Much excitement! I received my advance copy of “The Australian Book of Atheism” last night. Boy, it’s big! Even more exciting, we’ve just heard that it’s been reviewed in Bookseller + Publisher, the bible of the Australian book trade, and awarded a 5 star (out of 5 star) rating!
The book will be released into all good bookstores on 22 November (e.g. Booktopia, ABC Shops, Borders, Readings) and can also be pre-ordered from Embiggen Books (use the link below).
After I got home last night, I couldn’t resist dipping into the book immediately.
Editor, Warren Bonett has written a brilliant and funny introduction.
I started by re-reading my own chapter on the history of Australian atheism and was quietly pleased with this first attempt to sketch out the skeleton of a history which I hope to flesh out into a book over the next 12-18 months.
Max Wallace’s chapter on the Australian constitution picks up many of the historical markers in my essay and expands on them. Similarly, Clarence Wright’s “Religion and the Law” adds yet another layer of knowledge to the ‘historical’ section of the book.
Robyn Williams (The Science Show) headlines the next section on personal experiences of being an atheist.
“What puzzles the atheist, even about full-square mainstream religions, is how many odd, or even mad, shibboleths they insist upon,” Williams explains.
Colette Livermore, formerly a nun with Mother Teresa’s order follows with the story of her loss of faith.
“Mother Teresa asserted that ‘she, who has herself for a guide, has a fool for a guide.’ However, if the inner core of one’s being is surrendered, what protection does the individual have against tyranny?”
The wonderful, amazing Tanya Levin (author of People In Glass Houses: an insiders story of a life in and out of Hillsong) is typically funny, moving and profound in her story of being brought up to be a ‘Kingdom woman’ in Sydney’s Hillsong Church.
“… we were schooled as women to be as the Proverbs 31 woman. Stepping one step up from the ‘Submissive Wife’ movement so popular in the States, the Proverbs 31 woman is all of those things without actually being human. She is Mrs America and the Bride of Christ.”
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s chapter comes next, writing about growing up in an atheist/communist household and its impact on her political views.
“The curious thing is that, as Australian society has become increasingly secular, religion has more than ever begun to creep back into political life.”
I was delighted to discover that David Horton is a brilliant, funny and witty writer. His light-hearted (but serious) diatribe against agnostics draws on inspirations as diverse as My Fair Lady and Bob Dylan.
“Being agnostic is a bit like voting for the Iraq war and then saying later that you only did so because of the dodgy intelligence, knowing all along that there wasn’t dodgy intelligence; there was in fact no intelligence …”
And, finally, around 2am, I finished my night’s reading with Tim Minchin’s beat poem, Storm. I think all of us have been in Tim’s situation – sitting at a dinner party when someone spouts off with some absolute religious or new age garbage and despite urgent, silently mouthed warnings and furious kicking under the table from our partner our self-restraint fails and we explode:
“I’m becoming aware
That I’m staring,
I’m like a rabbit suddenly trapped
In the blinding headlights of vacuous crap.
Maybe it’s the Hamlet she just misquothed
Or the sixth glass of wine I just quaffed
But my diplomacy dyke groans
And the arsehole held back by its stones
Can be held back no more.”
I’m going to spend today reading the rest of the book. Flipping through the pages I see that the Education section begins with my friend Hugh Wilson’s explanation of how Queensland’s secular education system was nobbled.
Professor Graham Oppy talks about evolution and creationism in Australian schools. The fabulous Kylie Sturgess gives us an insight into the life of an atheist teaching in religious schools:
“It’s 1999 and I am told that, as an employee of the nation of Islam, one of my duties is to supervise the female students of the college while they participate in Dhuhr. I make sure that my brightly dyed Coke-bottle red hair (invisible in the course of everyday work) is even more firmly sealed under my hijab ….”
A section of culture and society comes next, including essays on euthanasia and abortion from Dr Philip Nitschke and Leslie Cannold . Jane Caro talks about atheism and feminism, while Karen Stollznow (now one of the hosts of the Point of Inquiry podcast) looks into spiritualism and pseudoscience.
The section on politics includes essays from politicians Ian Hunter, MLC and former senator Lyn Allison as well as prominent Australian journalist, Michael Bachelard and academic Russell Blackford.
The Philosophy section examines the possibility of a moral, spiritual and meaningful life as an atheist, while Tamas Pataki talks about religion and violence.
And, in the final section, Dr Adam Hamlin and Dr Rosemary Lyndall-Wemm take us inside the human brain in an attempt to explain the ‘religious experience’ in naturalistic terms.
Don’t miss this book – and please let your friends know about it. As Meg Wallace said to me last night – “At last! The Australian atheist Bible!” ;-)
Point of Inquiry – Karen Stollznow interviews Warren Bonett about The Australian Book of Atheism
Pre-order The Australian Book of Atheism at a discounted price from Embiggen Books.
Booktopia on The Australian Book of Atheism
More info from me on The Australian Book of Atheism including full chapter list.