on August 22, 1998
_Nonbelief and Evil_ is a fascinating, thorough, and (in my opinion) persuasive presentation of two arguments for the non-existence of God: nonbelief and evil. Drange presents his own unique formulation of the Argument from Evil, along with rebuttals to virtually every theistic defense against the argument from evil, including Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defense, John Hick's Soul-Making Theodicy, the Unknown Purpose Defense, and much more. And the Argument from Nonbelief -- the argument that the mere existence of nonbelievers constitutes evidence for the non-existence of God -- is an original argument by Drange. I think the book will serve as a major contribution to the philosophy of religion. _Nonbelief and Evil_ also includes some interesting appendices on related issues including the argument from the Bible, the concept of an afterlife, and the fine-tuning argument. I enthusiastically endorse Drange's book.
on November 21, 1999
Drange's book, with more clarity and meticulous attention to detail than perhaps any other on the subject, demolishes traditional beliefs with two simple arguments. The existence of nonbelief (in God) and evil (premature death and suffering), as Drange persuasively demonstrates, may very well constitute an insurmountable challenge to theists, especially evangelical Christians. Both arguments severely undermine the basis of Western theology, exposing the flagrant fallacies and inconsistencies thereof in clear, straightforward language. In each chapter, Drange swiftly obliterates a common theistic defense against the arguments, first focusing primarily on the dilemmas faced by evangelical Christians and then considering other concepts of a deity, namely those of Orthodox Judaism and God in general. No matter what theodicy is brought forward, Drange amply demonstrates why it fails, ultimately concluding that it's exceedingly unlikely that there exists a god of the sort in which people typically believe. He assigns scores to both arguments as applied to the various concepts of God, thereby assessing the overall strength of each and the probability of their conclusions' truth. In so doing, Drange renders it obvious that most Western concepts of God are irreparably flawed, asserting that evangelical Christians in particular are utterly irrational in clinging to their beliefs. In the final pages of the book, Drange explains why he belives ANB (the Argument from Nonbelief) to be the more forceful of the two, a contention which, while perhaps rather controversial, certainly has its merits. I unreservedly and enthusiastically recommend that everyone read this book, particularly those who are confident that their theism is tenable but who may have failed to duly explore opposing arguments.
on December 24, 2002
This book is outstanding. Drange formulates evidential arguments against god ideas based upon the existance of evil and nonbelief. The conclusion of these arguments is that god probably does not exist. One can conclude that there is very good reason not to believe in god. The atheist therefore is justified saying both "I don't believe in god", but also the stronger, "I believe (with good reason) that god (as defined in this sense) does not exist", not as a declaration of atheistic faith but as a conclusion of rational and solid and comprehensive argument.
These arguments, particularly the nonbelief argument, are aimed squarely and effectively at evangelical concepts of god. Drange uses Biblical support to show that god wants everyone to be saved and "come to know the truth" by the time they physically die, and yet we observe that even after 2000 years only 33% of humanity is Christian (and by the way, that number is dropping). The Argument from Non-belief establishes a necessary (to the Biblical literalist) characteristic of god, and then shows how that necessary attribute is incompatible with widespread nonbelief.
If god is omnipotent, he is capable of giving us unambiguous evidence (and has done so in the past, if biblical miracles are any indication). The theist might respond that god has a higher desire, the desire we maintain free will, and unambiguous evidence would necessarily violate our free will. Drange responds saying that evidence doesn't violate free will, it enhances it. We have a desire and a will not merely to believe, but to believe that which is TRUE, about a topic which (if true) is maximally important, our everlasting existance (or even infinite torture). If god is real and gives us evidence, he allows us not only to make a choice, but an informed and correct choice. The Bible says not only that god wants us all saved, but that we should also come to a knowledge of "the truth".
Drange does not stop there. He continues to address defenses to his argument, one by one and chapter by chapter, until the reader is left with the feeling that all rational objection has been exhausted. Very, very persuasive.
I went to the Godless Americans March on Washington and discussed the nonbelief argument with one of the Christian counter-protesters there. The premises of ANB are so conservative and basic that it was trivial to get the (poor unsuspecting) fellow to agree that they represented an accurate and fair depiction of his evangelical idea of god. (God wants belief, god is omnipotent, god is rational, etc.) But once one agrees to the (easy) premises, the argument rolls forward, hitting and flattening objection like a two mile wide steamroller. Now, results in conversation with a man on the street will probably vary from those with a professional Christian philosopher. But I have yet to see a solid refutation of ANB.
