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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Helpful Beginning for Inquiry
For an erudite review, others will serve you better. I write as one who was raised in a deeply fundamentalist (very "non-pagan") religion, and who found the God espoused by it far too small to inspire awe.
If you are looking for proof that Abraham's God exists, you will not find it here. However, as one who has only recently begun a serious quest to come...
Published on December 31, 2003 by S. Shafer

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to Think About God - review
Being a Christian with much faith in God, I wasn't sure if this book was for me. But as I began to read the opening chapters, I was intrigued by the fact that Adler was attempting to prove God's existence solely with philosophical reasoning. This follows from many years ago, when Plato and Aristotle attempted the same challenge. Their thoughts are unaffected by...
Published on December 7, 2004 by Tina Dillander


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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Helpful Beginning for Inquiry, December 31, 2003
By 
S. Shafer (Milton Freewater, OR USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How to Think About God (Hardcover)
For an erudite review, others will serve you better. I write as one who was raised in a deeply fundamentalist (very "non-pagan") religion, and who found the God espoused by it far too small to inspire awe.
If you are looking for proof that Abraham's God exists, you will not find it here. However, as one who has only recently begun a serious quest to come to terms with the idea of God, I highly recommend this book. It has provided me a foundation for subsequent reading and instruction in the process of discriminative thought---both of which have proven very helpful as I continue seeking.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book., December 17, 2001
By 
Jeremy Daggett (Aumsville, OR United States) - See all my reviews
This book is quite good. Adler's way of explaining is quite clear. He makes sure that every point is understood well enough for a common arm-chair philosopher (myself and all of you). He continually repeats his purpose and the main points and definitions so as to keep everything closeknit and tied together so that a definition or concept on page 2 isn't forgotten or lost by page 92 when it is really needed most. Any negative reviews will be by closeminded atheists and theists... the atheist because he actually does give us reasonable grounds for affirming the existence of God (the God of the Philosophers); and the theist because he doesn't go far enough in saying their God has real existence. I cannot understand how anyone can rip this book. It gives the atheist what he wants- an uncreated universe (at first) and gives the theist a God and even a brigde across the chasm between the God of the Philosophers and the God of Religion (finally).
"Two Thumbs Up!"
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to Think About God - review, December 7, 2004
By 
Being a Christian with much faith in God, I wasn't sure if this book was for me. But as I began to read the opening chapters, I was intrigued by the fact that Adler was attempting to prove God's existence solely with philosophical reasoning. This follows from many years ago, when Plato and Aristotle attempted the same challenge. Their thoughts are unaffected by religious views and beliefs.

Adler begins his explanations writing about the beginning of the world itself, and how it could be explained. He then writes about what the word "God" means. Adler states that the notion of God is a theoretical construct, or supreme being. He reviews some traditional arguments to God's existence, and shows their flaws. Adler also writes about the cosmological argument that if the existence of the cosmos is to be explained, and cannot be by natural causes, then we must look at the existence of a supernatural cause.

It was interesting to read about how Adler could propose this unseen, unknown being with simple facts and critical thinking. He was very clear and the entire book was extremely readable. Sometimes throughout the book, it seemed that Adler dragged on about the same point for too long. He has some great ideas and concepts, but maybe could have presented them in fewer words.

