cover image The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View

The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View

Tim Crane. Harvard Univ., $24.95 (210p) ISBN 978-0-674-08883-2

Crane (Aspects of Psychologism), a British philosopher of the mind who’s known for his essays on perception and consciousness, veers in a new direction in this valuable and compact contribution to the dialogue between atheists and believers. Crane writes as an atheist to an atheist audience in hopes of reducing the combativeness stirred up by “New Atheists” such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, but he also provides useful language for religionists about their own experiences. By identifying the religious experience in terms of “religious impulse” and “identification” linked under a canopy of the sacred, Crane situates religious belief as complexly human, rather than something that should die with the advent of science. Tolerance with a goal of living peaceably with religionists should be the atheist aim, argues Crane. Crane’s precise arguments, lucid writing, and astutely selected examples make this book enjoyable as well as clarifying. His concise unpacking of religion and violence in the context of war, as well as of the nitty-gritty of moral relativism, provides a vital lens for interpreting today’s politics. (Oct.)