email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God50 Voices of DisbeliefA Companion to Buddhist PhilosophyA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Frightening LoveA Mirror Is for ReflectionA Mirror Is for ReflectionA People's History of ChristianityAdieu to GodAn Ethics for TodayAristotle's ChildrenAugustine's "Confessions"Bad FaithBehind the GospelsBeyond the SelfBig DreamsBig GodsBody Piercing Saved My LifeBrains, Buddhas, and BelievingBrief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and FaithBuddhism and ScienceBuddhist Boot CampConfucianismConfucianismConfucius and ConfucianismContemplative ScienceCorporal Punishment, Religion, and United States Public SchoolsCourage to SurrenderCross and KhoraDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin, God and the Meaning of LifeDeath and the AfterlifeDebating DesignDeeper Than DarwinDivinity of DoubtEmbracing MindEncountering the DharmaEngaging BuddhismEsalenEscape Your Own PrisonEvidence for PsiEvilEvolution and ReligionExplorations in Neuroscience, Psychology and ReligionFaithFaith and Wisdom in ScienceFingerprints of GodFor The Bible Tells Me SoForgivenessFrom Shame to SinGodGod & TherapyGod Is Not GreatGod Is Not OneGod: The Failed HypothesisHereticHidden DimensionsHooked!Hours with the MysticsHow to See Yourself As You Really AreHow Would Buddha Act?Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyInto Great SilenceIslam and the Future of Tolerance: A DialogueJewish DharmaLife After FaithLiving DeeplyLiving with a Wild GodLiving with DarwinMaking Chastity SexyMedicine and Health Care in Early ChristianityMedicine and ReligionMedicine of the PersonMorals Not KnowledgeMysticism & SpaceNature and the Human SoulNothingOn AnimalsOn Life After DeathPanpsychism and the Religious AttitudePathways to SpiritualityPeaceful Death, Joyful RebirthPhilosophers without GodsPhilosophical Myths of the FallPorn UniversityPray the Gay AwayPsychotherapy without the SelfPurgatoryRadical GraceReason, Faith, and RevolutionRecruiting Young LoveReligion without GodReligious and Spiritual Issues in Psychiatric DiagnosisSaving GodScience and NonbeliefScience and Religion at the CrossroadsScience and SpiritualityScience vs. ReligionSecular Philosophy and the Religious TemperamentSelf Hypnosis for Cosmic ConsciousnessSelf, No Self?Sex and the Soul, Updated EditionSmile of the BuddhaSong of RiddlesSpirit, Mind, and BrainSuperstitionTen Lectures on Psychotherapy and SpiritualityThe Accidental MindThe Belief InstinctThe Bodhisattva's BrainThe Cambridge Companion to AtheismThe Cambridge Companion to Science and ReligionThe Case for GodThe Chosen OneThe Dao of NeuroscienceThe Dark Night of the SoulThe Darkening AgeThe Delight of Being OrdinaryThe Forgotten CreedThe Fundamentalist MindsetThe God DebatesThe God GeneThe Hero with a Thousand FacesThe Improbability of GodThe Joy of SecularismThe Language God TalksThe Language of GodThe Meaning of BeliefThe MiracleThe New AtheismThe New Religious IntoleranceThe Philosophy of ReligionThe Power of FaithThe Power of ForgivenessThe Power of Religion in the Public SphereThe Psychology of Religious FundamentalismThe Psychology of SpiritualityThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Secular OutlookThe Sense of SelfThe Spirit of the BuddhaThe Spirit of Tibetan BuddhismThe Tibetan Book of the DeadThe Trauma of Everyday LifeThe Watkins Dictionary of Religions and Secular FaithsThe Watkins Dictionary of SymbolsTheology, Psychology and the Plural SelfThoughts Without A ThinkerTop SecretUnifying HinduismWays of KnowingWhat Is Buddhist Enlightenment?What Should I Believe?When the Impossible HappensWhy I Left, Why I StayedWilliam James on Ethics and FaithWriting as a Sacred PathYoga, Karma, and RebirthZealot
A companion volume to an earlier book by the same editors (The Impossibility of God), this book presents a collection of papers from an atheist perspective arguing the improbability of the existence of a God. The earlier volume presented the arguments about the impossibility of the existence of God.
This book mirrors the key line of arguments ordinarily given in philosophy of religion. It intends to present a kind of 'antidote' to the usual debates which largely address arguments for the possibility of the existence of a God (see p.13-14). It offers a useful contribution to these ongoing debates of the philosophy of religion. This is a good resource which should be seen not so much as presenting the opposite case for each of the traditional arguments, but of building an overall atheist case. As such, the book needs to be read as an endeavor to build a cumulative argument rather than an attempt to provide definitive arguments in each section.
The papers are varied, and although many are previously published some have been updated or written for the current volume. Most of the previously published papers would take considerable effort to locate and collect, which enhances the usefulness of bringing them together into a single resource.
The four sections of the book cover cosmological arguments for the improbability of God as creator (p.17-106), teleological arguments for the improbability of God as designer (p.107-230), arguments for the improbability of God from evil (p.231-336), and non-belief arguments for the improbability of God (p.337-426).
Part 1 on the cosmological argument presents a series of papers focused around the notion of Big Bang. One criticism is that these papers do not directly address the subtleties of some of the traditional arguments in this area. While this is not necessarily the intention, it does mean that the market for this book will be more those seeking a resource than those seeking a text book or supplementary text book. Part 2 which deals with the teleological arguments is broader in scope and covers a wider range of arguments. Again, it is directed mainly at the specialized reader. I found it helpful that I had been taught philosophy of religion by a logician, which made much of the line of argument more immediately familiar. Part 3 examines the arguments from evil. Most of the papers in this section are written by one author and as such present a reasonably coherent line of argument through the section of the book. This section also addresses the arguments raised by some of the well known philosophers in this area (in particular Hick and Plantinga) and gives a sense of deliberate engagement with the wider debates. Part 4 addresses the question of arguments from non-belief. This is the section of the book that most attempts to define a notion of God (e.g. p.341) and hence clarifies what is being argued about. While the first three sections assume a vague notion of God, section four expressly addresses the God of evangelical Christianity.
In a sense this book is a useful leveler to the line often taken as part of teaching the philosophy of religion. However, the book is not a textbook; the articles are too specialized and the content too specific. It would be interesting to see the material re-worked into a textbook alongside the more typical arguments for the existence of a God. Some care needs to be taken; it is commonly assumed that the lines of argument in the philosophy of religion are diametrically opposed to each other but one thing that emerged for me was a reminder that this is not necessarily so. While I do not agree with the underlying premise of the book, I am comfortable with the basis of epistemology, ontology or ethics from which the arguments emerge. It is a useful reminder that just because the authors reject theism does not mean that they also reject the kinds of values that theists might hold (e.g. p.56-57).
The approach of the book is useful. However, it was at times somewhat frustrating that a number of authors have two or more papers in the book which leads to some repetition of content as each author repeats and builds on earlier segments of an argument. For me the book did not read as seamlessly as I had hoped. On the other hand it provided a consistent focus on the issues being addressed and ensured some useful cross-referencing between papers. This reinforced some of the arguments and added new angles and insights to various points being made.
It would be very interesting to see if there will be further books in this series -- for instance a book on the philosophical issues raised by belief more generally, or perhaps a book constructed more as a traditional text book which offers the 'for' and 'against' arguments side by side not as simple alternatives but as insight into the more complex web of ideas that this debate raises.
© 2007 Erich von Dietze
Erich von Dietze, Ph.D., Manager, Research Ethics, Murdoch University, Western Australia