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Atheism: The Case against God (Skeptic's Bookshelf) Paperback – 31 Dec 1994

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Product details

  • Paperback: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1st Paperback Ed edition (31 Dec. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087975124X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879751241
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 418,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Aug. 1999
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, this book provides a good introduction to atheism and related philosophical issues. The hostile-sounding title might put some people off, but Smith makes it clear in the first section of his book that the primary focus of the book is whether or not theistic claims should be accepted as true. If one can show that theistic belief if flawed (the case against god), then one supports atheism.
Smith then proceeds to do just that for the remainder of his book. He covers basic and important subjects such as god concepts, faith, morality, and common arguments for god. Smith argues that no rational person can accept theism as true and he discusses the philosophical problems of many theistic arguments. Smith writes in a non-technical style, and this may be why the book is popular. I think Smith's book could serve as a good starting point for approaching more thorough and technical books on atheism.
Smith spends much of the book analyzing Christianity, and I would have preferred it if he spent more time looking at theism in general. Throughout the book, he describes major flaws in Christianity, and after awhile it appears as though he's just whipping a dead horse. Of course, it's a dead horse that many people insist on riding, so I suppose that critiquing it from several perspectives may help to convince some of the riders that they're not going anywhere on that beast.
If you are a philosophical layperson who wants to learn more about atheism, then this is the book you should read.
Now, if I may digress, it appears that some of the reviews posted before mine do not really review the book at all. Instead, they provide theistic arguments that supposedly refute the arguments that Smith makes in his book. It is interesting to note that the theistic arguments offered below are actually covered in Smith's book, where he shows them to be flawed. It makes me wonder if some of those reviewers actually read or understood the book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steve on 17 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
More than 30 years before Dawkins penned his own bestseller, Atheism: The Case Against God was first published and went on to become one of the biggest selling atheist books of the twentieth century. Quite right too, as this excellent critique of theism is a magnificent testament to the power of logic. It's somewhat astonishing to learn that author George H. Smith was still in his early 20s when he wrote it.

Concentrating on the philosophical arguments against God's existence, the deep intellectual passion on display here is a joy to behold. Meticulously cutting through all the theological double-talk with his fine scalpel of a mind, Smith exposes the glaring contradictions and absurdities of theism, and in so doing, makes the single most convincing case for atheism I've yet read. (From the outset, Smith explains that if a person is not a theist, then they are an atheist. Agnosticism simply refers to the (un)knowability of a god and is a separate matter that can co-exist with either position.)

His pursuit of reason (and his pursuit 'for' reason) is relentless. This is no bandwagon book of smug posturing and pithy retorts - Smith makes a real effort to present the best arguments of his opponents, often exhaustively so, before proceeding to dismantle each one with devastating precision. While I found myself questioning his train of thought on a couple of points, the book is nevertheless hugely and enjoyably successful in what it sets out to do. More philosophically in-depth than many of the recent crop of atheist titles, I really think this one deserves much wider recognition today than it currently receives.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By calmly on 24 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Smith notes in the introduction that "... this book is intended for laymen..." and indeed it seemed a great deal more readable to me than Smith's "Why Atheism?". In both books, Smith seems to have done a lot of homework.

Personally I don't care much for philosophical argumentation about God. The presentatons of God match so closely what humans are able to wish for and imagine that the issue seems more one of psychology than philosophy. As Smith writes after examining the Bible: "it is obviously the product of superstitious men, who, at times, were willing to deceive if it would further their doctrines". Let he who has eyes to see, see!

It is fun to see ideas of God and Christianity so capably unraveled, as Smith has been able to do with apparent ease.

Smith observes the extent to which Christianity has relied on threats and punishments: not something in itself that discounts a God that might be misunderstood by its followers, but something which so many have had to be mindful of. Smith notes how authoritarian religous morality tends to be. He even tackles the issue of the ethics of Jesus, pointing out astutely how the teaching of Jesus that "certain feelings and desires are sinful" is morally reprensible "because it erases the crucial distinction between intent and action."

I admittedly didn't spend much time with the chapter on cosmological arguments, but most of the book engaged me. Smith skewers such central Christian elements as the Bible, the design argument, and revelation: all simply by shining rationality on them. And he addresses well the problem with abandonning rationality (e.g. byappeals to "faith").

This is a book worth returning to. It is well-thought, well-organized, and well-written. I'd especially recommend it to any Christian who already has doubts as well as any atheist who still feels uncertain about how strongly atheism is grounded.
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