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Which book would you send all MLAs?

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William Crawley | 23:05 UK time, Sunday, 15 April 2007

Some of you are not impressed by the Northern Ireland's Humanists' plan to send copies of The God Delusion to political representatives in Westminster and Stormont. If you could place a single book in the hand of every politician in the country, which would it be?

Update: Slugger O'Toole commenters are joining in.


I would send them a copy of my own book, Ulster's Third Way: The humanist Alternative Beyond Orange and Green. It contains lots of positive humanist ideas for a new Ulster based on the principles of freethought, tolerance, compromise and community.

Some posters have read a different God Delusion from me. It isn't 'a pedestrian sneer' but a serious and highly lucid dissection of its topic. And it's one of the year's bestselling books in Northern Ireland, perhaps suggesting that there are more sensible people out there than we might think.
Nor does it just knock religion: there is a good deal in it about positive values and the basis of morality.

  • 2.
  • At 11:52 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

It's not likely that any of them would be profoundly affected by reading a book, most of them have their minds pretty much made up and are set in their ways and ideas. But if I had to choose one book today, I'd pick one written by Senator Robert Kennedy (who later became Attorney General when his brother was President), "The Enemy Within" about the US Senate committee investigating infiltration of the Teamsters Union by organized crime under Jimmy Hoffa and corruption in government they engaged in. It makes fascinating reading, it is a true story, it's by someone of Irish descent and just maybe they might consider the comparable infiltration and corruption of the NI government by organized religion. Is this to suggest that organized religion is in any way comparable to organized crime? Anyone who asks this question seriously has never seen a Mafia funeral. There is at least one conspiracy theory (the favorite of someone close to me who is pathologically obsessed with the Kennedy Camelot crap) that the assassination of John Kennedy was payback for Robert Kennedy's relentless pursuit of organized crime leaders after the Mafia "produced" the Presidential election result in 1960 as a favor to the known bootlegger and rumrunner Joseph Kennedy, the father of Robert, John, and fat Teddy. Specifically they belive it was on Vito Genovese's orders.

Here's a link to some commentary on the book, one of many. The book is considered an authoritative account.


OK Brian
I don't think we need a committee meeting to send them both books.
If anyone else would like a copy of Brian's book send me an email via the website.
I would challenge those MLAs who are atheistic or agnostic to declare it - the first five to do so will get hon. life membership of Humani!
In a total of 108 there has to be between 10 - 20 closet non-believers!

Instead of The God Delusion Humanists might consider:

Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness or Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism - The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

Non-humanists might consider:

William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience


I echo Michael's suggestion of Ayn Rand; pretty much anything by Rand is worth reading but my favourite, and my own suggestion, is Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. A good alternative would be Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia. Both books deal with the proper role of government and the strength of a strictly limited legislature. Both would probably be as popular as humanism, but their messages are invaluable. (By the way, I'm intrigued that Michael would recommend Rand only to humanists...?)!

  • 6.
  • At 08:46 AM on 16 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

No contest. It would be Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert Thouless. Hard to get hold of (except on ebay), but it is one of the best books ever written. It deals with the sort of logical fallacies beloved of politicians, and helps you spot bullshit a mile off.

It was originally written to help Allied soldiers withstand Nazi mind tricks in WW2, but it has a timelessness that is truly the stuff of genius.

In fact, maybe we should commission a print run for the entire population of NI.

  • 7.
  • At 08:52 AM on 16 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

One book that had a profound effect on me was 'The Demon haunted World' by the late, great Carl Sagan. It is the only book that I have read 3 times and like the book recommended by Amenhotep deals (partly with) logical fallacies. Also Francis Wheen's 'How Mumbo-Jumbo conquered the world' and Micheal Shermer's 'Why People believe weird things'-fans of Ayn Rand may be especially interested in the last book.

Re Post #5 John wrote:

(By the way, I'm intrigued that Michael would recommend Rand only to humanists...?)!

John: I meant not to humanists but by humanists to the politicians at Stormont.

I recommend Ayn Rand to everyone apart from her novel Atlas Shrugged which was a bit of a boresome read - The Fountainhead is much superior.


  • 9.
  • At 01:04 PM on 16 Apr 2007,
  • Stephen G wrote:

I'd send them something like Lord of the Rings or War & Peace - simply because they're big books and might distract the buggers for a short time, thus limiting the damage that they as politicians inevitable cause to everyone else.


Michael- I see. Well, look out for a movie trilogy based on 'Atlas Shrugged' - the film project has been around as a concept for a long time, but now it's actually going somewhere and, my sources tell me, the length and complexity of the novel is necessitating a trilogy from the get-go, something a major Hollywood studio has recently greenlighted. I can imagine many ways to make a flop of a Rand script, so I hope they pull it off.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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