Belief in a Christian evangelical idea of god in a world of nonbelief or different belief or even varied and ambiguous belief makes very little sense, and it is extremely difficult to escape that conclusion after carefully reading this book.
on August 17, 2003
Theodore Drange's achievement in Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God sets a standard that few other authors
can match. Drange is meticulous, precise, thorough and very painstaking. No one who reads this book should expect entertainment or recreational reading. Drnage is utterly serious and deeply committed to the project of constructing the most powerful arguments against the existence of God that can be conceived. He can only be compared with such atheist authors as Michael Martin, J.L. Mackie, and Kai Nielsen. He has not yet received the kind of attention that the last three have, but that may soon change. Drange does something that few other atheist philosophers do. He straightforwardly explains that no argument on this subect is possible unless one begins by stating which "God" it is that one is claiming exists or does not exist. The God of the Bible? The God of classical western philosophical theism? A sort of God-in-general? The God of evangelical Christianity?
Drange makes the invlauable point that each of these alleged deities is different in important ways and, thus, different sorts of arguments and analyses must be made in the case of each one.
Drange repeatedly and exhaustively considers possible defenses
against his arguments. He makes numerous admissions of possibly strong counterarguments from theists and he characterizes theistic ideas and arguments in a remarkably fair and objective way.
Drange has published most of his philosophical work in professional journals and on websites, including his own, which I encourage readers of this review to discover for themselves.
It is a matter or mind-boggling importance that Drange is dealing with here. The world continues to be rocked by conflicts that are in some ways inseparably bound up with theistic religion. To consider that philosophical arguments that may seem dry and abstract to many could be applied, in a somewhat more popular form, to the roots of age-old, ongoing, blood-soaked human conflicts is a deeply sobering reflection. In my own experience,
confronting American theists with the general premisses of Drange's argument from nonbelief produces mostly bewilderment,
embarrassment, silence and (be warned!) deep hostility.
on May 5, 2001
Drange's Argument from Nonbelief and Argument from Evil are exemplary models of argumentation. I was impressed with, and even amused by, his thoroughness. In vain will Christian theists look for flaws in his reasoning.
Although Drange's arguments are quite cogent and need no help from me, I'd like to say something about the Devil Defense, which claims that Satan causes the natural evil in the world. As one learns in Geology 101, earthquakes don't happen just anywhere; they occur primarily where the lithospheric plates of the Earth collide or slide against each other. This is why you hear about earthquakes happening in India, Armenia, Iran, and Mexico, but you don't hear about them happening in Nigeria, Finland, Uruguay, or Ireland. The global distribution of earthquakes is neatly explained by the plate tectonics theory; on the other hand, the devil-as-quakemaker theory has no explanatory power whatsoever. Why is the devil targeting the Mexicans but not the Irish? Why does he cause most earthquakes to occur where nobody lives: the ocean? What could his strategy possibly be? Theists who use the Devil Defense are grasping at straws.
A reconciliation of evil in the world with the God of Christianity requires the Christian apologist to resort to the most absurd and odious lines of argument. Witness the reasoning of the reviewer archimedes_tritium. He says Drange employs "a non-Christian definition of evil ("suffering and premature death")." According to the Bible, suffering and premature death ARE evils: Satan, "the evil one" (Matt 13:19) who "holds the power of death" (Heb 2:14), kept a woman crippled for 18 years (Luke 13:10-16), tormented Paul (2 Cor 12:7-8) and is a "murderer" (John 8:44). Disease is attributed to evil spirits (Matt 17:14-18; Luke 6:17-18). Death and suffering are portrayed as evils the Lord will vanquish (1 Cor 15:54-57; Rev 21: 4). The reviewer says, "Evil is not a thing. It is a deprivation like dark being absence of light." This is patently false; much evil is due to the presence of something, e.g., tornado, fire, tumor. He says, "God is responsible only for the POSSIBILITY of evil. Other beings make evil actual." So what being(s) had the power to actualize the 8.1 magnitude earthquake of 1985 in Mexico City that killed over 9,500, injured 30,000, and left 50,000 homeless? Human beings have no such power; as for the devil see the previous paragraph. The reviewer says, "Those in Hell are there because that's where they prefer to be. It's not punishment. They have freely chosen to be separate from God, assessing themselves to be autonomous and superior to God." The thought of millions of men and women suffering eternal torment in Hell is utterly repulsive to the natural mind, yet the Christian mind accepts the doctrine of Hell with nonchalance. The Bible says Hell IS punishment (Matt 25:46; 2 Thess 1:9). The idea that everyone in Hell prefers this punishment to worshiping a loving God who offers Heaven is contrary to what we know about human nature and the drive for self-preservation. It also presupposes that the existence of the Christian God and the existence of Hell are clearly evident, which is far from the case.
