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36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – February 1, 2011
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Amazon Exclusive: Rebecca Goldstein on 36 Arguments for the Existence of God
Dinner party hostesses used to be warned to steer the conversation away from politics and religion. I used to wonder why, but I don’t anymore. There are some differences that reveal rifts so deep that dialogue breaks down. Among these are the current debates that have been raging between God-believers and the so-called new atheists. It often seems that people on one side can’t begin to grasp what the world is like, what it feels like, for those on the other side. When the person with whom one is conversing appears utterly opaque, then mistrust and contempt are easily aroused: How can he be saying that when the opposite seems so obvious to me? Is he stupid, dishonest, maybe just a touch evil? These are not the sort of suspicions that the gracious hostess wants intruding at her candle-lit dinner table.
But for me, as a novelist, it’s differences like these, indicating entirely different orientations toward the world, which are the most tantalizing to explore. Arguments alone can’t capture all that is at stake for people when they argue about issues of reason and faith. In the end, I place my faith in fiction, in its power to make vividly present how different the world feels to each of us and how these differences are sometimes what is really being expressed in the great debates of our day on the existence of God.
The title of the book is 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction. I meant the subtitle to be understood as a sort of joke, but as a serious one, too. --Rebecca Goldstein
(Photo © Stephen Pinker)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. An atheist with a soul is in for a lot of soul-searching in MacArthur genius Goldstein's rollicking latest (Mazel). Cass Seltzer, a university professor specializing in the psychology of religion, hits the big time with a bestselling book and an offer to teach at Harvard—quite a step up from his current position at Frankfurter University. While waiting for his girlfriend to return from a conference, Cass receives an unexpected visit from Roz Margolis, whom he dated 20 years earlier and who looks as good now as she ever did. Her secret: dedicating her substantial smarts to unlocking the secrets of immortality. Cass's recent success and Roz's sudden appearance send him into contemplation of the tumultuous events of his past, involving his former mentor, his failed first marriage and a young mathematical prodigy whose talent may go unrealized, culminating in a standing-room-only debate with a formidable opponent where Cass must reconcile his new, unfamiliar life with his experience of himself. Irreverent and witty, Goldstein seamlessly weaves philosophy into this lively and colorful chronicle of intellectual and emotional struggles. (Jan.)
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.
Top customer reviews
With regard to the debate between theism versus atheism, the book introduces some arguments and explanations that are new to me. It does this explicitly and by way of parable through the story itself. "36 Arguments" is a breeze to read, includes moments of something like transcendence, and leaves you with alot to ponder.
Much of the heat and light of “36 Arguments” is generated in the context of intense Judaism; this is Goldman’s background and clearly a source of her fascination with faith, logic and the big questions. Had the book been written by a Methodist, Catholic or Muslim philosopher of Goldman’s depth and analytic bent, no matter: what’s at issue is whether a singular deity exists, not which team he plays on. The drama of Goldman’s characters is a search for meaning in life; their Jewishness is exquisite set dressing.
Most arguments about the existence of God devolve quickly into, “Faith transcends logic. End of discussion.” Atheists/agnostics fortunate enough to find themselves in a deeper debate, with more than knee-jerk dogmatism on the table, will come well-armed for having read “36 Arguments.” Believers who, having been subjected to the 36 Arguments, retain their faith, have indeed survived a test by fire.
Goldman, her characters, their voyage through doubt and conflict, reveal that there is more logic in religious belief than meets the eye.
P.P.S. Readers who prefer a more accessible reflection on these headachy matters can turn to Raymond Chandler’s excellent last novel, “Playback,” wherein Philip Marlowe opines with his inimitable brand of cynicism: “If God were omnipotent and omniscient in any literal sense, he wouldn’t have bothered to make the universe at all.”
End of discussion.
On another level, this book, indeed Rebecca Goldstein herself gives us an education in 528 pages. As you read, you will become a little more erudite than you were at the start. Thank God thinking is contagious.