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Atheism

The Best Argument Against God

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The best way to work out whether or not to believe in God is to compare the best theory that says that God exists with the best theory that says that God does not exist, taking into account all of the relevant data. This book compares Theism – the best theory that says that God exists – with Naturalism – the best theory that says that God does not exist – on a very wide range of data. The conclusion of the comparison is that Naturalism is a better theory than Theism: for Naturalism is simpler than Theism, and all of the considered data is explained at least as well by Naturalism as it is by Theism. The argument for Naturalism is novel both in outline, and in the details of the case that there is no data that Theism explains better than Naturalism does. ~ Publisher’s Description

The Making of an Atheist

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The new atheists are on the warpath. They come armed with arguments to show that belief in God is absurd and dangerous. In the name of societal progress, they promote purging the world of all religious practice. And they claim that people of faith are mentally ill. Some of the new atheists openly declare their hatred for the Judeo-Christian God. Christian apologists have been quick to respond to the new atheists’ arguments. But there is another dimension to the issue which begs to be addressed — the root causes of atheism. Where do atheists come from? How did such folks as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens become such ardent atheists? If we are to believe them, their flight from faith resulted from a dispassionate review of the evidence. Not enough rational grounds for belief in God, they tell us. But is this the whole story? Could it be that their opposition to religious faith has more to do with passion than reason? What if, in the end, evidence has little to do with how atheists arrive at their anti-faith? That is precisely the claim in this book. Atheism is not at all a consequence of intellectual doubts. These are mere symptoms of the root cause—moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience. The psalmist declares, “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Ps. 14:1), and in the book of Romans, Paul makes it clear that lack of evidence is not the atheist’s problem. The Making of an Atheist confirms these biblical truths and describes the moral and psychological dynamics involved in the abandonment of faith. ~ Product Description

50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists

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Fifty Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists presents a collection of original essays drawn from an international group of prominent voices in the fields of academia, science, literature, media and politics who offer carefully considered statements of why they are atheists. Features a truly international cast of contributors, ranging from public intellectuals such as Peter Singer, Susan Blackmore, and A.C. Grayling, novelists, such as Joe Haldeman, and heavyweight philosophers of religion, including Graham Oppy and Michael Tooley. Contributions range from rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal, even whimsical, accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives. Likely to have broad appeal given the current public fascination with religious issues and the reception of such books as The God Delusion and The End of Faith. ~ Product Description

The New Atheism

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Recent books by authors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens lay out some of the core ideas of what has been dubbed the "New Atheism" and have generated significant buzz. Stenger (philosophy, Univ. of Colorado; God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist) continues the debate with a review and defense of some of the key principles of the New Atheism as well as a general response to some of its critics. This book is largely focused on the scientific and expands upon Stenger’s thesis that the question of God’s existence is not beyond science. It also debunks numerous myths about religion and atheism and explores the possibility of a nontheistic "way of nature" based on the teachings of ancient sages such as Lao Tzu. Although the text is not as engaging or well written as some of the other New Atheist books, and the level and quantity of science may make it difficult for some general readers, this book is recommended for those already interested and engaged in the current discussion about God and religion, from either side of the fence. ~ Brian T. Sullivan for Library Journal

Living Without God

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Ronald Aronson has a mission: to demonstrate that a life without religion can be coherent, moral, and committed. In the last few years, the “New Atheists” — Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens — have created a stir by criticizing religion and the belief in God. Aronson moves beyond the discussion of what we should not believe, proposing contemporary answers to Immanuel Kant’s three great questions: What can I know? What ought I to do? What can I hope? Grounded in the sense that we are deeply dependent and interconnected beings who are rooted in nature, history, society, and the global economy, Living Without God explores the issues of 21st-century secularists. Reflecting on such perplexing questions as why are we grateful for life’s gifts, who or what is responsible for inequalities, and how to live in the face of aging and dying, Living Without God is less interested in attacking religion than in developing a positive philosophy for atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, skeptics, and freethinkers.

