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Is Goodness without God Good Enough?: A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics [Paperback]

Robert K. Garcia , Nathan L. King

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Book Description

16 Jan 2009
Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media? often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for? and even a threat to? ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.

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Written in clear and accessible prose, this book is a must-read not just for philosophers interested in ethics or the philosophy of religion but for anyone interested in the important topic of God's relationship to morality. The book includes fascinating original arguments not to be found elsewhere; even those already familiar with the views and writing of Craig and Kurtz will discover new ideas from these two important thinkers. -- Erik J. Wielenberg, DePauw University A nice variety of well-reasoned moral arguments are here articulates. Recommended for anyone interested in issues of God and morality. Religious Studies Review, June 2010 This is a brilliant, accessible debate and a collection of tightly reasoned essays on God and morality that should provoke stimulating, mature debate among students and scholars in philosophy of religion. -- Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College I hope these brief sketches will whet the reader's appetite...I am very glad to have read them. They are clear, engaging, and extremely provocative...Most of the real action consists in the back-and-forth between Craig and his numerous critics. This book will therefore be read with most profit by those who (like me) follow Craig's work and have wondered just how he would respond to various obvious lines of criticism. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion

About the Author

Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King are Ph.D. candidates in the philosophy department at the University of Notre Dame.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Be good for goodness sake? For God's sake? For your own sake? 11 Jan 2009
By Kerry Walters - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stand-up debates rarely, in my experience, amount to much--at least if one's looking for deep reflection as opposed to the scoring of forensic points. There's just not enough time in your typical debate to discuss a topic fruitfully. This is particularly true, it seems to me, when the topic is philosophical in nature.

In October 2001, Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig met to debate whether morality is possible if God doesn't exist. Predictably, the debate didn't amount to much. Kurtz rehearsed some general bromides about humanistic ethics, and Craig defended the traditional claims that God is the seat of value, the commander of moral rules, and the source of moral accountability. Neither man put in an impressive showing.

The transcript of this rather lackluster debate is printed in Is Goodness without God Good Enough? (The editors don't explain why the book appears a full seven years after the event.) What makes the book worthwhile are the quite interesting and closely-reasoned articles by seven philosophers that comment on the debate topic. Four of them are written by theists (C. Stephen Layman, John Hare, Mark Murphy, and Richard Swinburne), three by atheists (Louise Antony, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Donald Hubin). Kurtz and Craig finish out the volume with responses to their critics. Both essays are much better than the original debate. Kurtz spends most of his energy defending his own brand of humanistic ethics, objective relativism. Craig more pointedly devotes his essay to arguing against his critics. Neither man pulls his punches.

Although all seven of the responsive articles are good, some are better than others. For my money, Antony's piece, "Atheism as Perfect Piety," is the best of the bunch. She argues against divine command theory, but also that genuine contrition for evil acts requires that God not exist, since otherwise the contrition would always be tainted with self-interest (God will reward me or not punish me so severely if I repent).

Hare's article, "Is Moral Goodness without Belief in God Stable?" is an interesting reflection that reminds one of Paul's lament that he knows the better but does the worse. Hare argues that God is necessary in order to bridge the gap between our privileging our own interests and our awareness of what we ought to do. This continuous grace, as theologians would call it, provides the moral regeneration that humans can't pull off on their own steam.

Equally interesting is Hubin's "Empty and Ultimately Meaningless Gestures?" Responding to Craig's claims that acts of self-sacrifice are meaningless gestures if there is no God-based accountability, Hubin argues, reminiscent of Antony's strategy, that in fact the existence of a God who will escatologically reward self-sacrifice empties self-sacrifice of its moral meaning, since a rewarded self-sacrifice isn't sacrificial at all.

A valuable contribution to the on-going conversation, so urgent these day, about the existence of God.

Four stars.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goodness, Being Good, and God 9 Feb 2010
By M. Austin - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After the introduction, the book includes a revised version of a debate between Christian theist philosopher William Lane Craig and secular humanist philosopher Paul Kurtz. Kurtz and Craig interpret the question in different ways. This would be a problem for the book, but it is not because the ensuing discussion of the relevant issues (by Craig, Kurtz, Louise Antony, John Hare, Donald C. Hubin, C. Stephen Layman, Mark C. Murphy, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Richard Swinburne) is able to cover more philosophical territory. Kurtz interprets the question as focusing on whether or not a person can be moral without belief in God. He argues that such belief is neither necessary nor sufficient for personal morality. Craig agrees with this. However, he interprets the question in a different manner. The issue for Craig is the ontological foundation for morality, and he argues that theism soundly provides such a foundation, whereas atheism does not.
The commentary on the debate from various theistic and atheistic philosophers is provocative and insightful. The concluding responses from Craig and Kurtz, which did not appear in the original debate, are also helpful. My take on the book is similar to a point made by Craig in response to Sinnott-Armstrong's chapter. The latter argues that a morality based on harm-avoidance is a modest but still sound morality. We can know that harm is wrong without God, and we can avoid harming others in unjust ways without God as well. The bone of contention, so to speak, is whether or not this is a suitable terminus, or stopping point, of explanation. For Craig, it is not. Why is it wrong to harm others, especially if in so doing I can get what I want? And if naturalism is true, and we are the by-products of blind natural processes, why care about harming others? For the theist, such an attidude is justified because other human beings have inherent value and dignity as made in the image of God.
In closing, I really enjoyed this book and found it to provide important challenges for people on both sides of the debate. I would have preferred that the original debate focus on the same conception of the question, "Is goodness without God good enough?" However, with the additional contributions made by the original participants and the other commenters, in the end a we are left with a substantive and insightful work on this metaphysically and existentially important issue.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is there a foundation for morality without God? 9 Jun 2009
By Davis Cable - Published on
High level debate. Might not be appropriate for someone's first look into this area. Both sides are presented well. William Lane Craig is one of the preeminent Christian apologists of our time.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Objective Good 3 Mar 2011
By Charles E. Greer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
received this book in excellent condition - dr. William crain does a materful work in this debate on the subject Without God there can be no Objective Morality - objective value, duty and accountability - reccoment it hightly to those studying this topic...Minister Gene Greer
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