Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Sort-of Book Review: I Sold My Soul on eBay

Hemant Mehta, also known as the Friendly Atheist and author of I Sold My Soul on eBay, will be at Ohio State on Thursday night to discuss his book. (Details on his blog; apparently he will also be at Easton on Sunday signing books.)

I bought and read the book about a month ago, and I've been meaning to write up a review-type-thing, but well, haven't. But since those of you who have a chance to go to the talk should go, and since anyone at all interested in religion (if you are a churchgoer, you count) should read his book, I might as well try saying something.

As he explains in the first few pages of the book, he didn't actually sell his soul on eBay; the title is a descendant of an (embraced) inaccurate headline. Hemant is an atheist who, because he was raised in a non-Christian religion in a nation innundated with Christians, is interested in learning about Christianity. He figured the obvious way to do this was to "go to church," but as someone who knew nothing about churches or Christianity, he decided it would be more fun to sell the right to pick which church to go to on eBay. The cost was $10 per hour in church; all money raised by the auction was donated to a secular organization.

The book is a fast easy read; I read it over the course of two short flights, though unlike some I wasn't interrupted by entertaining or annoying conversations. Unlike many in the religion debates, Hemant does not describe his point of view as something which he believes the reader should embrace. Take, for example, Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation (also an enlightening read). Harris explicitly tells the reader that belief in Christianity is harmful; as a prelude to the reasons why religion is bad, Harris details why it is first and foremost wrong. Hemant is less antagonistic; he explicity tells the reader why he does not believe in the supernatural, but he does not explicity pass judgement on those who do. In fact, one of the main selling points of the books is to tell Christians what they might want to try if they actually want to attract and convert (and not alienate) atheists. There's even a discussion guide for Christian groups at the end of the book.

If you are interested in more reviews and opinions, Hemant has a decent compilation of them on his blog as well.

1 comment:

Laura Dickerson said...

At some point I will read his stuff. I know lots of friendly athiests (I go to church with some of them. Unitarian Universalism casts a wide net). I just have a very low tolerance for Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Harris makes statements that make him sound ignorant, which distracts me from paying much heed. In a speech that was widely circulated on the internet, he kept referring to the god of Moses (as opposed to the God of Abraham, the usual way of talking about the deity claimed by Jews, Christians and Muslims) and made the incorrect claim that nobody worships Zeus any more.
Dawkins, apparently very clear-thinking in his day job, can come out with saying nonsense like the idea that there are no scientists who are Christians because by his definition one who is a believer can't be considered a scientist. Tautology doesn't convince me.