Logic and Theism

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This book includes arguments for and against belief in God. The arguments for the belief are analyzed in the first six chapters and include ontological arguments from Anselm through Gödel; the cosmological arguments of Aquinas and Leibniz; and arguments from evidence for design and miracles. The next two chapters consider arguments against belief. The last chapter examines Pascalian arguments for and against belief in God. This book is a valuable resource for philosophers of religion and theologians and interests logicians and mathematicians as well. ~ Publisher’s Description

A. N. Wilson on Doubting Atheism

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This creed that religion can be despatched in a few brisk arguments (outlined in David Hume’s masterly Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) and then laughed off kept me going for some years. When I found myself wavering, I would return to Hume in order to pull myself together, rather as a Catholic having doubts might return to the shrine of a particular saint to sustain them while the springs of faith ran dry. ¶ But religion, once the glow of conversion had worn off, was not a matter of argument alone. It involves the whole person. Therefore I was drawn, over and over again, to the disconcerting recognition that so very many of the people I had most admired and loved, either in life or in books, had been believers. … Of course, there are arguments that might make you doubt the love of God. But a life like Gandhi’s, which was focused on God so deeply, reminded me of all the human qualities that have to be denied if you embrace the bleak, muddled creed of a materialist atheist. It is a bit like trying to assert that music is an aberration, and that although Bach and Beethoven are very impressive, one is better off without a musical sense. Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?

Julian Baggini on the Four “New Atheist” Horsemen

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A second feature of atheism is that it is committed to the appropriate use of reason and evidence. In order to occupy this intellectual high ground, it is important to recognise the limits of reason, and also to acknowledge that atheists have no monopoly on it. The new atheism, however, tends to claim reason as a decisive combatant on its side only. With its talk of “spells” and “delusions”, it gives the impression that only through stupidity or crass disregard for reason could anyone be anything other than an atheist. “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence,” says Dawkins, once again implying that reason and evidence are strangers to religion. This is arrogant, and attributes to reason a power it does not have.

One Less God

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An increasingly popular rhetorical meme in debates about God, it seems, is the idea that the theist is really on the same trajectory as the atheist. After all, the theist has also rejected every god, save one. It seems that it was Stephen Henry Roberts who revived this charge: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” Richard Dawkins echoes: “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” Or, in Christopher Hitchens’ words: “Everyone in this room is an atheist. Everyone can name a god in which they do not believe.” Interestingly, the charge dates back to at least AD 155, when devotees of the Roman pantheon of gods leveled a similar accusation. At the trial of Polycarp, the Martyrdom of Polycarp records that the crowd yelled: “This is the teacher of atheism, the father of the Christians, the enemy of our gods, who teaches so many to turn from the worship of the gods and not to sacrifice.”1 Despite its pedigree, and however effective it is rhetorically, this meme doesn’t strike me as trenchant in the least. As I see it, the question of God’s existence is a fundamentally different sort of question than whether any one of the purported gods is in fact God. Allow me to draw an analogy. I believe that my mother is Margaret. She told me so and she’s been around as long as I can remember. Not only do I believe that she is my mother, but also that neither are any of the other billion or so women of age. Say that I learn that in fact she adopted me and has concealed this from me my whole life till now. I would be left without belief in any particular mother. And yet, I wouldn’t for a second think that I didn’t have any progenitor whatsoever. That is a different kind of conclusion, and I would still have reason to believe that I was birthed, that I didn’t spontaneously emerge from, say, a dandelion. Likewise, the rejection of belief in God is not merely one of subtraction from the sum total of gods on offer, but more like choosing one kind of geometry over another from the beginning. Just as the reasons I have for believing that Margaret is my mother comprise a different set than those I have for believing I have some mother, so too are the relevant considerations for whether God is versus who God is.

The Future of Atheism

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The subject of atheism has been much in the news recently with the highly publicized release of radically atheistic books. This helpful book highlights points of agreement and disagreement between Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett on the topic of the present status of atheism and which worldview, atheism or Christianity, is preferable. American philosopher Daniel Dennett is currently the Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Oxford theologian Alister McGrath is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford and directs its Centre for Christian Apologetics. A transcript of the dialogue featuring McGrath and Dennett on the subject allows the reader to see in print how both men present their positions in light of the other’s.