Obviously, I believe in God already, and love Him dearly, but I enjoyed reading about God in a different light.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new cosmological argument by a great thinker, April 16, 2003
By 
Lindsay (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
Mortimer Adler published this book as "a guide for the 20th-century pagan." At that time he considered himself a pagan (i.e. "one who does not worship the God of Christians, Jews, or Muslims"). As a prerequisite to his argument for the existence of God Adler assumes that the cosmos may be infinite in time. For, "to affirm ... that the world or cosmos had an absolute beginning --- that it was exnihilated at an initial instant --- would be tantamount to affirming the existence of God, the world's exnihilator." Adler wants to present an argument that "avoids the error of begging the question." Likewise he rejects the need for a first cause of the cosmos. A cosmos that has "an infinite extension of time from the present backward" can also have an "infinite temporal series of causes and effects."
He rejects the "best traditional argument" for the existence of God, the argument from contingency, because the contingency we actually observe in the universe is only superficial, involving mere transmutation. Yet radical contingency, involving exnihilation and annihilation of entities, is what the argument presupposes. Adler supposes instead a principle of inertia of being. With inertia "bodies set in motion continue in motion without the action of any efficient cause...and...come to rest only through the action of counteracting causes." Individual things of nature may also be brought into existence by natural causes and continue so until the action of counteracting natural causes results in their perishing.
Having rejected the third premise as traditionally understood Adler now recasts it. While radical contingency may be implausible of individual things in the cosmos, it might be true of the cosmos as a whole. What is true of the whole is not always true of the parts. Unlike the component parts that make it up, the cosmos does not exist as part of a greater whole. It therefore has an independent and unconditioned existence. It does "not dependent for its existence upon a larger whole to which it belongs, as its own parts do; and...its existence is not conditioned by factors outside itself, as the existence of individual things is conditioned by factors operating in their cosmic environment." The question then becomes is its existence caused or uncaused? Adler then states "the four propositions that constitute the premises of a truly cosmological argument:"
1. The existence of an effect requiring the concurrent existence and action of an efficient cause implies the existence and action of that cause.
2. The cosmos as a whole exists.
3. The existence of the cosmos as a whole is radically contingent, which is to say that, while not needing an efficient cause of its coming to be, since it is everlasting, it nevertheless does need an efficient cause of its continuing existence, to preserve it in being and prevent it from being replaced by nothingness.
4. IF the cosmos needs an efficient cause of its continuing existence to prevent its annihilation, THEN that cause must be a supernatural being, supernatural in its action, and one the existence of which is uncaused; in other words, the supreme being, or God.
Adler's argument hinges on whether the cosmos as a whole is radically contingent. To demonstrate that it is he first notes that "the cosmos which now exists is only one of many possible universes that might have existed in the infinite past, and that might still exist in the infinite future." If other universes are possible, then this one also is merely possible, not necessary. This postulate can be inferred from the cosmos manifesting chance and random happenings as well as lawful behaviour. And "whatever can be otherwise than it is can also simply not be at all." A cosmos which can be otherwise is one that also can not be. A merely possible cosmos cannot be an uncaused cosmos. A cosmos that is radically contingent in its existence needs a cause beyond itself, a supernatural cause. Adler maintains this conforms to Ockham's rule because, "we have found it necessary to posit the existence of God, the supreme being, in order to explain what needs to be explained --- the existence here and now of a merely possible cosmos." Whether the form of exnihilation is creative or preservative neither is within the power of natural causes.
Adler began by rejecting in principle a creation and therefore a creating God. He then found need to explain the continued preservation of the cosmos and therefore evidence for a preserving God. And "once we affirm God's existence on the assumption of an uncreated cosmos, we can turn to the more likely assumption of a created cosmos." The idea of a created cosmos with a beginning now becomes more plausible than the idea of an eternal cosmos.
Adler evaluates his argument as not giving "certitude" as to the existence of God but as demonstrating it "beyond reasonable doubt." Finally, he excogitates some of the attributes of such a supreme being: omnipotent, animate, omniscient, voluntary, and thus a "person" not a thing.
I must confess finding Adler's initial assumption of an everlasting cosmos problematic. Abstract, mathematical infinities are possible. For example: There are an infinite number of points on a line between points A and B, no matter how short or long the line may be. But real, concrete infinities? You cannot put an infinite number of concrete, real things between any two objects --- no matter how thin the things nor how far apart the two objects. Space is taken up.
It is likewise with real time. It is impossible to pass through an infinite series of moments. Each moment that passes uses up measurable time. If the physical past or future were infinite (i.e. if the cosmos had always existed), then we could never have passed through time to get to today. If the past is an infinite series of moments, and right now is where the series ends, then we would have passed through an infinite series and that is self-contradictory.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosphical view on God, April 25, 2005
By 
Prior to reading this book I knew nothing of its context except that it would be pertaining to God. Surprisingly I found that it is written by a pagan (one who does not worship the God of Christians, Jews, or Muslim) for pagan. This provoked me to read on, for I am a Christian and find it very interesting to learn about other peoples views of God or religious beliefs. It interested me even further when I read that this pagan author, Mortimer J. Adler, grew up Jewish.

