Candle power

Udo and Russell did an interview about 50 Voices of Disbelief recently.

Part of the first question was why this book, and what Udo said certainly resonated:

I guess my main motive was some kind of frustration (that’s putting it mildly) about religious people’s published musings about how they “struggled to find God” only to eventually succumb to the delusions we all know too well. It seemed only fair game to me to let reality-based people explain why they did better.

Quite. For all the screeching about the dreaded ‘newatheism’ the default position is still that there’s something impressive about ‘struggling’ with ‘faith’ and then collapsing into the old nonsense again.

The candle on the cover and what it means:

Udo: The flickering candle is normally understood as a symbol of believers’ connection with their imaginary God. Our intention, of course, is to sever that link and accordingly we blew the candle out on our cover. I am curious whether people who see the cover will see it that way…

Russell: I don’t “read” the symbolism in the way that Udo describes. I expect that that will be how most people see it initially, but I hope they’ll then do a cognitive shift to seeing it as the candle of reason or Enlightenment, which is blown out in so many places and circumstances by religious nonsense. As we say in the book’s introduction, it is very difficult to keep the candle of reason alight at a time when unreason in many forms is resurgent. But each essay is one small effort on behalf of the candle of reason, one contribution to keeping it alight. That reinterpretation is reinforced by the interior design: when you open the book, you see one lit candle for each essay, on the essay’s first page!

Ah, I didn’t know that; that’s nice. We could call it ‘Fifty Candles’…

Is it ‘part of the New Atheism movement’?

Russell: Well, what’s the New Atheism movement? I think the expression is often used pejoratively to attack anyone who argues against religion. The best sense that I can make of “the New Atheism” is that it is a return of normal transmission – a return of perfectly normal and proper criticism of religion in the public sphere, after this seemed to become taboo during the 1980s and 1990s. We have to thank Dawkins and others for breaking the taboo, so in that sense I suppose the book can be seen as part of the so-called New Atheism.

And then, there’s the familiar issue…

All too often, religion demands and receives deference in the political sphere. And yet, over recent decades it became taboo to criticize religion strongly in public.

And that’s a bad, and coercive, and dangerous situation.

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