- Paperback: 444 pages
- Publisher: AuthorHouse; 1st Printing edition (February 23, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1420802933
- ISBN-13: 978-1420802931
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 78 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism 1st Printing Edition
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About the Author
Dr. Richard Carrier is a philosopher and historian with a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University. His work in history and philosophy has been published in Biology & Philosophy, The History Teacher, German Studies Review, The Skeptical Inquirer, Philo, the Encyclopedia of the Ancient World and more. He also contributed critically acclaimed chapters to the books The Empty Tomb and The Christian Delusion. He is a veteran of the United States Coast Guard and emeritus Editor in Chief of the Secular Web, where he has long been one of their most frequently read authors.
Top customer reviews
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I've spent the last five years or so seeking out the ideal opponent to Christianity, since this is the religion I was raised with and have since come to reject on mostly intellectual but some emotional grounds as well.
I've come to believe that Christianity's #1 intellectual opponent is none other than: Richard Carrier.
If anyone has seen a debate with Carrier or read one of his books, one thing becomes perfectly clear immediately regardless of whether or not you agree with him: he's a nerd. Carrier's mind is practically an encyclopedia of well-researched and well-reasoned information. Carrier has a notable respect for what it means to be a "scholar" or "expert" in any given field and holds himself to this same standard of scholarship. What's also notable about Carrier is that he isn't afraid to take unpopular opinions if he thinks they're true. And if he thinks something is true, one thing you can be guaranteed from him is a well-researched and compelling case for it, regardless of whether or not you'll agree with it.
In Sense and Goodness Without God, Carrier provides something essential to every atheist: a positive worldview. Many atheists hope to make the religious give up their faith, not taking into account that it's an incredibly difficult thing to do to give up one's faith in general, but it's especially difficult when you're provided with nothing to really replace it with besides nihilism. In this book, Carrier kills two birds with one stone: he addresses a great many of the most common arguments for the existence of God in cosmology, history and especially philosophy, points out where they fail and explains why Metaphysical Naturalism (MN), as a worldview, provides a better explanation for the fundamental nature of reality with an unmatched simplicity and an approachable writing style for the intelligent layperson.
As previously noted, though the philosophical issues discussed in this book are very vast and often complicated, Carrier does a tremendous job of breaking them down to very simple and easily understandable concepts for those of us who aren't academically trained philosophers. He divides the book into chapters and then further divides each chapter into sub-chapters, making everything even more digestible and organized for the reader.
I've seen some complains that the book starts too slow. I don't think this criticism is false but I also don't think Carrier should have done anything differently. Carrier wanted to leave his audience making as little in the way of assumptions as possible. He wanted to give them as complete of a worldview as he could muster and sometimes this means you need to sit down and really explain things like what the meaning of words are and how we should generally approach truth and knowledge. This isn't over-thinking things, it's all about providing a basis for the rest of the book. Though I struggled through these chapters myself at times, I couldn't have been more thankful that they were there because it gave me something to fall back on when questions of semantics or epistemology within MN arose.
My favorite chapters were the ones on cosmology and how the what we know about the universe makes the most sense under MN, as well as (and especially) Carrier's chapters on morality. So much in the way of pop-apologetics is utterly dismantled in these chapters, in regards to why we should be moral agents, what basis we have to be moral and why being moral makes a difference in our lives and in our society. I found these chapters extremely helpful and practical in my own life as a moral being and reading these chapters made me realize the benefits of morality. I've even already started to apply these principles to my life and have already seen a difference in my personal happiness as a result.
I would recommend this book to anyone. It's one of the most comprehensive and devastating cases against Christianity and religion in general that I've ever read and will likely read it several times over the next few years because there's so much excellent information to be absorbed in this book. It's especially essential reading for atheists. My only regret is not reading it sooner.
Highly, highly recommended.
Carrier opens with strong punch: "Philosophy is not a word game or hairsplitting contest, nor a grand scheme to rationalize this or that..." He goes in this vein for several pages, looking at how philosophers have failed to live up to their calling, as well as discussing the connection between philosophy and religion. Most of it hits every bit as hard as the first sentence. Carrier explains that the purpose of the book is to lay out his personal philosophy and worldview in a way that nonspecialists can understand. An admirable goal, and Carrier gets off to a good start in the opening section.
For all the promise in the opening chapter, I don't think this book is going to do much to bring philosophy to the masses. The problem is that Carrier has the ability to produce forceful prose, but isn't able to apply that ability consistently. Most of the first half of the book drags. It's understandable without having a background in philosophy, but many without such a background will have trouble seeing why it matters. One problem is a frequent lack of concrete examples. Take his discussion of method: the only kind of example used is the Cartesian Demon. A far more readable discussion of method can be found in "Why I Am Not a Christian," where Carrier gets in far more examples in less space.
About halfway through the book, however, the quality of writing picks up. I found his discussion of the Rain Miracle (in part IV, "What There Isn't") better than the online version. Among other things, in Sense and Goodness Carrier give the case clear larger significance: "we have a legend sprining up just eight years after the fact, when thousands of eyewintesses were surely still alive... despite these seemingly unfavorable conditions, this legend beat out the truth." Likewise, part V "Natural Morality" soars. Among other things, Carrier looks at the reasons given by J. P. Moreland for theists to be moral, and shows that Secular Humanists have equivalent reasons.
Carrier got one other thing right: not using footnotes, but including bibliographies at the end of each section rather than in the back of the book. This is probably the best way to direct readers to further resources on given subjects. In many cases I have not read all the books he cites, but where I have, I can say that Carrier has made excellent choices.
I should emphasize that while this book may not catch on with the general public, the book isn't a waste for not having done so. It would have been nice to see such a book, but that really wasn't Carrier's main purpose. His main purpose was to lay out a coherent worldview, a worthwhile pursuit. He rightly criticizes modern philosophers for having abandoned system building, and does an excellent job of building up his own system. This is a fine book; I share bookjunkys hope that it will be revised in a more accessible version.