50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God

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Many books that challenge religious belief from a skeptical point of view take a combative tone that is almost guaranteed to alienate believers, or they present complex philosophical or scientific arguments that fail to reach the average reader. Guy P. Harrison argues that this is an ineffective way of trying to encourage people to develop critical thinking about religion. In this unique approach, Harrison concisely presents fifty commonly heard reasons that people often give for believing in a god. Then he raises legitimate questions regarding these reasons, showing in each case that there is much room for doubt. From religion as the foundation of morality to the authority of sacred books, the compelling religious testimony of influential people, near-death experiences, theories from intelligent design, and much more, Harrison respectfully describes each rationale for belief and then politely shows the deficiencies that any good skeptic would point out. He also offers something in return — a hopeful and optimistic view of science, the universe, and humanity without the divisiveness, prejudice, and hatred caused by conflicting religious doctrines. Drawing on his experiences as a nonbeliever and his extensive travels around the world, Harrison makes poignant arguments that are sure to inspire thought-provoking discussions. Whether you’re a believer, a complete skeptic, or somewhere in between, you’ll find his review of traditional and more recent arguments for the existence of gods refreshing, approachable, and enlightening. ~ Product Description

Douglas Wilson on Atheism and Hating God

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You say that you cannot believe that Christ’s death on the Cross was salvation for the world because the idea is absurd. I have shown in various ways that absurdity has not been a disqualifier for any number of your current beliefs. You praise reason to the heights, yet will not give reasons for your strident and inflexible moral judgments, or why you have arbitrarily dubbed certain chemical processes “rational argument.” That’s absurd right now, and yet there you are, holding it. So for you to refuse to accept Christ because it is absurd is like a man at one end of the pool refusing to move to the other end because he might get wet. Given your premises, you will have to come up with a different reason for rejecting Christ as you do. But for you to make this move would reveal the two fundamental tenets of true atheism. One: There is no God. Two: I hate Him.

Arguing About Gods

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Graham Oppy examines contemporary arguments for and against the existence of God. He shows that none of these arguments are persuasive enough to change the minds of those participants on the question of the existence of God. His conclusion is supported by detailed analyses of contemporary arguments, as well as by the development of a theory about the purpose of arguments, and the criteria that should be used in judging whether or not an argument is successful. Oppy discusses the work of a wide array of philosophers, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Kant and Hume, and more recently, Plantinga, Dembski, White, Dawkins, Bergman, Gale, and Pruss. ~ Product Description

The Twilight of Atheism

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In this bold and provocative new book, the author of In the Beginning and The Reenchantment of Nature challenges the widely held assumption that the world is becoming more secular and demonstrates why atheism cannot provide the moral and intellectual guidance essential for coping with the complexities of modern life. Atheism is one of the most important movements in modern Western culture. For the last two hundred years, it seemed to be on the verge of eliminating religion as an outmoded and dangerous superstition. Recent years, however, have witnessed the decline of disbelief and a rise in religious devotion throughout the world. In The Twilight of Atheism, the distinguished historian and theologian Alister McGrath examines what went wrong with the atheist dream and explains why religion and faith are destined to play a central role in the twenty-first century. The Twilight of Atheism will unsettle believers and nonbelievers alike. A powerful rebuttal of the philosophy that, for better and for worse, has exerted tremendous influence on Western history, it carries major implications for the future of both religion and unbelief in our society. ~ Publisher’s Description

Atheist Universe

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In this work, essentially an update of Mills’s Atheist Universe: Why God Didn’t Have a Thing To Do with It (2004), he surveys a variety of topics, including intelligent design and the origin of the universe, as well as conducts what appears to be a mock interview with himself. While some of Mills’s arguments are logically sound, his antagonistic way of presenting them grows tiresome. For example, he avers that agnostics choose agnosticism over atheism primarily owing to a lack of “guts,” failing to support that assertion with anything other than his own opinion. In addition, he calls all Christian fundamentalists naive and suggests that all public schools are “miserable.” But perhaps his most egregious mischaracterization is his description of atheism as a positive philosophy. Most scholars would agree that atheism is not a philosophy, but a factual premise based on logical conjecture. In fact, atheism addresses only one question: does God exist? In light of the various philosophical worldviews — e.g., humanism, secular Judaism — by which atheists can choose to live their lives, Mills’s suggestion that atheism per se is a positive philosophy is unsubstantiated. Not recommended. ~ Brad S. Matthies, Butler University

The Impossibility of God

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Since 1948, a growing number of scholars have been formulating and developing a series of arguments that the concept of God — as understood by the world’s leading theologians and major religions — is logically contradictory, and therefore God not only does not exist but, more significantly, cannot exist. In short, God is impossible. This unique anthology collects for the first time most of the important published arguments for the impossibility of God. Included are selections by J.L. Mackie, Quentin Smith, Theodore Drange, Michael Martin, and many other distinguished scholars. The editors provide a valuable general introduction and helpful summaries of the cricual issues involved. ~ Product Description

Alvin Plantinga on Atheistic Theologians

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[A] theologian who does not believe in God is like a mountaineer for whom it is an open question whether there are any mountains or a plumber agnostic about pipes: a beguiling spectacle, but hard to take seriously.

