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Atheism: A Philosophical Justification Hardcover – March 1, 1990

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Temple Univ Pr (March 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877226423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877226420
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,561,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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.

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Logical reasons for being an atheist

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Customer Reviews

Martin is at his best when he discusses the teleological argument.
Jill Malter
For those willing to spend quite a bit of time deciphering Martin's points, this book is a valuable, if somewhat dated, resource.
Let the theist tremble; his belief system is shown to be untenable because his God cannot swing on the parallel bars!
S. Guha

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 74 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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21 of 24 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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12 of 14 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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13 of 16 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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31 of 41 people found the following review helpful By joshrasm@aol.com on May 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Michael Martin does a good job defending atheism by first demonstrating that negative atheism (lack of belief in God) is philosophically justified and then by demonstrating that positive atheism (disbelief in God) is justified.
Though this book was written at a highly intellectual level, it did seem to contain a number of logical problems. For example, Martin thinks he can show that morals can have meaning without God simply by showing that it might be possible to construct an ethic system that doesn't demand "belief" in God. But this is clearly inadequate. What needs to be demonstrated is that God's existence is not required for real moral norms to exist. If I am an accident of nature, why "ought" I behave one way over another? If there is a standard of right and wrong (even if it be relative to each person) where did it come from? This question, Martin doesn't attempt to answer.
I could give other examples, but I don't want to detract from the high quality of most of his philosophical evaluations, which define his book. For example, he seemed to do an excellent job stating opposing arguments (i.e. no straw men).
As a result of Martin's skill at philosophical analysis, this book might be a haven for atheists. However, Norman Geisler's, Christian Apologetics, develops a revised cosmological argument that is untouched by Martin's criticism of the cosmological argument and its various forms. Thus, atheists should be careful to not let his book keep them from continued investigation. In fact, the book actually gave me more confidence in the theistic worldview as being philosophically plausible (if not necessary) than I was before I read the book. However, the book skillfully contains a depth of reasoning to support atheism that theists and atheists can benefit from.
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