Saturday, January 19, 2008
The Portable Atheist
Got my copy last week and just starting reading a few entries. This is a 480 page book full of excerpts from famous writing over the ages from people like Lucretius, Conrad, Orwell, Einstein, Russell, Spinoza, Mill, Darwin, Hume, Hobbes, Marx, as well as the modern "new atheism" writers. 47 people in total.
I have yet to understand why the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is included. He was a Persian poet from 1048-1123. There are widely varying translations of this into English in volving huge disputes, and people claim Kayyam was anything from a mystic to an atheist. I haven't read it, but my preconceived notion is that he was a mystic misinterpreted as a nihilist by people who didn't understand Sufism. Don't quote me. I have a feeleing however that including Kayyam in an atheist reader would be like including a Buddhist writing as a prop for atheism. I've long suspected that Hitchens deeply misconstrues the things that Harris harps on and this may be a case in point. But I'll look at it and get back.
There were three poems I read that seriously touched me. I have yet to develop into a steadfast poetry fan, but these really hit home and I can see why they were included. Two by Philip Larkin and one by Thomas Hardy.
Church Going- Philip Larkin
Aubade- Philip Larkin
God's Funeral- Thomas Harding