Paul C. Vitz on Fatherlessness

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Besides abuse, rejection, or cowardice, one way in which a father can be seriously defective is simply by not being there. Many children, of course, interpret death of their father as a kind of betrayal or an act of desertion. In this respect it is remarkable that the pattern of a dead father is so common in the lives of many prominent atheists. Baron d’Holbach, the French rationalist and probably the first public atheist, is apparently an orphan by the age of 13 and living with his uncle. Bertrand Russell’s father died when young Bertrand was 4-years-old; Nietzsche was the same age as Russell when he lost his father; Sartre’s father died before Sartre was born and Camus was a year old when he lost his father… the information already available is substantial; it is unlikely to be an accident.

Does God Exist?

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In a lively debate, which includes questions from the audience, Christian philosopher and ethicist J.P. Moreland and Kai Neilsen, one of today’s best-known atheist philosophers, go head to head on the fundamental issues and questions that have shaped individual lives, races, and nations throughout history. The book is divided into three sections: (i) the transcriptof the oral debate on the existence of God between Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland and atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen; (ii) commentaries on the debate by two Christian philosophers (William Lane Craig and Dallas Willard) and two atheist philosophers (Antony Flew and Keith Parsons); and (iii) concluding thoughts by Moreland and Nielsen.

Theism, Atheism, and Rationality

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Alvin Plantinga argues that a natural way to understand such notions as rationality and irrationality is in terms of the proper functioning of the relevant cognitive equipment. Seen from this perspective, the question whether it is rational to believe in God without the evidential support of other propositions is really a metaphysical or theological dispute. The theist has an easy time explaining the notion of our cognitive equipment’s functioning properly: our cognitive equipment functions properly when it functions in the way God designed it to function. The atheist evidential objector, however, owes us an account of this notion. What does he mean when he complains that the theist without evidence displays a cognitive defect of some sort? How does he understand the notion of cognitive malfunction?

The Psychology of Atheism

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Paul Vitz, a professor of psychology at NYU, proposes a provocative thesis: atheistic inclinations or commitments are often rooted in the so-called “freudian psyche”, that subconscious sum of our memories, fears, impressions, and deep seated dispositions formed early in our lives, particularly in relation to our fathers. While psychological grounds for belief are usually used to undercut the rationality of theism, here Vitz runs the argument the other way in a fascinating summary of psychological factors tied to atheistic belief. And by way of example, he considers the possible psychological motivations of the father of psychoanalysis, Freud himself. Turns out atheists have daddy issues as well. Vitz’s argument here was a prelude to his later work, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism.

Why the Burden of Proof is on the Atheist

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In this paper, I ponder two questions: (1) Why can’t the religious believer simply put the burden on the skeptic, and ask him to justify his unbelief, with the underlying assumption that as between theism and atheism, it is the former that is obviously true and the latter that is obviously false? (2) This not being possible in any way that is of immediate interest to religious belief, how does the believer regard his inability to prove the truth of faith in the manner the skeptic demands?

Antony Flew on the Burden of Proof

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If it is to be established that there is a God, then we have to have good grounds for believing that this is indeed so. Until and unless some such grounds are produced we have literally no reason at all for believing; and in that situation the only reasonable posture must be that of either the negative atheist or the agnostic. So the onus of proof has to rest on the proposition [of theism].

The Miracle of Theism

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In The Miracle of Theism, J.L. Mackie examines the arguments for and against the existence of God from an atheistic perspective. John Mackie is a highly respected twentieth century philosopher and along with Anthony Flew has been one of the most capable contemporary proponents of atheism. Written almost a quarter of a century ago, “The Miracle of Theism” remains a classic in the field of religious philosophy and is widely considered to be one of the best-stated arguments for atheism in print. Unfortunately, many popular works supporting the atheistic perspective come across as unduly angry and self-righteous. In contrast, Mackie’s work is a much-needed breath of fresh air. One may disagree with Mackie while at the same time respecting his views. ~ A Reader at Amazon.com

Bertrand Russell on Proving God

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I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.