Book Review: A Crisis of Faith – Atheism, Emerging Technologies and the Future of Humanity by Phil Torres
File Size: 498 KB
Print Length: 174 pages
Publisher: Dangerous Little Books (July 18, 2012)
The last chapter in this book is titled “The Greatest Story Ever Told?” And the rest of the book lays the groundwork for that story. It outlines the scientific approach, based on evidence and reason. Validated against reality.
As a child Phil Torres “was often told that the Bible is not merely a good or even a great story, but that it’s the greatest story ever told.” As an adult his education lead him to conclude that science’s story “is simply better than the Bible’s.”
So that last chapter is “science’s story of who we are, where we came from and where we’re going.” The question mark is there because it is the author’s suggestion and his version of the story. Different writers may present different details, but the story itself certainly is great.
From evangelical to atheist
Phil Torres was raised in an evangelical household. He says:
“I was born and raised in an evangelical household. For years as a child, I slept crowded to one side of the bed to leave room for Jesus to sleep next to me. You could say that I took the Bible seriously; I was a true born-again believer. I think my departure from religion was inevitable (although not always desired). The more questions I asked about the intellectual foundations of Christianity, the less trustworthy its doctrines and dogmas seemed; the more I queried religious authorities about how they knew what they claimed to know, the more foolish they looked.”
In this book Torres carefully explains why he abandoned those “beliefs – both terrifying and wonderful – that I once held so dear to my heart and soul.” He does so very clearly. His language is economical and mostly accessible. While there are some inevitable technical words used in his discussion of philosophy they are kept to a minimum. The chapters are short – usually expressed as a question. For example: “What is Evidence?,” What is Evolution?,”What is Science?” and “Is Religion Good for People and Society?” And at about 180 pages plus notes, the book itself is relatively short – especially for this subject.
All this makes the book ideal for the younger person, or the person relatively new to the subject. For someone who wants a clear and accurate overview of the arguments, and not a detailed discussion of intricate problems in theology or philosophy.
As the book’s subtitle suggests, there are a couple of chapters on robots and cognitive enhancement which probably represent particular interests of the author, rather than presenting any essential arguments for science and atheism. Inevitably they are also more speculative but make up only a small part of the book. I guess we can allow an author such foibles – particularly as he has done such a good job of presenting the essential material.
Singles – a new genre?
One effect of the increasing presence of digital books in the market has been the arrival of a new genre – the short but complete book providing an introductory overview to its subject. Amazon markets these as “Singles” and some publishers are encouraging authors, especially new authors, into this format. I am sure that the short, clear overview presentation of “singles,” and their generally lower price, appeals to many readers. And I think it is probably one of the most attractive ways of introducing readers to unfamiliar subjects.
I see A Crisis of Faith belonging to this “singles” genre. Its introductory nature, the clear and economical writing and its relative shortness will appeal to the younger reader and to those looking for a clearly written overview and not a detailed exposition of abstract debates.