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Hi Phil,

I thought that you wrote a very good, thought-provoking review. Like so many writers, I try to take what John Gray has to offer with some skepticism, yet those first five chapters did such a good job of surveying the religious or fundamentalist character in those forms of atheism covered that it was perhaps a bit of catnip for me. More shortly, my enthusiasm clearly tinted my critical eye.

Yet I thought his consideration of Conrad and Santayana was the most rewarding. I always thought there was a wee bit of cowardice in stoicism (your providing Lucretius's poem helps to reinforce this) , but Conrad's consideration of the place of education in the context of human value was I thought very perceptive. It made me ask: has education ever improved human character, or has it just reinforced or oriented tendencies that were already there? Must awareness always precede action? I'm not explaining things very well, and on that note, I think that you can give yourself more credit. Your own perspective is well-informed, and your review deepened my appreciation of the book, because it drove me to rethink some of my own receptivity to secular takedowns of some atheists who think there may be something new "...under the sun" as Ecclesiastes related over three thousand years ago.

Regarding your question for comment, I can understand that I emotionally embrace beliefs that do not serve me (or others) well, yet why I consciously choose to buttress them with "intellectual" or "reasonable" arguments is the real kicker. As David Hume once wrote "the heart has more reasons than reason can ever understand."

Thanks for the review of John Grey's book.


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