God's Existence and Nature
Charles Taliaferro, Victoria Harrison, and Stewart Goetz, eds. (Routledge: Sep 25, 2012), 752 pages.
There are deep and pervasive disagreements today in universities and colleges, and popular culture in general, over the credibility and value of belief in God. This has given rise to an urgent need for a balanced, comprehensive, accessible resource book that can inform the public and scholarly debate over theism. While scholars with as diverse interests as Daniel Dennett, Terry Eagleton, Richard Dawkins, Jürgen Habermas, and Rowan Williams have recently contributed books to this debate, "theism" as a concept remains poorly understood and requires a more thorough and systematic analysis than it has so far received in any single volume. The Routledge Companion to Theism addresses this need by investigating theism's history as well as its relationship to inquiry in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and to its wider cultural contexts. The contents are not confined within the philosophy of religion or even within the more expansive borders of philosophy. Rather, The Routledge Companion to Theism investigates its subject through the lens of a wide variety of disciplines and explores the ramifications of theism considered as a way of life as well as an intellectual conviction. The five parts of the volume indicate its inclusive scope: I. What is Theism?; II. Theism and Inquiry; III. Theism and the Socio-Political Realm; IV. Theism and Culture; V. Theism as a Way of Life. The result is a well ordered and thorough collection that should provide a wide spectrum of readers with a better understanding of a subject that's much discussed, but frequently misunderstood. As the editors note in their Introduction, while stimulating and informing the contemporary debate, a key aim of the volume is to open new avenues of inquiry into theism and thereby to encourage further research into this vital topic. Comprised of 54 essays by leading scholars in philosophy, history, theology, religious studies, political science, education and sociology, The Routledge Companion to Theism promises to be the most useful, comprehensive resource on an emerging subject of interest for students and scholars.
James S. Spiegel (Moody Publishers: Feb 2010), 144 pages.
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
Karen Armstrong (Knopf: Sep 2009), 432 pages.
A fascinating journey through Western civilization's ongoing attempts to understand and explain the concept of God. Celebrated religion scholar Armstrong (The Bible: A Biography, 2007, etc.) creates more than a history of religion; she effectively demonstrates how the West (broadly speaking) has grappled with the existence of deity and captured the concept in words, art and ideas. Beginning in the majestic caves of Lascaux, Armstrong explores how religion became a meaningful part of prehistoric societies, and the ways in which these societies passed down their practices and ideas in the earliest forms of art. The author then moves on to early monotheism and its rivals, offering a brilliant examination of ancient Greek views on religion and reason, which laid the groundwork for so much of Western thought. Looking at the early Christians and Diaspora-era Jews in tandem, Armstrong delves into Talmudic study and midrash, as well as Christian adaptations of theological concepts. Throughout the book, the author argues against religion as an abstraction, noting that it most truly exists in practice. "Faith . . . was a matter of practical insight and active commitment," she writes. "It had little to do with abstract belief or theological conjecture." Nevertheless, scholars have always attempted to define and "prove" God, and Armstrong admirably outlines the best of them through the centuries, including Origen, Anselm, Pascal and Tillich. Armstrong claims that the "warfare" between science and religion is a myth perpetuated by those with axes to grind. Likewise, the modern atheist movement, "death of God" theology and even fundamentalism arise from extremists who see religion as correct doctrine,not correct praxis. Though mostly focused on the West, Armstrong maintains a global perspective, masterfully weaving in her solid understanding of the world's panoply of faiths. Accessible, intriguing study of how we see God. ~ Kirkus Reviews
James W. Sire and Carl Peraino (IVP Books: Apr 2009), 203 pages.
If you're looking for clear-cut answers to difficult questions about God — or for your guy to score a quick knock-out of a toughened sparring partner — then this book is not for you. But if you're open to an authentic, no-holds barred, respectful dialogue about one of life's most important issues, then take up and read. There are no straw men here. Sparked by a chance meeting between two book-club acquaintances and their discussion of Kurt Vonnegut's obituary, this dialogue between long-time Christian Jim Sire and forthright atheist Carl Peraino developed through extended email exchanges exploring minds and brains, science and morality, faith and reason, God and violence, doubt and rhetoric. You'll find much to ponder, weigh and explore in this lively, down-to-earth book. A study guide is included if you wish to delve deeper into any of the issues raised. ~ Product Description
Stuart C. Hackett (Wipf & Stock Publishers: Jan 2009), 381 pages.
This is the 2nd Edition of an epochal treatise in rationalistic theism. The 1st Edition is extremely rare, having been printed in hardbound by Moody Press in 1957 in a printing of only 2,000. Unfortunately, the plates were destroyed. The bottom line of this book is to show how to self-referentially analyze statements to eliminate the possibility of opposing views, and to prove the impossibility of an actually infinite temporal sequence or an actually infinite set of discrete extra-mental objects. Hence, believing that God exists is the end of a long metatheoretic journey, an intellectual cul-de-sac from which there is no logical escape, only a chosen one. Analyzing statements that refer to themselves dominates the entire work, even in relation to self-referential analysis itself and the prior structures of conceptionalization. ~ Rick James @ Amazon.com
Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson (Canon Press: Sep 2, 2008), 72 pages.