I used to be a Christian. I spent many years reading Christian apologetics books and the books of skeptics in a determined effort to intellectually justify the claims of the Bible. I was going to have an answer for every question an unbeliever might have. But satisfying answers were nowhere. Out of despair I gave up. Drange's book helped me make up my mind about Christianity. I highly recommend his book to all Christians courageous enough to seek the truth and not just defend the Faith.
on March 1, 2000
Drange writes a clear, airtight argument refuting the god of evangelical Christianity. I found the nonbelief argument particularly compelling. I urge anyone reading this to let Drange challenge your existing views, even if you think you may disagree.
on July 24, 2003
Drange has written what I believe to be the best statement of the Argument from Evil (AE) ever, and he also introduces, for the first time, the Argument from Non-Belief (ANB). This book is just brilliant. Drange is meticulous and logical; he leaves no stone unturned. The book is divided into two parts. One devoted to AE, the other to ANB. The book also contains apendixes that deal with interesting issues like free will.
Drange applies AE to four definitions of God: evangelical and liberal Xianity, and Orthodox and liberal Judaism. He culls definitions from the Bible, which is where he looks for answers to what God would most likely desire, i.e., to have people believe in him (for example). This helps Drange to get around the difficult issue of: How do we know God really wants to prevent evil? or whatever. Using the Bible as a resource was both a refreshing way of looking at AE, and a bit of a teaching experience about the Bible.
Often Drange argues conservatively. Even when I thought his arguments were much more forceful, he heald back. His statement of objections and attempts to reply are riddled with these principles of fairness: Far from being un-balanced, I was somewhat annoyed that Drange appeared to give his opponents more credibility than they deserved. This just shows his desire to be fair and balanced, and by the end of the book I had realized two things.
First, AE isn't as strong as many people think it is, once we are no longer discussing the prima facie absurd god of evangelical Xianity. Second, Drange's conservative style of arguing actually makes his arguments that much stronger: you know that he's trying to be fair, and his writing illicits trust from the reader.
ANB is actually much stronger than AE, according to Drange. I won't discuss the argument here. It may be that ANB is stronger only because this book is its first showing to the philosophical community: theists will respond in time. But the fairness and meticulous argumentation that was used with AE is used with ANB as well.
This book is simply a must have. Both for its brilliant statement of AE and its promulgation of the very powerful ANB.
on March 4, 2003
It is difficult for me to describe how impressed I am by this book. With NONBELIEF AND EVIL, Theodore M. Drange has simultaneously produced a supremely comprehensive treatment of the problem of evil, and elevated to a new level of rigor and salience the formerly obscure problem of nonbelief. He has in one stroke both highlighted the absurd and monstrous nature of theodicy, and rendered outdated every philosophy of religion anthology that fails to include a section on the problem of nonbelief. Every serious philosopher of religion owes it to himself to read this book.
on November 15, 1999
Although fairly dry at times (particularly when Drange is refuting bad
theodicies), _Nonbelief and Evil_ is definitely worth the read. The
argument from nonbelief is utterly devastating when directed at the
the God of evangelical Christianity, and makes an important addition
to the nontheist's armoury. ...I've yet to
see a convincing response to it. Consequently, _Nonbelief and Evil_
is required reading for anyone interested in contemporary philosophy
One proviso: Drange concedes that Alvin Plantinga's
Free Will Defense is successful. As Quentin Smith has shown (_Ethical
and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language_, 1998), this
concession may be unnecessary.
on April 1, 1999
Drange offers a thorough and systematic presentation of the argument from nonbelief and the argument from evil, and defends them from every imaginable rebuttal, from the most serious to the most pathetic. I enjoyed the even-handedness and comprehensiveness of the book, and appreciated how Drange managed to stay calm in the face of common objections the foolishness -- and often the callousness -- of which caused my blood pressure to shoot through the roof.