have been invented had this sexual accident not occurred at the moment that it did.
Another unique feature of my book is the discussion of animal rights as an issue affected by religious orthodoxy, which falsely bifurcates human and non-human animals.
I am confident that readers, both new and well-versed, will find many novel and thought-provoking ideas on its pages.
You are a psychologist. How does your education in behavioral science inform your atheism?
Early in my PhD program, I became intrigued with how attitudes and values form and change. Students of human behavior observe that religious belief consists of attitudes and values that usually are incorporated into the self from the child’s surrounding culture prior to adulthood. Rarely are religious beliefs initially acquired following a youth free of superstition and dogma.
Second, counseling psychology is a “helping profession,” meaning that practitioners who choose such a career care about the wellbeing of people. That concern is at the core of my worldview as a secular humanist.
To the extent that I am an “activist” atheist, it is because I care about the wellbeing of people and am convinced that a life free of religion is more enjoyable and meaningful than one burdened by the confusing falsehoods of religious belief. I hope "The Reason Revolution" makes a positive difference for individuals who find meaning in the book, and perhaps makes some small contribution toward improvement of the collective human condition.
Why are you an atheist?
Read the book. That question is answered in 8000 carefully chosen words!