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Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up Hardcover – December 26, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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. De-spite the title, the Temple University math professor doesn't actually discuss mathematics much, which will be a relief to any numerically challenged readers who felt intimidated by his previous book Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences. In this short primer (just the gist with an occasional jest), Paulos tackles 12 of the most common arguments for God, including the argument from design, the idea that a moral universality points to a creator God, the notion of first causes and the argument from coincidence, among others. Along the way, he intersperses irreverent and entertaining little chapterlets that contain his musings on various subjects, including a rather hilarious imagined IM exchange with God that slyly parodies Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God. Why does solemnity tend to infect almost all discussions of religion? Paulos asks, clearly bemoaning the dearth of humor. This little book goes a long way toward correcting the problem, and provides both atheists and religious apologists some digestible food for thought along the way. (Jan. 3)
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"For years John Allen Paulos has been our guide for reading newspapers, playing the stock market, and understanding what all those graphs and charts and formulas really mean. No one knows how to dissect an argument better than Paulos. Now he has turned his rapier wit to the grandest question of them all: is there a God? Those who are religious skeptics will find in Paulos’s analysis new ways of looking at both old and new arguments, and those who believe that God’s existence can be proven through science, reason, and logic will have to answer to this mathematician’s penetrating analysis." —Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and the author of How We Believe, The Science of Good and Evil, and Why Darwin Matters
"Using the methods of mathematics, reason and logic, Paulos wrestles religious belief systems to the ground and in the process proves he is as good a writer as he is a mathematician. The book is short, to the point and humorous, and God knows, this subject could use more humor."—Joan Konner, Dean Emerita of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and editor of The Atheist’s Bible
"Another virtuoso performance from a master in the use of mathematics to explore the conundrums and mysteries of everyday life."--Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind"John Allen Paulos has done us all a great service. Irreligion is an elegant and timely response to the manifold ignorance that still goes by the name of 'faith' in the 21st century."-- Sam Harris, author of the New York Times best sellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
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I was delighted to find the author is not only funny but brilliantly laconic, explaining how he sees most of the more common arguments seen today for the existence of a god or gods. For those who have taken multi variate, advanced calculus, advanced physics (anything where you are working with "proofs") you will immediately feel right at home. Paulus commonly begins by taking the reader through what he sees as the logical proof an apologist is submitting and then finds the cracks with turn-of-phrase which is as clever as it is humorous.
There is one section where he has a "dreamy instant message conversation with God" that I don't particularly care for but I could see how someone could take some value from it.
This book is not brilliance encapsulated as some may describe a Hitchens, Dennett, or Grayling. But instead it's someone explaining why he is not a theist, rather than why you should not be a theist.
He ends the book with a slightly outdated argument, which I'm sure at the time looked as though it was going to be a bigger deal than it was (the "bright" movement), but I have re-read this book several times and have found the contents enlightening every time.
I would suggest it to anyone. Cheers!
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.