The Existence of God
Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (Macmillan: 2007), p. 177.
It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.
Nathan Jacobson: A List of Published Works Responding to the "New Atheists"
Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt concluded 2009 by broadcasting a debate about God between polemicists Michael Shermer and Gregory Koukl, thereby bidding adieu to what he called "The Decade of the New Atheists". It was indeed a remarkable cultural phenomenon how four atheologians in particular rose to prominence by selling scads of books: Sam Harris with The End of Faith (2004), Christopher Hitchens with god is not Great (2007), Daniel Dennet with Breaking the Spell (2006), and, of course, Richard Dawkins with The God Delusion (2006). But just as noteworthy, perhaps, is the cavalcade of able critics who rose to these challenges to Christian theism. As with the cottage industry of criticism that accompanied Dan Brown's and then Ron Howard's The Davinci Code, these broadsides served as provocation for countless apologists. Of course, none of them were remotely as successful as their atheistic rivals in terms of sales. One wonders whether they will slip into oblivion just as Hume survives in philosophy readers, while most of his contemporaneous critics do not. Whatever happens, the swift and mostly scholarly response to this one decade's worth of the perennial barrage on Christian theism leaves it an open question whether, in the final analysis, it was the atheists or their counterparts who owned the aughts. Consider the following list an opportunity to judge this contest of ideas for yourself.
William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, eds. (Intervarsity: Nov. 30, 2009), 272 pages.
The days have passed when the goodness of God — indeed, the reality of God itself — could reasonably be called a consensus opinion. God's reputation has come under considerable review in recent days, with some going so far as to say that it's not we who've made a mess of things. Instead whatever it is we call God is to blame. But is such an opinion really a fair assessment? In this magisterial collection, the contemporary complaints against belief in God are addressed with intellectual passion and rigor by some of the most astute theological and philosophical minds of the day: J. P. Moreland, Paul Moser, John Polkinghorne, Michael Behe, Michael J. Murray, Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, Jerry Walls, Charles Taliaferro, Scot McKnight, Gary Habermas, Mark Mittelberg, Chad Meister, and William Lane Craig. Includes an interview by Gary Habermas with noted convert to theism Antony Flew, and a direct critical response to Richard Dawkins's God Delusion by Alvin Plantinga, God Is Great, God Is Good offers convincing and compelling reassurance that though the world has changed, God has not.
Julian Baggini (Sterling Publishing: Oct 2009), 192 pages.
Is a life without religion one without values or purpose? Julian Baggini emphatically says no. He sets out to dispel the myths surrounding atheism and to show how it can be both a meaningful and moral choice. He directly confronts the failure of officially atheist states in the twentieth century, and presents an intellectual case for atheism that rests as much on reasoned and positive arguments for its truth as on negative arguments against religion. Julian Baggini is editor of Philosopher’s Magazine and the author of several books on philosophy. He has also written for a variety of newspapers and journals, including the Guardian, the Independent, and New Humanist. ~ Synopsis
C.S. Lewis, Excerpts from "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe", Book One in Mere Christianity (original 1944).
In this oft discussed passage from Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis spurns the supposed implications of a century's worth of cultural anthropology, arguing that virtually all people possess an innate moral compass that is at bottom similar or the same, in spite of surface differences. He begins by noting that human quarreling presupposes such a shared set of moral norms, that without a common set of "Rules of Human Nature", quarreling would be, in effect, impossible. An interesting thought. Lewis goes on to argue that this set of moral obligations we find in ourselves suggests a moral lawgiver. En route, he comments on the proper limits of science, on what we can infer on the basis of our own self-knowledge, and on the hypocrisy of those who claim no such common moral knowledge exists. Lewis' essay is hardly the most rigorous moral argument for theism on offer, but it does display his knack for drawing on the everyday to illustrate his premises and his argument for a common ethic is especially worth considering in view of the conventional wisdom about the radical diversity of moral norms. The moral differences between persons and cultures is profound. Can Lewis' argument for universal "Rules of Human Nature" be sustained? I'm particularly keen to reflect on the extent to which apparent moral differences should actually be attributed to different beliefs about reality. On this, see his thought provoking comments on the old practice of burning witches at the stake. Also note his observation that the materialistic and religious views of reality are not a bifurcation emerging out of the Enlightenment, but rather a fundamental divergence that turns up "wherever there having been thinking men".
Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk, eds. (Wiley-Blackwell: Oct 26, 2009), 360 pages.
