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Atheism, Morality, and Meaning (Prometheus Lecture Series) [Kindle Edition]

Michael Martin
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Despite the pluralism of contemporary American culture, the Judaeo-Christian legacy still has a great deal of influence on the popular imagination. Thus it is not surprising that in this context atheism has a slightly scandalous ring, and unbelief is often associated with lack of morality and a meaningless existence. Distinguished philosopher and committed atheist Michael Martin sets out to refute this notion in this thorough defense of atheism as a both moral and meaningful philosophy of life. Martin shows not only that objective morality and a meaningful life are possible without belief in God but that the predominantly Christian world view of American society is seriously flawed as the basis of morality and meaning.
Divided into four parts, this cogent and tightly argued treatise begins with well-known criticisms of nonreligious ethics and then develops an atheistic meta-ethics. In Part 2, Martin criticizes the Christian foundation of ethics, specifically the Divine Command Theory and the idea of imitating the life of Jesus as the basis of Christian morality. Part 3 demonstrates that life can be meaningful in the absence of religious belief. Part 4 criticizes the theistic point of view in general terms as well as the specific Christian doctrines of the Atonement, Salvation, and the Resurrection.
This highly informed and sophisticated defense of atheism is a stimulating challenge to religious believers and a serious contribution to ethical theory.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"...belong[s] on the bookshelf of anyone interested in discussions about naturalism, atheism, theism, and morality." -- About.com

"…a demanding, well-written, tightly-argued and extraordinarily comprehensive work." -- Freethinker, April 2004

About the Author

Michael Martin (Boston, MA) is professor of philosophy emeritus at Boston University and the author of many books on philosophy, including Atheism: A Philosophical Justification and The Case against Christianity. He is also the author of the short-story collection The Big Domino in the Sky and Other Atheistic Tales.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2777 KB
  • Print Length: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (December 31, 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002KHOJC6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,057,384 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Most of the recent literature on the relationship between religion and morality is written by theists. It is rare to find anything in print by an atheist on *contemporary* moral arguments for God's existence. It is even less common to find an atheist who discusses such arguments without denying moral realism or moral objectivism. Michael Martin's book is a welcome exception to this trend. Martin responds to moral arguments for God's existence *as a moral realist and as a moral objectivist*.
Martin does not just defend atheism against moral apologetics; he goes on the offensive, presenting an affirmative case for an atheistic moral realism. He also makes many interesting points about the idea that Christianity (and not just God in general) is the foundation of ethics, and offers a detailed discussion of the implications of Christianity and naturalism for the meaning of life.
The breadth of the territory covered by Martin is impressive; I know of no other book on the market that covers such a variety of metaethical issues from an atheistic perspective. Anyone interested in the relationship between naturalism, theism, and morality will find Martin's book useful. Moreover, unlike many books on metaethics, Martin's book is not highly technical, which helps to make it accessible to the lay reader.
However, the book does have its limitations. Many nonphilosophers will find Martin's presentation and defense of Ideal Observer Theory counterintuitive and unconvincing. Martin says nothing about the atheistic justification for adopting the moral point of view. And Martin says little or nothing about some of the influential moral arguments advanced by theists.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sustained case well argued February 19, 2003
Format:Paperback
Martin undermines the Christian case for morality and meaning in life, and he also shows how an atheistic view can support an ethical theory and a meaningful life. Martin's sustained case for showing how life can have meaning without god, and how objective morality is possible without god, is must reading for both atheists and believers--especially the believers, since they often suffer from the mistaken stereotype that belief in god is a necessary condition for both ethics and meaning in life.
One may, perhaps, fault Martin for not devoting much space to alternative atheistic ethical theories other than the one he develops in the book, but details on those theories are readily available elsewhere, and Martin's book suffers from few other shortcomings. (Although, unfortunately, he does devote some space to refuting the absurd presuppositionalist claims of Bahnsen, a view that is not taken seriously in contemporary ethical theory anyway. But I guess someone has to refute it.)
This book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in the relationship between theism, morality, and meaning in life.
Readable, informative, accurate, and powerful. Buy it.
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16 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Dense, Too Defensive January 5, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had high hopes that Michael Martin's book would offer clear and concise description of a non-religious basis for morality, but what I found instead was a densely written, barely readable, defensive-almost-to-the-point-of-paranoia philisophical apology. Hello! Michael! Human morality predates Abraham, not to mention Jesus. Why write as if Christians invented it? If Christians want to claim that any non-God-based moral code is tantamount to relativism by reducing all arguments to the point of absurdity, let them. It's their intellectual cul de sac, and they appear to enjoy living there.

I found the Ideal Observer Theory completely unpersuasive. What is the difference between acting morally because the Ideal Observer would disapprove versus acting morally because God would disapprove? It's a distinction without a difference. Why look for morality in abstract concepts when it is so clearly visible in reality and human history? Thou shalt not murder? Duh! Humanity wouldn't exist if we hadn't figured that one out long ago.
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13 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The standard--and a little tired--tradition June 4, 2005
Format:Paperback
Professor emeritus of philosophy at Boston University, Michael Martin is something of a guru among those who see him as a champion of atheism. Among his best-known titles are ATHEISM: A PHILOSOPHICAL JUSTIFICATION and THE CASE AGAINST CHRISTIANITY. In the present volume, he sets out to defend atheism against the claim that it cannot provide a basis for morality or purposeful existence. He also aims to show that attempts to provide such a basis by means of a Christian worldview are seriously flawed. However, several impediments prevent this from being either a very inviting or successful book. First, while the formal analytical style of argument aims at logical rigor, it will seem labored, dry, and distracting to many readers. Second, despite the fact that Martin references a new generation of disputants, few of the arguments are new or philosophically interesting, but tired variations on time-worn, threadbare cavils from generations ago. Third, the entire tenor of discussion betrays an uncritical acceptance of a logical empiricist frame of reference, in which what counts as "evidence" or "refutation" seems to have little to do with the subtleties of interpretation, meaning, or history. Without accounting for these matters, Martin's arguments are difficult to take quite seriously.
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