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The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy) [Hardcover]

Michael Martin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Oct 2006 Cambridge Companions to Philosophy
In this 2007 volume, eighteen of the world's leading scholars present original essays on various aspects of atheism: its history, both ancient and modern, defense and implications. The topic is examined in terms of its implications for a wide range of disciplines including philosophy, religion, feminism, postmodernism, sociology and psychology. In its defense, both classical and contemporary theistic arguments are criticized, and, the argument from evil, and impossibility arguments, along with a non religious basis for morality are defended. These essays give a broad understanding of atheism and a lucid introduction to this controversial topic.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (30 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521842700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521842709
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,445,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'If we want to understand atheism, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism - a collection of essays to guide students of philosophy and theology - is a good place to start.' Church Times

Book Description

In this 2007 volume, eighteen of the world's leading scholars present original essays on various aspects of atheism: its history, defense and implications. These essays give a broad understanding of atheism and a lucid introduction to this controversial topic.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful exploration of atheism's implications 16 July 2008
This is a very thought-provoking collection of essays, edited by Michael Martin, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Boston University. Eighteen leading scholars, mostly from the USA, discuss aspects of atheism and its implications for philosophy, religion, law, anthropology, sociology, psychology, biology and physics.

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman estimates that there are about 500-750 million atheists, agnostics and unbelievers, which is 58 times the number of Mormons, 41 times the number of Jews, 35 times the number of Sikhs, and twice the number of Buddhists. Atheists, agnostics and unbelievers are the fourth largest group, after Christians (two billion), Muslims (1.2 billion) and Hindus (900 million).

Daniel Dennett examines the relationship between atheism and evolution. He shows how matter has evolved to produce mind, rather than matter being produced by an originating mind.

Philosopher David Brink discusses the need for a secular ethics based on objective standards. He notes that in ethical subjectivism, ethics depends on the beliefs of an appraiser, but God is an appraiser too. So religion brings subjectivity into ethics. Also, if ethics depends on God's will, then it is relative to God's will, so religion brings relativism into ethics.

Again, if God commands an action because it is good, then God and his commands are unnecessary. If an action is good because God commands it, then ethics is unnecessary and obedience to God is the only virtue. So religion, which supposedly sets ethics on an objective basis, with independent values and standards, in fact reduces ethics to subjective opinions, with no independent values or standards.

Also religion compromises morality.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The thinking man's God Delusion 16 Jan 2007
Don't get me wrong, I think Dawkins is a genius, but he's not a philosopher or a theologian. The authors whose essays grace these pages are both. All aspects of atheism are covered, starting with its history from antiquity to modern times. There then follows a defence of theism by William Lane Craig, succeeded by atheist replies and examinations of issues regarding the existence or otherwise of God. The book is rounded off by a look at the consequences of atheism and its effects of other parts of philosophy and life in general.

I would have liked to see a little more in the middle section on the actual arguments, which is why only 4 stars, but what there is is first rate. The chapters on the argument from evil and the autonomy of ethics deserve particular mentions, but they're all well worth a read.

No book will convert many people to atheism from religion, but anybody who just isn't sure should certainly read this book, as should anyone who wants to read good arguments without the hysteria and venom that has entered popular theology recently.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Know thyself 1 Jun 2007
This book is made up of a collection of essays. Some of them simply give historical or statistical information on atheism. Others are very technical. I could imagine this book sitting on the bookshelves of an academic. If this book has been thrown up as a recommendation based on previous purchases, it is worth knowing what you are letting yourself in for before buying it.

However, if you want to know how Plantinga's argument from 1983 in support of theism can be combined with his later version from 2000 to 'multiply the arguments against the existence of God' then this is your book.

Similarly, you may be interested in how William Lane Craig's version of the Kalam Cosmological argument for the existence of God can be inverted as an argument for atheism. Be warned, some knowledge of mathematics will be useful - particularly a bit of Set Theory and some familiarity with half-open intervals.

The technical sections are quite difficult for someone without any philosophical training to follow but what I could understand did seem interesting. It was certainly more demanding than I had anticipated. For this reason I would suggest that philosophers can plunge straight in and purchase it and that others should exercise greater caution.
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