- Hardcover: 176 pages
- Publisher: FSG Adult; First Edition edition (Jan. 3 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0809059193
- ISBN-13: 978-0809059195
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 18.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 204 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,616,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Irreligion Hardcover – Dec 26 2007
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pp. 158, "Are there any logical reasons to believe in God? Mathematician and bestselling author John Allen Paulos thinks not. In Irreligion he presents the case for his own worldview, organizing his book into twelve chapters that refute the twelve arguments most often put forward for believing in God's existence. The latter arguments, Paulos relates…
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There are so many better books on this subject. Try instead any of the following:
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason by Victor J. Stenger
Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeney
In his Preface, Paulos states his skepticism emerged at an early age. He hasn't let it rest, working it to confront numerous situations. He early recognised the unanimity of things, which made him feel part of everything. Instead of attributing the universal relationship of matter to the supernatural, he turned instead to wondering why others did. In so doing he's accumulated a number of assertions purportedly supporting the notion of a deity. Each sets a condition, proposes an absurd - if frequently forwarded - supportive supposition to reach an unwarranted conclusion. A typical classic runs:
1. The world in general seems to evidence intention and direction
2. There must be a director behind this purpose
3. The entity directing must be a god, thereby proving its existence.
Paulos notes that the teleological argument goes back to ancient Greece, but is best typified today by William Paley's early 19th Century concept of "natural theology". That the idea remains current is a testimony to the failure of today's education or Western society's loss of a sense of logic. Paley influenced Charles Darwin in his early years, but the evidence Nature presented him on his HMS Beagle journey overturned Paley's failed assumption. Complexity means things are complex, but no designer is required, just time and opportunity. Paulos recommends a trumpet fanfare when we consider Darwin's achievement.
The author goes on to consider the remaining assertions, using logic that comes easily to a mathematician. He doesn't belabour the reader with formulae, since such arcane methods would leave one bewildered or exhausted. Instead, he laces his explanations with a wit that must be a wonderful experience in his classroom. He spares none, taking to task the recent works attacking various forms of belief as "arrogant and overbearing". Instead, he presents his refutations of the hoary assertions in a conversational style that can appeal to any level of reader, whether a sceptic or suffused with faith. He doesn't lash out, but presents the arguments for a deity as commonly stated, and shows their flaws without rancour.
As such, this book deserves the widest readership, perhaps starting with every minister of whatever faith permeating your local society. And he is at some pains to get his message across to his many countrymen who seem bent on "repealing the Enlightenment". If nothing else, the presence of such a threat makes this book mandatory reading - at least in North America. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I was delighted to find the author is not only funny but brilliantly laconic, explaining how he sees most of the more common arguments seen today for the existence of a god or gods. For those who have taken multi variate, advanced calculus, advanced physics (anything where you are working with "proofs") you will immediately feel right at home. Paulus commonly begins by taking the reader through what he sees as the logical proof an apologist is submitting and then finds the cracks with turn-of-phrase which is as clever as it is humorous.
There is one section where he has a "dreamy instant message conversation with God" that I don't particularly care for but I could see how someone could take some value from it.
This book is not brilliance encapsulated as some may describe a Hitchens, Dennett, or Grayling. But instead it's someone explaining why he is not a theist, rather than why you should not be a theist.
He ends the book with a slightly outdated argument, which I'm sure at the time looked as though it was going to be a bigger deal than it was (the "bright" movement), but I have re-read this book several times and have found the contents enlightening every time.
I would suggest it to anyone. Cheers!
The book would not convince religious people whose minds are closed, even if they read it. It will not convince people who deny the role of reason in the question of God's existence. And it is not a polemic with ivory tower theologians.
This is a gentle book. Paulos does not bring up the horrific facts of the criminal history of religion that Dawkins, Hitchens and others have explored in recent books. He concentrates on a few common arguments for God's existence, and shows how an intelligent person would find them wanting.