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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good set of essays on atheism, February 26, 2000
This review is from: Critiques of God: Making the Case Against Belief in God (Paperback)
This book is a collection of anti-religion essays by such philosophers as Bertrand Russell, Walter Kaufmann and Wallace Matson. It is a good series of commentaries which elucidate why philosophical atheists believe as they do. (When I say philosophical atheists, I am referring to people who actually have justification for their views - there are many plenty of people on both sides of the issue who do not). The book covers a myriad of traditional "proofs" of His existence as well as the problem of evil, the possiblity of the afterlife, etc. Most of the essays are of high quality. However, Matson's critique of the argument from design is a bit out of date & the essay on the First Cause argument is bereft of discoveries in 20th century science (this is an important omission as the First Cause argument is being fought on the battlefield of cosmology these days as opposed to being confined to philosophy). For a contemporary book on the argument from design I would suggest "Universes" by the philosopher of science John Leslie. For a much better (and also balanced) book on the First Cause argument I would recommend "Atheism, Theism and Big Bang Cosmology" by William Craig Lane and Quentin Smith. It does a far superior job of engaging the topic than the essay in this book.
Some of the essays also ignore trenchant counter-arguments from theists which would make their case much more difficult to defend. Also, the essay by Freud has largely been abandoned - even by atheists due to the fact that psychoanalysis is an un-falsifiable doctrine & therefore has precious little worth. As a matter of fact, since Freud wrote his comments there have been theistic psychologists who have tried to psychoanalyze atheists for NOT believing in God. Just like Freud, their interpretations of the facts are un-falsifiable as well. In the end, this turns into nothing more than a fruitless tournament of ad-homineum arguments which neither side can win (or lose).
However, there are plenty of good arguments presented in this book. It is well worth the read for all people interested in the topic of religion or atheism. People on both sides of the fence will benefit by reading this book.
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