Adler's objective in this book is to prove the existence of God beyond a reasonable doubt. He argues that scientifically nothing can be annihilated or exnihilated without the existence of a supernatural being or God. With this said, whether or not the cosmos were caused or uncaused could prove the existence of God. Adler stats that "that which cannot be otherwise also cannot not exist", and since the cosmos today has the possibility to not exist the cosmos is radically contingent. With the cosmos being radically contingent the existence of the cosmos would not be if it were not caused and a cosmos that needs a cause for its existence needs a supernatural being or God. Adler concludes with this being his proof for the existence of God.

I feel that Adler makes a complete argument that was logically consistent and fair in relations to the evidence presented and his treatment towards the opposing side. In fact he used such fair treatment towards the opposing side that I found myself questioning what side he was on. The argument was deductively valid and I think Adler used good reasoning and presented true premises.

In conclusion Adler's argument on whether or not God exist was extremely interesting and I enjoyed reading it. My favorite part was when he puts it all together about how the cosmos cannot exist without a cause which lends to the existence of a supernatural being or God.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thinking Man's Guide to Faith, July 5, 2005
By 
I read a copy of this book that I checked out of my university library. Adler wrote this book long before becoming a Christian himself. He describes his walk to faith in the book titled "Philosophers Who Believe." In How to Think About God, Adler leads the reader to the precipice of belief. He won't take the final leap for you nor does he do that himself. But he does lead a

thinking person to the notion that faith and rational thinking are not mutually exclusive. This book was a great help to me and I would recommend it to anyone struggling with coming to terms with faith in God.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional review, August 25, 2013
I don't remember everything about this book but I have to highly recommend it--even disregarding the rest of it, the cosmological argument alone is well worth the book. That was the argument, in fact, that led me from agnosticism to theism, and got me started on my way back to the Catholic Church. The fact that the late Mortimer J. Adler (God rest his soul) was not even baptized, much less Catholic, when he wrote this makes it all the more compelling.

When I read the argument, I thought: "This is the best argument for the existence of God I've ever heard of! How have I never heard of this argument before? This should be making headlines! 'Stop the presses! God does exist and we can know it!'"

Being a skeptic, though, it sounded too good to be true, and since I'd come to be of the belief that something that sounds too good to be true often is, the first thing I did was look up counter-arguments that attempt to refute it. While there was no shortage of counter-arguments, I couldn't find a single one that successfully refuted the argument: in fact, most of them betrayed a hopeless misunderstanding of what the cosmological argument was even saying, and so failed to even address the actual argument.

What I have learned, though, is why I hadn't heard of it before, and why it wasn't making headlines: not everyone is equally open to receiving the Truth, and that includes me sometimes (other times it's just the opposite--I can be too open-minded and feel overwhelmed). I tried explaining it to other people and didn't convince many people of its truth, and got frustrated because I didn't understand why they weren't reacting the same way I had done. But that was a learning experience for me.

Over time I have become more and more convinced of the Truth, and I thank God for pointing me to Mr. Adler and his philosophy. That alone is more than worth the price of the book, and I hope others will be persuaded as well.

