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The Impossibility of God Hardcover – December 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"...carefully argued..." -- Free Inquiry, December 2004/January 2005

"Every chapter in this book is logical, definitive, indisputable (except by unteachables) and provides complete proof of its conclusions." -- Midwest Book Review,

"General readers...will want to browse this book. For believing theologians, it's a call to arms." -- Science & Theology News, March 2004

From the Inside Flap

In this anthology, Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier bring together for the first time a comprehensive collection of articles containing arguments for the impossibility of God. The arguments are grouped into five areas focusing on definitional, deductive evil, doctrinal, multiple attributes, and single attribute disproofs of God.

Part one, definitional disproofs, comprises arguments for the impossibility of God based on a contradiction within the definition of God. Startling contradictions are found, for example, by J.N. Findlay, when God is defined as the adequate object of religious attitudes, and by Douglas Walton, when God is defined as a being than which no greater can be thought.

Deductive evil disproofs--based on a contradiction between the attributes of God and the existence of evil--compose part two. J.L. Mackie formulates and develops the famous logical argument from evil for the impossibility of an onmiscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God. Several scholars, such as Quentin Smith, explore and further develop this argument.

Part three contains doctrinal disproofs, each based on a contradiction between God's attributes and a particular religious doctrine or story. For example, Christine Overall shows that a God with the attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence is inconsistent with the doctrine of miracles. Richard Schoenig demonstrates that this God is inconsistent with the theistic reward/punishment doctrine regarding the postmortem fate of humans.

In part four, multiple attributes disproofs expose a variety of unexpected contradictions between different divine attributes. Theodore Drange, Matt McCormick, and many others offer arguments for the incompatibility of such attributes as omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, omnipresence, agency, and immutability. Michael Martin, for instance, argues that omniscience and omnibenevolence contradict one another.

The last part comprises single attribute disproofs, each based on a self-contradiction within just one divine attribute. For example, J.L. Cowan formulates and defends an argument that omnipotence is self-contradictory, and Patrick Grim presents a battery of arguments, including indexical, Cantorian, and Godelian arguments, that omniscience is self-contradictory.

Finally, in the appendix, there is a remarkable selection written by Paul Thiry d'Holbach in 1770 that anticipates many of the insights in this anthology.

By providing a diverse collection of arguments for the stunning conclusion that God cannot exist, THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF GOD is an invaluable resource for anyone who ponders the nature and existence of God.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 425 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; First Edition edition (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021209
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

164 of 187 people found the following review helpful By J. JAGELLA on August 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been an atheist since the late 1980s, and after innumerable debates with theists, I can say only one thing about "God"; there's nothing to it besides wishful thinking!

Well, I can say a lot more about it than that, and The Impossibility of God provides new ideas that I hadn't yet become acquainted with.

I tended to think of myself as what you might call a "weak atheist" or a person who simply lacks belief in God. I was a born again Christian years ago, and after less than two years, I realized that my faith had slipped away. One of the reasons I could no longer believe was my reading both contradictions and false prophecies in the New Testament. Now years later, I realize that these difficulties were and are insurmountable, and that not only does God not exist, he cannot conceivably exist as explained in The Impossibility of God, and therefore strong atheism-the denial that there is a God-carries the day.

This book is organized into five parts:

1. Definitional disproofs of God in which one points out a contradiction in the definition of God. For example, James Rachels argues that total subordination to God excludes moral autonomy which is at odds with a God that is defined as worthy of worship.

2. Deductive evil disproofs are perhaps the best known disproofs and center on the paradox of positing a good God that allows evil. Quentin Smith, for instance, finds flaws in the free will defense and argues that a good and all-powerful God would have created a world devoid of evil.

3. In the doctrinal disproofs section, Christine Overall offers a perhaps surprising argument that miracles, if real, are actually disproof of God because God is supposed to have created natural laws.

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151 of 184 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It would seem a bit of a stretch to "prove" the impossibility of God, since proving a negative has long been considered impossible. And it would seem to be quite a task to prove that God does not exist given that the presumably easier task of proving the positive that God does exist has never been done--at least not done well enough to convince most philosophers.
At any rate, what we have here are 32 closely-argued essays and an appendix written by 25 academics collected from mostly philosophic journals such as Philo, Sophia, the International Journal from Philosophy of Religion, etc, along with excerpts from various books. What is demonstrated is that the sort of hair-splitting arguments for which philosophy is famous are still alive and well in academia.
To my mind what the authors come close to proving (in the most painstaking fashion) is that the usual definitions of God are inadequate, thereby allowing one to derive contradictions from those definitions, contradictions that prove that God, defined in such and such a way, cannot exist. For example (and several of the contributors use variations on this theme), God cannot be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-benevolent since there exists the palpable presence of evil in the world. Actually the editors break this down more finely and throw out three categories of "disproofs" which might be called, (1) the argument to disproof from definition; (2) the argument to disproof from evil; and (3) the argument to disproof from doctrine. In the latter, what is demonstrated is that a particular formulation of God is inconsistent with a particular religious doctrine, demonstrating that THAT God cannot exist.
The astute reader will note that all three categories rest on demonstrating a disconnect between definitions.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert Self on January 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of those rare philosophy books that must be read with a highlight pen in hand. I had a hard time putting it down, reading it rather incongruously through my Christmas holiday. While savoring it, thoughtful readers will no doubt also be inspired to create their own parallel arguments.

The arguments are mainly applicable to an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving God. Most Christians will simply retrench into a watered down version of God rather than truly be swayed against belief per se, without worrying about if such a tepid deity is worthy of belief and devotion anyway. Nevertheless, as an exercise in logic- of the rather ultimate sort- The Impossibility of God is undeniably fascinating and thought provoking.
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32 of 44 people found the following review helpful By DeistMan on August 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As Dennis Littrell earlier put it, the authors of Impossibility of God "come close" to proving that all definitions of God are inadequate. If he is wrong and the authors in fact did demonstrate the inadequacy of the definitions, what then? If that is the case, one does not need to disprove God since the very definitions fail to establish such a being in the first place!

One need not note that contradictions exist. All we need do is point out that the definitions of God simply fail, therefore, the onus (as it has always been) falls on the theist to prove God exists. Atheists have to prove and disprove nothing.

If no definition of God is adequate to prove God, further arguments for or against are ridiculous.

The question remains: did this book adequately demonstrate that there is no adequate definition of God. Read it and judge for yourself instead of taking my word or the word of Dennis Littrell or anyone else!
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