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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars VERY comprehensive but dated introduction to atheism
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...
Published on September 9, 2001 by jlowder@infidels.org

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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Encyclopedia of Atheism: Short on Substance
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...
Published on November 4, 2004 by Daniel R. Sanderman


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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars VERY comprehensive but dated introduction to atheism, September 9, 2001
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (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.) Martin's book is missing other important evidential atheological arguments as well, including Michael Tooley's argument from physical minds, Paul Draper's argument about combining evolution with the problem of evil, Draper's argument from the biological role of pain and pleasure, and religious confusion. Likewise, on the theistic side, Martin's book says nothing about recent sophisticated defenses of so-called 'intelligent design' theory.
Third, I doubt that Martin's critique of moral arguments for theism will satisfy anyone except atheist philosophers, given the brevity of the discussion. If morality can be objective without God, Martin needs to say more about the matter than he does. And moral objectivists will not be impressed by Martin's 4-sentence (hypothetical?) dismissal of moral objectivism (which, I suppose, is another one of Martin's "fall-back" strategies.)
Overall, I think Michael Martin's _Atheism_ can be a useful addition to a person's library, so long as he or she is aware of its limitations. I hope that Martin revises his book so that these limitations are removed.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charged Atheism, January 9, 2001
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and very technical, April 26, 2000
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (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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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive case for atheism, August 20, 2000
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (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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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock Solid Case For Atheism, December 24, 1999
By 
eunomius (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Paperback)
This work is an erudite masterpiece. Martin tackles all of the major theistic arguments from a highly technical level. Although the concepts at hand are complex, they should not be too abstruse for the intelligent layman, or at least, I should hope. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this volume is the long exposition of "Positive Atheism," a subject that is very often ignored by many atheists. I hesitate to label this as *the* best single book on atheism, as George Smith's work is in my mind, but I will say honestly that it is necessary reading for all serious atheists.
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31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book for all intellectual atheist!, May 4, 1999
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (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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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Encyclopedia of Atheism: Short on Substance, November 4, 2004
By 
Daniel R. Sanderman (Portland, OR United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most comprehensive treatment going, June 29, 2008
By 
Kerry Walters (Lewisburg, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Paperback)
Professional philosopher Michael Martin consistently and rigorously defended atheism long before the advent of the comparatively shallow New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and to a certain extent Dennett) made atheism fashionable. Whereas the New Atheists focus more on what they see as the depredations of religion than on the philosophical caliber of theistic arguments, Martin, correctly seeing that religion and God's existence are two separate issues, scrutinizes arguments for the latter.

In his Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, he encyclopedically analyzes traditional as well as contemporary negative and positive arguments against the existence of God. By "negative," he means arguments which deny the strength of standard theistic arguments: ontological, cosmological, teleological, experience, miracles, and so on. By "positive," he means arguments that deny the existence of God: incoherence, argument from evil, and atheistic teleological arguments. Martin also considers claims that, from a linguistic perspective, God-talk is meaningless. He thinks that both general arguments--that talk about God is meaningless, and that positive and negative arguments against the existence of God are valid--should be considered, with the latter serving as a fallback position if the former is rejected. There's a bit of tension here, since of course the two positions are incompatible. If God-talk is meaningless, it's meaningless regardless of whether one is arguing for or against God's existence. But Martin is well aware of this, which is why he goes with the default argument.

Martin's analysis of standard positive and negative arguments is sandwiched between helpful introductory and concluding chapters which discuss the varieties of atheism, issues about atheism and meaning of life, common criticisms of atheism, and nonbelief in general.

Atheism: A Philosophical Justification is without doubt the single best analysis of philosophical arguments for atheism available, and serious inquirers would do well to read the New Atheists for fun but Martin for erudition. But there are sections of the book which will be tough-going for those who have no familiarity with symbolic logic. And it can't be denied that Martin's dry and academic style makes his volume a bit off-putting.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DECONSTRUCTING GOD, June 14, 1999
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Paperback)
Standing deservedly in the first battle line together with John L. Mackie's superb "The Miracle of Theism", which is arguably the sparkling highlight of 20th-century's analytic critique of religion, the comprehensive book by Michael Martin brings up heavy artillery of emphatic reasoning at the contemporary front of the philosophy of religion. The systematic gunfire of his sharp argumentation aims unerringly at every imaginable sector of pro-theistic discourse, laying desperate siege to the divine positions, undermining piecemeal even the most protected trenches of theistic judgment and eventually giving religious belief its quietus through the devastating precision of his logical weapons. To put it less militaristically, the author shows clearly with his complex exposition, offering a persuasive amount of solid grounds for the justification of disbelief, that no variant of classical or recent rationale in favour of theism, however tricky it may be, can emerge unscathed and superior from the acid bath of analytic investigation into which it has been plunged by Martin. In spite of his criticism being outspoken, Martin always gives a fair and unbiased account of the opponents' views. The conclusions he draws are compelling in any sensible respect. With theism being proven both virtually incoherent and evidently false, its true ontological status has been revealed once and for all: Theology, the institutionalized form of theism, is actually nothing but God fiction, consisting of obscure and fabricated narrations which are lacking any real content or reference to the world of brute facts! Consequently any thoughtless and credulous faith in any God or allegedly transcendental entity whatsoever may be caused by hazy yearning, exaggerated fear or some other misleading impetus of naive sentiment, and may be firmly embedded in the individual's mind through the traditional perfidy of clerical indoctrination and authoritarian socialisation; but for the sake of objective cognition and the sincere welfare of mankind religion, this threadbare work of man, should be abandoned and replaced by the provable reliability and practical usefulness of sound scientific knowledge, which is to be acquired through strict methodological procedures within the bounds of humanly possible experience! On the day we will have overcome our earthly deprivations and our self-inflicted agony by objective policies, we won't feel any longer an urge to hand over our destiny submissively to divine power. Agreeing with another important atheist thinker, Kai Nielsen, I hold that for a rational and mature person facing the dawn of the third millennium and bearing in mind the invaluable education and cognitive liberation of almost 400 years of Enlightenment religious ideologies ought to have ceased to be Jamesian "live options". I am convinced that the great David Hume would have deemed Martin's forceful scrutiny of theism quite fit, although most people (especially the vast flock of believers) surely won't take the slightest notice of this challenging book and the rampant weed of superstition and irrationality will still be growing in the future! If you want to test the corrosion-resistance of your faith, dive in the acid bath and see!
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extremely good and thoughtful book., June 11, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Paperback)
It's a thick book, but as theists come up with so many different philosophical whizzes and lame excuses, this book needs to be thick. I did a pure maths degree, but still found some of the content heavy going logically and conceptually. However such depth was required to provide a full rebuttal. This is not a book for the marginally theologically curious. It is not intended as a little light bedtime reading, but for serious study or reference. Martin leaves the non-atheistic arguments against Christianity to his book The Case Against Christianity, being careful not to stray into that area in this book. The book provides the ideal basis for someone who has provisionally decided to become an atheist, but wishes to examine the intellectual under-pinning of atheism before doing so completely. I would recommend it for theists, if I felt they could handle it. I pity the person who tries to rebutt the central arguments contained within this book!
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Atheism: A Philosophical Justification
Atheism: A Philosophical Justification by Michael Martin (Paperback - January 8, 1992)
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