God bless!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Compulsive Argument for the Existence of God, December 27, 2003
By 
Virgil Brown (White Oak, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
I first came into contact with Adler's _How to Think About God_ some 20 years ago. For me the major portion of the book has been a compulsive argument for the existence of God ever since. The argument runs somewhat as follows. If the existence of the cosmos needs to be explained and if it can not be explained by natural causes, then it must be explained by supernaural causes. The existence of the cosmos is contingent; the present cosmos might have been other in its order and arrangement. The cosmos is a random one with a random number of dimensions. (I especially liked this part of the argument.) It is necessary to posit God as a preservative agent. For me this argument has been compulsive for about 20 years.
In the epilogue, Adler goes on to say something very important and that is that natural theology has its limits. The nature of God, the place of humans in the cosmos, divine law and grace, etc. belong to sacral theology and " have no place in natural theology."
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24 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively Simple, June 28, 1997
By A Customer
As the subtitle suggests, this book is intended "for those who do not worship the God of the Christians, the Jews, or the Muslims" (3). These are the people Adler calls Pagans. More specifically, Adler wants to reach the "open-minded pagans" (6). Citing Blaise Pascal for his definition of an open-minded pagan, Adler states that these are the people that "do not know God but seek him (6).

After reading Adler I realize that he is probably overlooking a theological hari in order to build a bridge with the "pagan." This could be because he wrote this book before his conversion to Christianity (see Kelly James Clark, *Philosophers Who Believe* Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993 for the testimony of Mortimer J. Adler). The hair that I am speaking of is that although we know that men should seek God (Acts 17.27) we know that there are none that actually do see the true God (Romans 3.11b). Perhaps Adler has said too much here. Perhaps he should have simply stated that the book was for the open-minded.

Secondly, this book is for the intellectually adept and not for the philosophically challenged. If the "pagan" does not have a basic background in these arguments they will have to read the chapters very slowly in order not to get caught in the web of points and subpoints contained in each chapter. Adler, a stickler for detail, posits a proof for each premise he makes. Thus he makes a very simple argument somewhat hard to follow at times. Adler even impatiently gives up on the reader if they cannot understand his first "self-evident" philosophical truth. This ponderous proposition states "The existence of an effect that requires the operation of a co-existent cause implies the co-existence of that cause." The point is very crucial to the whole argument and we do not want to frustrate the open-minded pagan at this point. Instead we want him to get this point. After explaining what he meant, Adler, lowering himself to intellectual snobbery, writes, "Very little can be done to remedy the deficient understanding on the part of the those who don't immediately see the truth of such propositions" (116). Such remarks can close an open mind very quickly.

Thirdly, Adler's book posits a patina of universalism. Although I realize that Adler is trying to point the reader to a theistic point of view, I would refrain from saying "the God of Christianity, the Jews, or the Muslims" (3); or the "God of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims (3); or even worse "the God of Abraham, Isaac Jacob," (28) and "of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed" (154).

AFFIRMATIONS
Hoping that I have not poisoned the wells, the above criticisms do not reflect the overall tone of the book. As one who has studied many of the best arguments for the existence of God I thought that I had a pretty good grasp on how to think about God. I approached this book thinking that Adler would simply repeat what I had read in most philosophy of religion books. to my surprise Adler tore down two of my favorite arguments--The cosmological argument and the ontological argument. He then went on to modify these arguments.

To my surprise was Adler's dismissal of Anselm's ontological argument. Adler goes so far as to say, "I hope that I can finally dispose of a claim that has been moot for centuries" (107). Adler states this because he rightly states that "no existential proposition can be self-evidently true or necessarily true" (104). He remedies the wound he places on the ontological argument
with a quote from William of Ockham. Ockham states, "We are justified in asserting the real existence of unobserved or unobservable entities if--and only if--their real existence is indispensable for the explanation of oberservable phenomena" (98). Adler goes on to cite the unobservability yet great probability of black holes. This is Adler's stepping stone to the next point.

