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Atheism, Morality, and Meaning (Prometheus Lecture Series) Paperback – January 1, 2003

3.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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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.
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Product Details

  • Series: Prometheus Lecture Series
  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573929875
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573929875
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,022,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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