A spirited repudiation of pies and deities in the sky in favor of an ethic that “is about this world.”
London-based academic and philosopher Grayling (To Set Prometheus Free, 2010, etc.) has the sharp analytical mind of fellow naysayer Richard Dawkins, though he is gentler about saying no to God or god or gods. Grayling first makes the distinction between the consolations of belief and the attendant costs, writing that while some people are indeed likely to feel some sense of enhanced well-being at the thought of a supreme being, “the burdens are social and political as well as personal.” One need only look at some of the legislation coming through the more pious American states to see his point. Grayling proposes against religion “as such, in any form,” a grown-up philosophy that requires both personal accountability and social awareness, that addresses some of the big-picture items that religion sometimes obscures or evades—sex, for one thing. That “grown-up” qualifier is important, for Grayling considers religious belief to be a species of superstition, “a hangover from the infancy of modern humanity, sticky and enduring because of the vested interests of religious organizations, proselytization of children, complicity of temporal powers requiring the social and moral policing that religion offers, and human psychology itself.” That’s about as stern as the author gets, so readers looking for fire-and-brimstone contrarianism will want to turn to Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens instead.
Mild though the rebuke is, a readable and persuasive argument—if, of course, an exercise in preaching to the choir.