Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity Paperback – September 28, 2013
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I've read many works of popular apologetics; this is the best! --Stephen Bullivant, editor, The Oxford Handbook of Atheism
This compelling book deserves the widest possible audience of theists and atheists alike. Both groups will benefit by considering the serious, sophisticated, and intellectually satisfying case for the Christian world view that Trent Horn lays out in these pages. --Patrick Madrid, author of Envoy for Christ: 25 Years as a Catholic Apologist, and host of the Right Here, Right Now radio show
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A few things bothered me.
1. Aquinas's arguments are given very little serious attention.
2. Horn writes, "Saying one can prove God’s existence is shorthand for saying that the balance of evidence in favor of God’s existence outweighs the evidence against God’s existence." This stands in stark contrast to the metaphysical demonstration advocated by Thomistic theists and rejected by mechanistic-materialistic worldviews like that of Dawkins. In my opinion, this is an unnecessary concession to the Agnostic worldview.
3. The book is a bit short. I finished it in a couple days.
Overall, I'd say this work is a sufficient introduction to the arguments for and against God's existence; however, by itself, it is insufficient for one who seeks a deep and serious examination of such questions.
1. I think Trent's treatment of the problem of evil was very thorough.
He divided the problem of evil into three categories... logical, evidential, and emotional. He then provides a refutation of the first, and good answers to the second and third.
2. He early on answers typical objections to the existence of God such as the so called omnipotence paradox, and a few others.
3. The meat of the book is the classical arguments for God from natural theology. He gives the following arguments:
A. Argument from contingency. I think his treatment of this argument is probably the clearest explanation I've read so far.
B. Kalam cosmological argument. This one he dives pretty deep into, I appreciated the appendix that answers common objections to the argument. That was incredibly helpful.
C. Fine tuning argument. Again, a very clear presentation. This argument tends to get pretty technical, and some stuff I've read on it has not been as clear as Trent's format.
D. Axiological argument. I really enjoyed his argument for God from morality. He put a unique perspective on it when he talked about not just objective moral standards but our own moral intuition and sense of right and wrong.
He also gives a brief overview of Thomas Aquina's argument from motion, which intrigued me enough to pick up a book by Edward Feser which deals with the subject more in depth.
Overall I really enjoyed the book. It would definitely be at the top of the list of books I would give an atheist, or even someone looking for a comprehensive apologetics primer.
Although I am a Protestant, I enjoy reading Trent and will be diving into his pro life book next.
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The sole reason I decided to give it four stars instead of five is because of the author's capitulation on evolutionary creationism. He makes the claim (like many Christians these days) that belief in God and evolution are perfectly compatible. Despite being a practising Catholic myself, I'm afraid I have to agree with Dawkins on this when he says that such a belief is simply 'absurd'.
Regardless of whether God could have created man through evolutionary mechanisms, the idea that an animal soul was eventually transformed into a human one is unacceptable! If we are willing to believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why can't we believe that he created Adam and Eve from nothing? Yes, there are more and more churchmen (even the pope) who are willing to accept evolution as fact, but these are mere opinions that don't reflect the traditional understanding of the Church.
I'm not a biologist or scientist; I'm not even entirely sure if the theory of evolution is false (some scientist think it is!), however, if we (in the Church) start to say that such and such a passage in the bible should no longer be interpreted literally, I think this is a very slippery path towards atheism itself.
He also writes clearly, but gently, so that I have no qualms about suggesting my friend buys a copy.
Mr Horn correctly says that Atheism means "without God" but later goes on to say that
Atheists share the burden of proof with Theists. It is, however, the person who is making
the claim who has the burden of proof. I am an Atheist because I do not accept the claims
made by Theists. This does not mean that I am making the claim that God does not exist and
so I have no burden of proof. I do not see my position as being the same as an Agnostic who
is saying that we do not possess the knowledge to form an opinion either way and so sits on
the fence. I am not sitting on the fence. I am on the Atheist's side of the fence because I find
the claims made by Theists to be unconvincing and so the only sensible position is Atheism.
It just seems more plausible to accept that the universe is an entirely natural phenomenon
rather than think that there exists a supernatural realm for which there is absolutely no
From my viewpoint, it is not possible to prove Atheism false because my Atheism is the result
of my inability to accept the Theist's extraordinary claims. My viewpoint is not false to me.
Still, I will read on. Perhaps Mr Trent will have some good arguments in favour of Theism.
Devout Atheist still unconvinced (Part 2)
I have now abandoned reading this book.
Before I tell you why, I will tell you what I thought was good about the book.
Firstly, I liked the layout. It id divided into three parts. Part 1 explains the God debate
and in the main, this seems quite sound. Part 2 aims to show that Atheism is false.
It fails to do that, but more about that later. Part 3 aims to show that Theism is true.
Once again, the book fails, but more about that later too.
Mr Horn seems to have quite good credentials. I saw the book advertised on the
Catholic Answers website and I see that, in writing the book, Mr Horn had the help
of many other people. The book looked quite promising and I felt sure that Mr Horn's
arguments would have some meat on them, but I was ultimately disappointed.
At the end of each chapter, Mr Horn has included a conversation between a Theist
and an Atheist. The Atheist is presented as being a bit dim while the Theist is presented
as having the upper hand in the debate. I found this rather irritating.
One of the problems that I have always had with Christianity, is that the Christian God
is always presented as being loving, merciful and just as well as answering prayers and
performing miracles. This version of God, to my mind, cannot be reconciled with all the
pointless suffering in the world. Mr Trend deals with the so-called problem of evil by
saying that God might have a good reason to allow suffering and it is for the Atheist to
prove that God does not have any such good reasons. No, Mr Trent, you are wrong.
The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. You are making a claim
which is, frankly, quite preposterous and you have the burden of proof. Atheists don't
have to do anything apart from clasping their head between their hands, their mouths
wide open and speechless, unable to express their astonishment at how an intelligent
man from the 21st century can hold beliefs which you would expect from a peasant in the
middle ages. I nearly gave up the book at this point but I pressed on.
Mr Trent starts Part 3 by saying that in Part 2, we saw that there is no good reason to think
that Atheism, or the claim that God does not exist, is true. Well, actually, no, Mr Trent.
We didn't see that at all. We did see a load of extremely weak arguments, though.
Mr Trent then goes on to attempt to show us that Theism is true, But what we get is several
flawed arguments. We have St Thomas Aquinas to thank for these arguments that attempt
to show that the universe must have had a cause. However, what Mr Trend does not
deal with the fact that, even if the universe did have a cause, there is absolutely nothing
to show that this cause is God. St Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways have been debunked many
times over. It seemed that this was all that Mr Trent had to offer and, as I have heard this
nonsense before, I decided not to waste any more of my time. I closed the book feeling
even more certain in my Atheism than I had before. I feel certain that anyone who has
been hopelessly indoctrinated into their particular flavour of Theism would swallow every
word, unable to recognise their subjective bias. When the book is read objectively, however,
it is not difficult to recognise its absurdity.
I find books such as
50 Simple Questions for Every Christian
Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism
make a lot more sense to me and I would recommend these to anyone, Theist or Atheist.