With no doubt, the cosmological argument is my all-time favorite argument proving the existence of God. Essentially, it is a "first cause" argument. That is, something caused the Big Bang and since there was nothing before the infinitely dense universe began to exist, the cause must have been God. Adler agrees with the pagan and states that the "cause" of the universe is inflated to mean "God." He states that this is "begging the question" (111). I was even further shocked that Adler granted the pagan an eternal universe (91, especially in light of the findings with the COBE project). He did this in order to bypass any arguments that we cannot truly answer. He wanted to get to the main issue. In a nutshell Adler told us that since the universe is radically contingent there must be a "preservative cause." This sustainer/preserver must be separate from the universe and therefore, not contingent (i.e. supernatural). This being the first proof, it now become the first premise in his new Thomistic cosmological argument. Since the contingent universe could not exhihilate itself, there must have been a supernatural cause that did.

CLOSING REMARKS
I do not feel that I have done this book justice in criticism or in edification. For me, to learn words such as "aseity," "raison d'etre," "ab alio" and other words that no one else understands was a great pleasure. I can now take the concepts behind the words and tranfer them into practical situations when talking about the possibity of there being a God. In no way do I see the average open-minded pagan reading this book. I should not expect Adler, an editor of the *Encyclopedia Brittanica*, to write a popular level book however. One reviewer, in *Booklist*, said that Adler's book was "deceptively simple." This is the best and most accurate description of this book. This book would be good for an intellectual pagan that thinks that theism is for the non-thinking sect of society. Since Adler grants the pagan the points that they so tightly cling to (i.e. an eternal universe, an inflated cause) and he still wins the point, he shows that God is not restrained and will be glorified from any angle of an argument

Craig Miles ( cmiles@theonramp.net
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5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF ADLER'S SERIES OF POPULARLY-WRITTEN PHILOSOPHY BOOKS, March 7, 2013
By 
This review is from: How to Think About God (Hardcover)
Mortimer Jerome Adler (1902-2001) was an American philosopher, educator, and popular author, who worked at various times for Columbia University, the University of Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, and his own Institute for Philosophical Research. He wrote many books, such as How to Think About the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization, Six Great Ideas, We Hold These Truths: Understanding the Ideas and Ideals of the Constitution, etc.

He wrote in the Prologue to this 1980 book, "It would be folly to address a discussion of God to such resolutely committed pagans---persons who not only disbelieve in the existence of God but who have also closed their minds on the subject; and who for one reason or another have no interest in the question whether God exists and are, therefore, unwilling to devote any time or effort to the consideration of such matters. They are the 20th century pagans for whom this book is NOT intended... this book is addressed to... the openminded pagans of our day and of our culture... [but also to] those who would say that some of their best friends are pagans and who would... be interested in learning how their pagan friends might be persuaded that God exists." (Pg. 7)

He observes, "It may not be possible to construct a chain of reasoning that leads to the conclusion 'Therefore, God exists' without including a step that refers to God as the cause of some known effect---an effect that cannot be causally explained without positing the existence of God as its cause." (Pg. 40-41)

He states, "Here, then, to sum it up is the striking difference between the cosmos and God as objects of thought. We know that the cosmos exists, but we must ask whether its existence is caused or uncaused---whether it has a necessary or a radically contingent existence. We do not know whether the supreme being exists, but, IF God does exist, we do not have to ask whether God's existence is caused or uncaused---whether God has necessary or radically contingent existence." (Pg. 136)

Developing his own argument, he asserts, "A merely possible cosmos cannot be an uncaused cosmos. A cosmos that is radically contingent in its existence, and needs a cause of that existence, needs a supernatural cause---one that exists and acts to exnihilate this merely possible cosmos, thus preventing the realization of what is always possible for a merely possible cosmos; namely, its absolute non-existence or reduction to nothingness." (Pg. 144) He adds, "Once we affirm God's existence on the assumption of an uncreated cosmos, we can turn to the more likely assumption of a created cosmos. That a possible cosmos has everlastingly existed is less likely than the opposite." (Pg. 146)

Adler's books are quite derivative, of course, but they are nevertheless facile creations by an exttremely "literate" person, and are excellent introductions to the subjects they cover.
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How to Think About God
How to Think About God by Mortimer Jerome Adler (Hardcover - March 1, 1980)
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