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BOOK NOTES: 'God Doesn't Exist and He Knows It'; New Book Seeks to Ease Acrimony about Atheism
Yaffe says he's not trying do what advocates for atheism like Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins -- to mention just two prominent atheists. "The purpose of my book is not to promote atheism but to 'rehabilitate' it.
He elaborates: "The term atheism is laden with prejudicial, irrelevant, and misleading connotations. This is why many people who privately think of themselves as atheists, in public describe themselves as agnostics. Over the past 20-30 years, the term has lost some of its social stigma. However, the stigma is still very strong and often tendentiously colors any discussion about the subject."
Yaffe tries to put the discussion into calmer perspective by: 1) clearly defining atheism at its very core, 2). proposing a new term that captures the essence of atheism while dissipating much of the remaining stigma.
"Nothing is more fundamental to atheism than the conviction that whether or not a god or gods exist is unknown, and probably unknowable. Therefore, all of atheism can be summed up in a single question; If god or gods exist, how can this be demonstrated?" Yaffe explains. "That's it; there is really nothing more. It is an invitation to deists (people who believe a god or gods exist) to demonstrate that the assertion is true," he adds.
To help steer the discussion into a more productive channel, He proposes replacing the term atheism with a coinage of his own: "theoterrogation" from "theo" meaning god and "terrogation" being the abbreviation of "interrogation" meaning questioning. For ease of use, the book generally shortens theoterrogation to terrogation and adherents to it referred to as terrogationists rather than theoterrogationists.
"Simply changing terminology of course is not a panacea; it does nothing to address the fundamental question. However, it can help change the nature of the discussion, as happened when Negro became African-American, gay marriage became same-sex marriage, etc., he argues. "Unquestionably, atheism by any other name would smell sweeter.'
Two other words you will encounter in this book are "deist" and "theist." Deist essentially means a someone who believes that some intelligence created the universe and may or may not still be guiding its development. Theist means someone who believes in a god who created the universe and actively interacts with it to guide it along the correct course. In short, deism is belief in some kind of god while theism is belief in a personal god.
Yaffe has written books about humor and jokes. Here's a sample "atheist joke" from his new book:
An atheist buys an ancient lamp at an auction, takes it home, and begins to polish it. Suddenly, a genie appears and says, “I’ll grant you three wishes, Master.” The atheist says, “I wish I could believe in you.” The genie snaps his fingers and suddenly the atheist believes in him.
The atheist says, “Wow. I wish all atheists would believe this.” The genie snaps his fingers again and suddenly atheists all over the world begin to believe in genies.
“What about your third wish, Master?” asks the genie. “Well,” says the atheist, “I wish for a billion dollars.”
The genie snaps his fingers for a third time, but nothing happens. “What’s wrong?” asks the atheist.
The genie shrugs his shoulders and says, “Just because you believe in me doesn’t necessarily mean that I really exist”.
* * *
In addition to "rehabilitating" atheism, Mr. Yaffe's easy-reading book offers sections on:
- The Essence of Theoterrogation (Atheism): What theoterrogationists hold in common — and what they don't
- A Short History of Terrogation (Atheism): Why are theoterrogationists so feared and loathed
- Mission Statements of Atheist Organization: What atheist organizations say about themselves
- Arguments For and Against the Existence of God: Classic attempts to answer a fundamental question
- Contemplations: Insightful quotations about belief, disbelief, unbelief, religion, and atheism
- Criticisms of Atheism (Theoterrogation): What believers say about non-believers
- Was the United States Founded as a Christian Nation? An attempt to settle a vexed question * * * While atheism is fundamentally simple, its implications are profound. If you start with the assumption that a god or gods exist, it can have dramatic impact on the very core of one's existence. If you start with the assumption that a god or gods do not exist, it also can have dramatic impact on the very core of your existence. "Only when this question has been answered can the subsidiary questions of how many gods there might be and what its or their attributes and commandments might be, have any relevance," Yaffe says.
About the Author
Philip Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s daily student newspaper.
He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974. For more about his books, including reviews, enter "Yaffe" in the search engine site on the right hand side of the Huntington News Network page.