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
Michael Ruse on the New Atheists said...
"Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster" on Belief.net's blog, "Science and the Sacred" (Aug. 14, 2009).
Let me say that I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice. I will defend to the death the right of them to say what they do — as one who is English-born one of the things I admire most about the USA is the First Amendment. But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy of religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. (He was just this when, thirty years ago, Mary Midgeley went after the selfish gene concept without the slightest knowledge of genetics.) Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group.
Gregory W. Dawes (Taylor & Francis, Inc.: Jun 2009), 212 pages.
In this timely study, Dawes defends the methodological naturalism of the sciences. Though religions offer what appear to be explanations of various facts about the world, the scientist, as scientist, will not take such proposed explanations seriously. Even if no natural explanation were available, she will assume that one exists. Is this merely a sign of atheistic prejudice, as some critics suggest? Or are there good reasons to exclude from science explanations that invoke a supernatural agent? On the one hand, Dawes concedes the bare possibility that talk of divine action could constitute a potential explanation of some state of affairs, while noting that the conditions under which this would be true are unlikely ever to be fulfilled. On the other hand, he argues that a proposed explanation of this kind would rate poorly, when measured against our usual standards of explanatory virtue.
Terry Eagleton (Yale University Press: Apr 21, 2009), 200 pages.
Terry Eagleton's witty and polemical Reason, Faith, and Revolution is bound to cause a stir among scientists, theologians, people of faith and people of no faith, as well as general readers eager to understand the God Debate. On the one hand, Eagleton demolishes what he calls the “superstitious” view of God held by most atheists and agnostics and offers in its place a revolutionary account of the Christian Gospel. On the other hand, he launches a stinging assault on the betrayal of this revolution by institutional Christianity. There is little joy here, then, either for the anti-God brigade — Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens in particular — nor for many conventional believers. Instead, Eagleton offers his own vibrant account of religion and politics in a book that ranges from the Holy Spirit to the recent history of the Middle East, from Thomas Aquinas to the Twin Towers. ~ Product Description
Keith Ward (Lion UK: April 2009), 160 pages.
With charming wit and a devastatingly sharp intellect, the Christian philosopher Keith Ward systematically eviscerates Richard Dawkins' anti-religious arguments from The God Delusion. By the end, he reveals most of them to be either logically short-sighted or intellectually dishonest. Like Ward, I believe that the debate between theism & atheism is far from over, and that there are compelling arguments to be made on both sides. In this short, readable book, Ward doesn't really try to finish off the dispute with any unassailable conclusion (despite the book's title, which is a direct rebuttal of one of Dawkins' chapter headings). Rather, he does an excellent job of raising the discourse out of the dumbed down muddle it's fallen into lately, where the ill-informed & the close-minded on both sides hog the spotlight & posture arrogantly at each other. Recommended for those who prefer a well-reasoned debate based on facts & logic to impassioned polemics & simplistic conclusions. ~ Brett Roe at Amazon.com
Jordan Howard Sobel (Cambridge University Press: Apr 9, 2009), 676 pages.
Filled with new, interesting, and insightful observations and analyses ... a book everyone interested in philosophy of religion will want - and need — to read." ~ Graham Oppy, Monash University • "I'm often asked to recommend books on philosophy of religion from a skeptical point of view, and Mackie's The Miracle of Theism has been the only thing I could wholeheartedly endorse. Sobel's book would give me a second option. It's the best thing of its kind since Mackie's book, and in many respects, it's better than The Miracle of Theism." ~ Robert C. Koons, University of Texas, Austin • "This book is a rich resource for those interested in the traditional arguments for and against belief in God's existence ... the book is valuable not so much for the author's own conclusions in each chapter, as it is for the rich resource it constitutes ... the author has done a great service by assembling different versions of arguments for and against God's existence, by discussing the arguments intelligently and critically ... I suspect that many philosophers of religion, both theists and sceptics, will be responding to the particular arguments of this book for some time to come." ~ Ars Disputandi
William Paley in Natural Theology, chps. I-VI (Longman: 1838), pp.25-50.
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there: I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever; nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, — that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? why is it not as admissible in the second case, as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, viz. that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e. g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other order, than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.
