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Atheism: A Philosophical Justification Hardcover – March, 1990

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Thousands of philosophers—from the ancient Greeks to modern thinkers—have defended atheism, but none more comprehensively than Martin. His lengthy arguments, detailed and incisive, are sharpened by modern developments in logic and inductive reasoning and by special attention to contemporary thinkers whose subtle writings are unknown to the general public.... Atheists should read it to bolster their creed, and theists should read it to test their faith against the deadly force of Martin's attack."
Martin Gardner, The Humanist


"A tour-de-force for the mind.... This is a book to be read several times and savored while being slowly digested.... If one follows Martin's reasoning throughout this book, one will have gone through the most thorough and vigorous examination of the logical arguments surrounding atheism and theism that has ever been offered."
Gordon Stein, American Rationalist



"[This book] has the impact of a runaway train. It is certainly the best philosophical justification of atheism that I have ever read.... Even readers with little philosophical background will find themselves richly repaid."
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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

Logical reasons for being an atheist
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Temple Univ Pr (March 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877226423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877226420
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,715,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By jlowder@infidels.org on September 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a HUGE overview of the different types of atheism. Overall, I think Martin's book is an excellent introduction to atheism. I particularly enjoyed his refutation of various theistic answers to the argument from evil. Unfortunately, I cannot report that I enthusiastically endorse every feature of this book. Here's why:
First, Martin creates unnecessary problems for himself by trying to argue BOTH that theism is meaningless AND that if theism were meaningful, it is false. I am very familiar with Martin's Internet essay, "Positive Atheism and the Meaninglessness of Theism," where he explains that his defense of both negative and positive atheism is a "fall-back" position. However, Martin's defense of the claim, "theism is factually meaningfulness," is unconvincing. (Even most nontheists believe that theism is meaningful!) Moreover, Martin's "fall-back" strategy is a poor one. By writing such a huge discussion of arguments for and against the existence of God, it sure *appears* that Martin can think of ways in which the existence of God might be confirmed or disconfirmed. In other words, despite the fact that Martin was using a "fall-back" strategy, by the very nature of the issue Martin's fall-back strategy undermines his claim that theism is factually meaningfulness.
Second, given that his book was first published 10 years ago, it is now starting to become dated. Martin's book lacks a discussion of several new evidential arguments for atheism developed and defended since 1991. John Schellenberg has defended the highly influential atheological argument from divine hiddenness. (Indeed, this argument is so powerful that even Christian philosophers are taking it seriously: witness the forthcoming publication of Howard-Snyder's and Moser's anthology on divine hiddenness.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By "freethoughtmecca" on January 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, this is undoubtedly one of the strongest defenses of Atheism ever written. Martin gives information on both "negative" and "positive" Atheism. These two distinctions are as follows: "negative" Atheism is simply non-belief in any particular god, while "positive" Atheism is the firm belief that no gods exist. It may sound like there is no difference at all, but it mostly has to do with how strong one's Atheism is.
Martin, a professor of philosophy at Boston University, destroys numerous modern incarnations of common theist arguments, including William Lane Craig's twist on the Kalam cosmological argument. The one draw back to this book is that it might make for rough reading for those who are not familiar with the symbolization and syntax of sentential logic. Such readers may have a tough time with Martin's arguments which, at times, resemble mathematical equations.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Martin Carlsson on April 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a layman in terms of philosophy I found this book to be at the edge of my ability to comprehend. This is really no page-turner in the Stephen King sense. It requires long hours of careful reading and thinking on the reader's behalf.
Martin does a great job in defining the various ideas surrounding atheism and the problems with theism. All the classic theistic proofs, in various and modern form, of the existance of God gets a good pounding. Martin deals with both so called negative atheism (the mere lack of belief in gods(s) and positive atheism (the disbelief in God and then mainly the omnipotent,omniscient and omnibenevolent construction apparent in say, christianity.
I would recommend to read Atheism: the case against God by George Smith if you are not into philosophy a lot instead of this book. This one goes so much further and is therefor at a much higher level
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Douglas E. Krueger on August 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Only nonphilosophers could fail to be impressed by the scope, power, and depth of the arguments for atheism in Martin's book, as the reviews show. It is an impressive philosophical achievement. The work is written for those with at least some familiarity with philosophical discussions of traditional arguments for and against theism, and it is that audience who will most profit from this work. However, both philosophers and nonphilosophers can use this book as an invaluable reference work. The only theistic arguments of note that are not examined in the book are the very few that have appeared after the publication of this book. Aside from that, all classes of theistic and atheistic arguments taken even somewhat seriously by professional philosophers, both atheistic and theistic philosophers, are carefully examined. The arguments for theism don't hold up, and the atheistic arguments do. Arguments by theists from Plantinga to Swinburne, from Craig to Kung, are methodically and thoroughly dismantled, and their flaws made manifest. This book clearly and forcefully delivers what its title states: a philosophical justification for atheism. Highly recommended.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Daniel R. Sanderman VINE VOICE on November 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Michael Martin's book has many strengths, most of them lying in his comprehensive approach to the discussion of atheism. Martin covers just about every angle in the current debate about the existence of God, listing and rehearsing what he takes to be the most damaging, at least potentially, to the atheist's position. Naturally, the fact that book is a bit dated keeps it off the cutting edge, but the general form of these arguments has not changed-providing the beginner with a sense of the landscape. In the first part of the book, Martin covers the topic of negative atheism, striking down all of the arguments for God's existence with a sweep of his pen. In the second part, Martin defends positive atheism and provides various arguments for believing that God does not exist.

The problem with his "justification," as many readers have alluded to, is that Martin's arguments often fail to be compelling and rarely achieve the goals that he desires of them. One gets the impression while reading his book that the author himself became tired with the scope of his project and descended into quick refusals of positions without carefully examining the positions of his opponents. The principle of charity is, in some places, completely absent from this text, leading the uninformed reader to believe that the only intellectuals defending theism are half-wits who have no idea what they are talking about. After seeking out many of the arguments that Martin attacks, one finds that he has often misrepresented their views and fails to meet them at full-strength, choosing instead to argue against straw-men.

I keep this book on the shelf as a reference guide, because it provides a rough-and-ready resource to glance through whenever you need to quickly catch up on an argument. But I think most readers would be better off with a balanced anthology, or at least a mixture of both sides' responses to each other.
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