Mostly for devotees of the New Atheism. More than a decade later, not much has changed, as the faithful and the skeptics...




A commemoration of the only extended conversation the four bestselling authors ever had.

It was the loosest of confederations that united these “Four Horsemen” of the literary atheist apocalypse. The publication, around the same time, of bestselling challenges to organized religion by neuroscientist Harris, philosopher Dennett, biologist Dawkins, and journalist/essayist Hitchens linked them in the public’s mind, as each of them participated in increasingly public debate on the ascendance of atheism and the decline of religious faith. The bulk of this slim volume is a transcript of a two-hour cocktail conversation among the four, in 2007, at the annual conference of the Atheist Alliance International, filmed by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and subsequently available on DVD and YouTube. Padding what would otherwise be a 90-page transcript in large print are a biographical and contextual introduction by Stephen Fry (“sitting in on these dialogues…reminds us that open enquiry, free thinking and the unfettered exchange of ideas yield real and tangible fruit”), a new essay by Dawkins (“The Hubris of Religion, the Humility of Science, and the Intellectual and Moral Courage of Atheism”), and considerably shorter introductory pieces by Dennett and Harris. Though the conversation has plenty of wit and bite, it is the atheist equivalent of preaching to the choir, capable of reinforcing convictions but unlikely to topple or change any. It’s a convivial conversation without agenda, as the four thinkers try to figure out what they’re collectively trying to accomplish and what the best outcome might be. Dawkins takes the hardest line, hoping that organized religion will simply disappear as the world comes to its collective senses; Harris is the most mystical, confirming the sacred and practicing meditation while distancing both from God; Hitchens wants the debate to continue forever; and Dennett appreciates some of what churches do, though not what they believe.

Mostly for devotees of the New Atheism. More than a decade later, not much has changed, as the faithful and the skeptics continue to talk past each other.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51195-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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