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Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up Paperback – June 9, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After his advance calculations, math professor Paulos concludes that religion and, in particular, God just don't compute. In challenging the precepts of religion and religious thought through the application of logical arguments and sometimes not so analogous comparisons, Paulos's arguments prove quite compelling for those who are spiritually doubtful. However, the devoted are not likely to be persuaded by this sleight of hand with words. Dick Hill's wavering tone creates a manic mood, as his pitch, speed and intensity tilt back and forth with the text's various points. Generally, nonfiction narrators need a good deal of energy in their delivery, but Hill's performance borders on the overdramatic. While Paulos's discussion is intriguing, Hill narrates with an edge in his voice that is sure to increase the heartbeat of even the most sedate reader. While one doesn't need to be a mathematician to understand Paulos's arguments, sometimes his equations can be extremely challenging for listeners to fully visualize. Simultaneous release with the Hill & Wang hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 3).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Reasoned, cool and concise--a good-natured primer for infidels.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“[Paulos] is as sure-footed as a tiger as he prowls through the theocratic landscape, pouncing on sloppy thinking. To a large extent he succeeds in demolishing the arguments of believers.” ―Phillip Manning, The News & Observer (Raleigh)

“[Paulos] knocks the props from under the classic arguments for the existence of God . . . The book is written with a charming skepticism that is not off-putting or arrogant.” ―Chuck Warnock, Amicus Dei blog

“Few of the recent books on atheism have been worth reading just for wit and style, but this is one of them: Paulos is truly funny.” ―Publishers Weekly

Irreligion will, I'm confident, take a distinguished place in what one might call the canonical literature of the New Atheism.” ―Norman Levitt, eSkeptic

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1 Reprint edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809059185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809059188
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

(My web page is johnallenpaulos.com and my twitter feed is @johnallenpaulos.)

John Allen Paulos is an extensively kudized author, popular public speaker, and former monthly columnist for ABCNews.com, the Scientific American, and the Guardian. Professor of math at Temple University in Philadelphia, he earned his Ph.D. in the subject from the University of Wisconsin.

His new book (November, 2015) is A Numerate Life - A Mathematician Explores the Vagaries of Life, His Own and Probably Yours. Other writings of his include Innumeracy (NY Times bestseller for 18 weeks), A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (on the Random House Modern Library's compilation of the 100 best nonfiction books of the century), Once Upon a Number (chosen as one of the best books of 1998), and A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market (a brief tenant on the BusinessWeek bestsellers list). He's also written scholarly papers on probability, logic, and the philosophy of science as well as scores of OpEds, book reviews, and articles in publications such as the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Nation, Discover, the American Scholar, and the London Review of Books and has an extensive web and media presence.

In 2003 he received the American Association for the Advancement of Science award for promoting public understanding of science, and in 2013 the Mathematics Communication Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What "Irreligion" brings to the table is brevity. Sometimes I wished for a little more exposition, but ultimately I think Paulos's tactic was right on. There's little in "Irreligion" that hasn't been covered (and more comprehensively) by Stenger, Dawkins, Edis, and other science-based New Atheists, but only a convinced atheist is likely to read tomes such as those fine thinkers have produced. A religious skeptic or nominal believer, on the other hand, is not terribly likely to plow through so much material (and in some cases, insulting and excessive snark) as is present in works such as "The God Delusion." But she might find a fast-paced, easily digested little book like this one just the thing to stimulate thought and promote a more rational outlook. Atheists, like theologians, can tend to go on and on, self-importantly. The rare book like "Irreligion" that gets in, makes its provocative points, then gets out is a very welcome addition to neo-atheism literature, not least because of the vivid wit Paulos brings to the subject. I loved his analogy of something to a scholar who had proved that Homer had not written "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," but they were "written by another blind poet of the same name." That's the sort of lowkey humor that makes the subject matter feel brisk and breezy rather than onerous, ponderous, and stale.
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Format: Hardcover
For centuries, people who believe in the different gods that people have adopted have insisted that there are good logical reasons to believe in their particular gods. Logic and science can do nothing to disconfirm the existence of these gods, but at the same time, if an attempt at a logical proof of a god's existence is presented, then the proof can be logically examined to see if it holds water. John Allen Paulos has looked at the proofs and finds them leaky. Paulos is a mathematician who has previously told us how a mathematician plays the stock market or how a mathematician reads the newspaper. Now, in _Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up_, he goes for the big game. His book shows the results of his examination of the question that is the first sentence in his book: "Are there any logical reasons to believe in God?" His book is a review of the ways that religious people have demonstrated to their own satisfaction (but not to his) that the existence of God can be logically derived. He has written before on this sort of theme, but his book is an attempt to deal directly with the "inherent illogic to all of the arguments." Jonathan Swift said, "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into", and Paulos acknowledges this: "I have little problem with those who acknowledge the absence of good arguments for God, but simply maintain a nebulous but steadfast belief in `something more'".

Plenty of the arguments for God's existence here are well known; in fact, they are classics, and have been the subject of discussion and refutation for centuries.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To appreciate this book, one must understand what readership it is aimed at. This appears to be the people on both sides of the divide between religious and nonreligious who are neither utterly convinced atheists (although those might enjoy the book as well), nor unquestioning believers. It is for readers who are intelligent and interested in the subject of God's existence or nonexistence, but do not have the time or inclination to immerse themselves in 536pp philosophical books. These people would be most interested in the thoughts of another intelligent person, a person who has spent some time exploring the major arguments, and is capable of presenting them and his conclusions in a clear and concise manner. It is then up to the reader to agree or disagree with the reasoning.
The book would not convince religious people whose minds are closed, even if they read it. It will not convince people who deny the role of reason in the question of God's existence. And it is not a polemic with ivory tower theologians.
This is a gentle book. Paulos does not bring up the horrific facts of the criminal history of religion that Dawkins, Hitchens and others have explored in recent books. He concentrates on a few common arguments for God's existence, and shows how an intelligent person would find them wanting.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Do monsters lurk under the bed?

Paulos is not one to convince a worried six-year-old that no Monsters lurk under the bed. Sure, he could logically and incisively prove Under-the-Bed-Monsters do not exist, as he exquisitely disproves a dozen different beliefs older people use to explain God. His logic, reasoning and explanations are impeccable - - but hollow. When anyone deals with Monsters, Ghosts, Angels or God, they are dealing with emotion rather than logic.

This is a delightful book for those who already know God is false. But it doesn't address the central issue: Why are so many Americans, and especially engineers and technology workers, so committed to God-cults? Why are so many Americans "crusaders" for God, just as so many Moslems are "jihadists" for Allah? In Iran today, there is a separation of mosque and state with each having separate leaders. In America today, a prime requirement to be president is an absolute faith in a close personal relationship with God.

Richard Hofstadter said Puritan resistance to old religious and civil hierarchies in England launched a fervent opposition to all book learning in America. This founding principle of the United States led to the War of Independence, but it has also produced a trend to self-chosen religion instead of what the state imposes. Today's mega-churches, extreme fundamentalism and televangelists are part of a rich American heritage; a direct product of Salem witch hunts, frenzied tent revivals, the fanaticism of radio evangelism and unrestrained freedom itself.

Disproving God is similar to disproving Monsters. If the emotional origins are understood, a parent can comfort such fears.
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