Atheist Books and the Overton Window

I have read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins and “Breaking The Spell” by Daniel Dennett a couple of months ago, could not bear to slog all the way through “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris, and am still waiting to get my copies of “God: the Failed Hypothesis” by Victor Stenger and “Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion” by Barbara J. King. I was going to write a big meta-review of all of them together, perhaps adding in “Darwin’s Cathedral” by David Sloan Wilson as an anti-toxin to the Dawkins/Dennet naive understanding of evolution (and just plain old nastiness towards the idea of demic selection in particular and towards the idea of hierarchy of levels and units of selection in general).
But more I wait, harder it will be to get something original out. Yesterday, Sean Carroll scooped me in my idea to use the concept of Overton Window to explain the usefulness of most (if not all) of these books, particularly the Dawkins book. You should really go and read how Sean put it together and I will, once I get through all the books, try to find a different angle.

9 responses to “Atheist Books and the Overton Window

  1. Mustafa Mond, FCD

    What, Carl Sagan’s latest book isn’t on your list yet?

  2. I guess it should be. Arrrgh! My pile of books-to-read is already so high!

  3. Christopher Hitchens: ‘God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’
    ‘God Is Not Great’ live:
    “Taking on possibly the greatest issue of our time—the malignant force of religion in the world—journalist Christopher Hitchens makes the ultimate case against religion through a close and learned reading of the major religious texts, citing numerous historical instances in which sexual repression and outrageous acts of violence have been committed in the name of God.”

  4. And there are many, many more. I am looking forward to finishing those I have listed so I can finally move away from the religion/atheism books and read some fun stuff for a change. See my amazon wish list on the sidebar….

  5. After thinking about this for awhile, I think you and Sean Carroll have it right. While I’ve disagreed with some of the substance and sometimes the tone of the atheist authors you mention, the space they have opened up for public discussion is extremely important and welcome.

  6. It’s strange that you found Harris’ book to be a slog. I couldn’t put it down; I finished it in two days.

  7. I have been trying to sell our over-stock of world-traveler Carl Zimmerling’s books, first one published 1995 and the second one in 2003. Both of them debunk religious teachings in favor of reason and scientific knowledge. But because of the controversial contents some libraries in the south [Jacksonville, Fl.] would not even accept FREE copies after telling us that it “does not fit into their program”! Anyone who wants to check contents, pls. go to, under “books” and “Author”, “Carl Zimmerling” or contact my email address for special offers. Chances to sell these books now should be much better after Dawkin’s success with “The God Delusion”. Also, does anybody have an idea where we could sell to an Atheist wholesaler? Cheers, Horst Klaus, c/o Everpower Co. Box 2167 Niagara Falls, NY 14301 email

  8. I dont even have time to comment, let alone time to do that much reading. It is a hopeful sign. But my oh my what thin ice we tread with the believers. I still see harmful asymmetry between the tolerance of atheists for the ways of most religious folk and the tolerance of religious folks for most atheists. A while back, I a posted a sketch of a framework in which believers and atheists could mark out the spaces in civil and political life where they can work together. It got into a blog festival aimed at working on the civility problems and the tendency of polarization to form, widen, harden and generaly break us into camps. Got no traffic. Getting along with people doesn’t seem to draw clicks or move copies.

  9. Mustafa Mond, FCD

    The Sagan book is very good. Move it up the list.