This book reproduces an insightful and spirited recent debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson over what Dostoevsky called the Eternal Questions: What is the real nature of the universe in which we find ourselves? What are the ultimate bases of reason and ethics? Are there any ultimate sanctions governing human behavior? Though Hitchens is always worth reading for his quick wit and frequently surprising arguments, unfortunately in this debate he does not come off at his best. While graciously conceding that Hitchens has clean hands, Wilson wielding a very fine knife shows that Hitchens, sad to say, doesn't have any hands to begin with. Hitchens is of the view that the universe is the accidental consequence of swirling particles, claiming that his reason has led him to this conclusion. Wilson, in the style of C.S.Lewis, points out that if the world outside Hitchen's head is given over wholly to such irrational chemical processes, the world inside Hitchens' head can be no differently composed, and that what Hitchens refers to as "rational argument" has been "arbitrarily dubbed" so. ~ Stanley H. Nemeth
Nathan Jacobson » Reflections on Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion .
I know I'm late to the party, but I've finally gotten a chance to begin reading Dawkins' celebrated best-seller, The God Delusion. It's been a very engaging read so far and I'm hoping to post a number of reflections here as I stumble across provocative passages. In the first chapter, Dawkins aims to embolden beleaguered atheists who have been cowed into silence by societal and familial pressures. I second his call to transparency, to being our authentic selves in the public square. However, along the way, he paints a picture of the plight of atheists in the Western world, and in America in particular, that to me seems off. He suggests that, "the status of atheists in America today is on a par with that of homosexuals fifty years ago." And, it is only "slightly exaggerating" to say that "making fun of religion is as risky as burning a flag in an American Legion Hall". Dawkins makes some good observations about the very real prejudices that atheists do face, but this second claim is absurd. I know Dawkins is a Brit, looking in from afar, but has he ever: 1) Watched The Simpsons, The Family Guy, or The Daily Show; 2) Read The Onion, a college newspaper, or a big city's "independent" paper; 3) Hung out in the Humanities department of any major American university; 4) Opened a Bible in West Hollywood or Manhattan?1 Ironically, many Christians also complain that it is they who are persecuted and prevailed upon to keep their beliefs in the closet. And the truth is, they're both right.
Alister E. McGrath (Wiley-Blackwell: May 2, 2008), 384 pages.
Alister McGrath's The Open Secret provides nothing less than the foundations of a vigorous renewal of natural theology for our time. Theologians and others who have considered natural theology an exhausted topic will have second thoughts after reading this richly nuanced, scholarly, creative, and enjoyable book." ~ John F. Haught, Georgetown University • "This is vintage McGrath: confident, capacious in scope, brisk in exposition, decisive in argument. Noone is better placed to make a case for a revisionary theology of nature; this book is sure to command a wide audience and to generate profitable debate." John Webster, King's College, Aberdeen • "For much of the twentieth century natural theology was regarded as intellectually moribund and theologically suspect. In this splendid new book, best-selling author and distinguished theologian Alister McGrath issues a vigorous challenge to the old prejudices. Building on the foundation of the classical triad of truth, beauty and goodness, he constructs an impressive case for a new and revitalized natural theology. This is a well-conceived, timely, and thought-provoking volume." Peter Harrison, Harris Manchester College, Oxford "The book is learned, covering a great deal of historical ground. ~ First Things
Louise M. Antony, ed. (Oxford University Press, USA : Aug 2007), 336 pages.
These highly engaging personal essays capture the marvelous diversity to be found among atheists, providing a portrait that will surprise most readers. Many of the authors, for example, express great affection for particular religious traditions, even as they explain why they cannot, in good conscience, embrace them. None of the contributors dismiss religious belief as stupid or primitive, and several even express regret that they cannot, or can no longer, believe. Perhaps more important, in these reflective pieces, they offer fresh insight into some of the oldest and most difficult problems facing the human mind and spirit. For instance, if God is dead, is everything permitted? Philosophers Without Gods demonstrates convincingly, with arguments that date back to Plato, that morality is independent of the existence of God. Indeed, every writer in this volume adamantly affirms the objectivity of right and wrong. Moreover, they contend that secular life can provide rewards as great and as rich as religious life. A naturalistic understanding of the human condition presents a set of challenges — to pursue our goals without illusions, to act morally without hope of reward — challenges that can impart a lasting value to finite and fragile human lives.
Christopher Hitchens (Twelve Books, Hachette: May 1, 2007), 307 pages.
Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he's completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. And can he turn a phrase!: "monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents." Hitchens's one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers. Yet few believers will recognize themselves as Hitchens associates all of them for all time with the worst of history's theocratic and inquisitional moments. All the same, this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers' weaker arguments: that faith offers comfort (false comfort is none at all), or has provided a historical hedge against fascism (it mostly hasn't), or that "Eastern" religions are better (nope). The book's real strength is Hitchens's on-the-ground glimpses of religion's worst face in various war zones and isolated despotic regimes. But its weakness is its almost fanatical insistence that religion poisons "everything," which tips over into barely disguised misanthropy. ~ Publisher's Weekly