I have recently been writing about the relationship between religion and atheism and have argued that no “natural” conflict exists between them, but that they can find common ground. Of course, real conflict does exist between certain forms of religion and certain forms of atheism, but does this mean that all atheists and all religious people need to be in conflict? I am hoping that this will result in a book aimed at a popular audience rather than an academic one and some more academic articles. I will update my status on this as things progress. For information, though, the main chapters I am considering for the book will be:
- Setting the Debate in Context
This will provide a general introduction and introduce some themes which will occur later on. It also asks some important questions around issues like what is “religion” and discusses the “faith vs. reason” debate. It will seek to show how both sides (atheist-religious) may often talk past the other, and how we may come to terms with some difficult language.
- Books and Beliefs: Choosing and Interpreting Texts
An introduction to the history and nature of the Bible and some other key texts, like the Qur’an, discussing issues of interpretation and the significance of such texts today. It will challenge both religious people about what their texts are, but also challenge atheist assumptions that religious people follow books literally.
- Authority Figures: Jesus and the Others
A brief overview of what we know about Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha raising some key issues about how we interpret history and relate to these figures. It will seek to show that we relate in a variety of ways to significant figures.
- God, Gods and Reality
Will look at different forms of God belief, i.e. monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, but also non-theism and atheism, and show that religions do not make common assumptions about the deity. It will also deal with reasons why people may or may not believe in a deity, especially the problem of evil.
- Religions: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
While impossible to cover every religion in any detail, it will look at religion’s imbrications in violence and terror, but also show that focusing on this gives us a partial picture. It will ask hard questions about how we assess the legacy of religion, but also non-religious traditions, in the world today.
- Women, Bodies and Gender
It will be upfront that religions have a poor track record when measured against contemporary rights for women, but will ask whether such treatment is inspired by religion or surrounding patriarchal culture. It will show some radical examples of proto-feminism in religion while not denying the often harmful legacy. Issues with how sexuality is treated by religion is also included.
- Human Animals, Non-human Animals, and the Universe around Us
Primarily on the religion-science debate it will complicate narratives that either religion and science are enemies or that they simply deal with different areas of life. It will show that clearly debates and contestations exist but that these are not natural, nor the only way to look at the relationship.
- Living in a Religiously Diverse, Post-Christian, and Post-Secular World
While rasing its own questions, especially around ethics and religious diversity, this chapter also seeks to provide a conclusion to the book. It will suggest that some form of spirituality not inspired by a single religion is tenable and also an option increasingly popular amongst those wo may claim religious and non-religious identities. However, it will not suggest any single meeting place or answer, but rather try and emphasise that we need not see the debates in one way.