I recently finished “Fighting God“, a book written by David Silverman, president of American Atheists and I felt it deserved a review. Silverman can be found on Twitter under the handle @MrAtheistPants. He is a vocal atheist and campaigner for the separation of religion and state as intended by the constitution of the United States. Silverman appears on TV regularly and inspired the WTF face meme. He also organised the 2012 Reason Rally which is scheduled to go on repeat this year.
Silverman’s writing style is direct, humorous and easy to read, making his book very accessible. You get the feeling that he means the things he says and get a sense of the passion and the anger that drive him. I have to admit that his firebrand style appeals to me because I agree that it is necessary to speak out against unreasonable beliefs.
Obviously, Silverman is a very active and outspoken atheist, as one might expect from the president of an atheist organisation. He describes himself as a firebrand atheist, by which he means he is not only openly an atheist but an in-your-face atheist, speaking out when and where he can even if that means it will likely lead to confrontation. In this book, he argues the point that it takes the firebrand atheists (those who dare to be a dick) to shift the Overton window, so that moderate atheists suddenly appear more reasonable.
One of the things that I particularly enjoyed, is the way he clarifies the term “atheist” and advocates that people who have no belief in a god or gods identify as atheists, not as agnostics, humanists or secular. Not doing so not only skews the number of people who are effectively atheist in polls or such but it also muddies the water when it comes to discussion. The word atheist is clear while the word secular or humanist is less understood, as Silverman shows in his book. I used to identify as an anti-theist but after reading “Fighting God”, I agree with Silverman that using the word “atheist” is a better fitting description and I have decided to use that from now on.
A lot of “Fighting God” is relevant mainly for a US audience, which I found a little disappointing but it’s hardly surprising when you consider the fact that it was written by the president of American Atheists. That being said, it was good to read about the types of battles “American Atheists” picks and the successes they have enjoyed. Here in the Netherlands, where the government is largely secular and blasphemy laws have been done away with, much of that activism no longer seems necessary but as Silverman correctly says: rights are lost in small increments. We still have political parties who seem to cut and paste their party program out of a holy book, so it’s important for atheists to keep a watchful eye on this.
Overall, what I have gained from this book is an insight in the motivation of David Silverman and American Atheists to run their campaigns for the separation of religion and state in the United States, which is very necessary in my opinion. I was also captured his enthusiasm and inner fire to promote the cause of reason. “Fighting God” is indeed an inspiring manifesto for atheists in the US but also worldwide. Silverman makes a powerful case for being an outspoken atheist, one that I heartily agree with.
This review is also published on Amazon.