"Battlestar Galactica Episodes 421-423 Commentary" (March 23, 2009: 1:27:00)
And this is the key moment of the finale, [Baltar] realizing the connections. Baltar is the man who has been thinking about and talking about God from the very beginning. Since the moment that Caprica Six said "God is Love" and Baltar dismissed her belief and mocked her belief. There is a direct connection between that moment and here where Baltar in the finale realizes, truly realizes, there is a different, there is another hand at work here, that there is something else going on, that there is a greater truth, that there is really something to this idea of destiny, that there is really something to this notion that he is a player in a grander play, and that he has to fill that role. I was really intrigued by that and I really wanted that to be a part of what happened at the end...
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 none of the other countless candidates is. Say that I learn that in fact I was adopted and she 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.
Peter S. Williams (Damaris: 2009).
This is an accessible response to the contemporary anti-God arguments of the 'new atheists' (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Grayling, etc). Atheism has become militant in the past few years, with its own popular mass media evangelists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. In this readable book, Christian philosopher Peter S. Williams considers the arguments of the 'new atheists' and finds them wanting. Williams explains the history of atheism and responds to the claims that: 'belief in God causes more harm than good'; 'religion is about blind faith and science is the only way to know things'; 'science can explain religion away'; 'there is not enough evidence for God'; 'the arguments for God's existence do not work'. Williams argues that belief in God is more intellectually plausible than atheism. ~ Product Description
William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, eds. (Wiley-Blackwell: May 11, 2009), 752 pages.
With the help of in-depth essays from some of the world's leading philosophers, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology explores the nature and existence of God through human reason and evidence from the natural world. This title provides in-depth and cutting-edge treatment of natural theology's main arguments. It includes contributions from first-rate philosophers well known for their work on the relevant topics. It updates relevant arguments in light of the most current, state-of-the-art philosophical and scientific discussions. It stands in useful contrast and opposition to the arguments of the 'new atheists'.
J.P. Moreland (Harvest House: Jan 1, 2009), 272 pages.
A leading evangelical thinker offers this brand–new way of addressing life’s most important questions: Does God exist, and can we know Him? J.P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, abandons traditional didactic apologetics and entices skeptics and dissatisfied believers into a conversation about the emptiness and anxiety so many feel today. He invites them to the abundant life Jesus offers but that so few seem to be experiencing. Moreland shows that people are created by a benevolent God and given a life–enhancing purpose. He empowers readers to... overcome obstacles to faith, including questions about science and religion; embrace an enticing view of Jesus and the kingdom of God; and, replace unhelpful images of God with the truth. Readers will find practical and effective ways to experience intimacy with God, an effective life of prayer, and a confident hope in life after death. ~ Product Description
Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion's Cultured Despisers (Wiley-Blackwell: Dec. 3, 2008), p. 45.
And, if as most theists would agree, God transcends our finite understanding, wouldn't it be better to define "God" in a way that makes our understanding of the divine susceptible to development in the light of critical reflection? What we need is a definition that points us to something without presuming to describe every key detail; a definition that gets all of us "looking in the same direction" so that we can have a debate about the properties of what we're looking at. ¶ Of course, any definition of this sort will make it difficult to test the God Hypothesis scientifically, even if it were theoretically possible to do so. And so the new atheists may view such a definition as a deliberate evasion of their efforts at falsification (I can almost hear the indignation). ¶ My initial response to such views is simply this: Get over it. Since the God Hypothesis concerns a reality that transcends the world investigated by science, it can't be investigated scientifically anyway, and so such indignation is irrelevant. Theologians and philosophers of religion should not be forced, out of deference to those scientists who want to subject everything to their methodology, to adopt a definition of God unsuitable to its subject matter.
Stephen King on God said...
"Stephen King's God Trip" by John Marks, at Salon.com (October 23, 2008), p3.
It's a mystery. That's the first thing that interests me about the idea of God. If there is one, it's mysterious and powerful and awesome to even consider the concept, and you have to take it seriously. I understand where Bill Maher is coming from when he says, basically, the world is destroying itself over a bunch of fairy tales about talking snakes and men who are alive inside fishes. I'm very sympathetic to it, but at the same time, given the cosmos that we're living in, it's very persuasive, the idea that there is some kind of first cause that's running things. It might not be the god of Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, it might not be the god of al-Qaida, and it might not be the god of Abraham, but something very well could be running things. The order of the universe as we see it, the interlocking nature, and the way things work together, are persuasive of the idea that there may be some overarching first cause.
Robert B. Stewart, ed. (Augsburg Fortress: Oct 2008), 212 pages.
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.