56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well argued
There has been a growing concern, bordering on fear, of what religious groups have labelled "The New Atheism". The proponents upon which that label has been pinned are "Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. A previous reviewer, full of Christian charity, hopes to discredit Grayling by casting him together with Dawkins and Hitchens, and...
Published 18 months ago by Hande Z
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expected, yet it is not that bad.
To explain why I decided to award this book 3 stars only, I have start by explaining why I decided to read it in the first place. I knew the author, A. C. Grayling, through another book of his that was explaining Wittgenstein's philosophy. Then I found this book, and I expected from its title and the author's background, that it will discuss the philosophical arguments...
Published 5 months ago by Tarek
Most Helpful First | Newest First
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a truly great and informative book,
This is the most comprehensive and exhaustive and deeply penetrating book on the subject of superstitious faith based beliefs I have ever read. It comprehensively rebuts all the dead-end arguments put up by the religious apologists and gives clear and reasoned answers to all the difficult questions on this subject. Humanism, as a way to live, is explained in great and clear detail to the extent that one is totally convinced.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not as ascerbic as Hitchens,
The arguments are concise though they are far from original and the 'new atheism' is shown to be no more than the old atheism. However it is worth the read for those who are new to the debate or have been sickened by those writers whose argument against God is nothing more than a vicous attack from a bullying and thoroughly unpleasant character (who could I mean?).
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent and compassionate,
Unlike Dawkins who is like the angry bore. Grayling gives you
a thinking about things which can be applied to any event which brings dismay to your state of mind.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating well-written book.,
Thought-provoking and lucidly written, it is very easy to read whilst still expounding the arguments clearly and thoughtfully. But no-one will ever be able to prove or disprove God!
6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Promised much but didn't deliver,
I had dipped into this book a few times in book shops and was very interested in hearing his whole case. Many of his criticisms of some of the arguments for belief in God are valid and well put. But he fails to live up to what he promises at the beginning of the book. He sets out his "polemic" against belief in God " in Chapter 1 and says that it is, "a setting out of considered facts, each discussed later in these pages." But he often seems to assume that his reader accepts his case although he has not made it at all, and - crucially, because of the criticism of religion that it is not evidence based - he makes many sweeping statements for which he puts forward no evidence at all. For example he says, ... the consolations of religion are mainly personal, the burdens are social and political ..." The first part of that would surely warrant consideration of what social benefits Christianity might claim at least a part in, such as the abolition of slavery, but there is no mention of any of that. He also says "the continuance of religious belief" arises from "indoctrination of children". Evidence for that might be that a significant percentage (certainly over 90%) of, say, regular churchgoers, were brought up as Christians. I don't know whether or not that is true, and I suspect that neither does Grayling. He also applies different standards to the two sides of the argument. While I might accept that the bad behaviour of the former Soviet regime arose from its totalitarianism rather than its atheism, I would like to know why the same exception could not be claimed for religious states. But he is silent on that point. Having been disappointed by the Against Religion section, I was hoping for more from the For Humanism part. While I fully accept his arguments for secularism, the rest of humanism appears to be that we should think about things and be nice to each other. I didn't need this book to lead me to that conclusion.
14 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dry, cerebral, disappointing,
I was pleased to hear about the release of this book, as I think these arguments benefit from more exposure.
However, I found Part 1 of the book (`Against Religion') hard going. The mental gymnastics required to follow the argument were considerable - which is disappointing as there is no need for this level of complexity in order to make the point. Moreover some of the chosen agruments were weak. Grayling is dogmatic about things which are unknowable, and he oversimplifies complex issues. The pretentiousness and over confidence of Part 1 reminded me very much of the theological writers on the other side. In this, I think he perhaps actually undermines the arguments against religion.
Part 2, `For Humanism' is much better, and his more powerful arguments against religion were contained in this half! Even here though, he starts shakily by defining humanism (p 160) in a way which excludes the bulk of the human population, restricting it only to those who can think things out from first principles for themselves. In any population of humans, a majority are followers, rather than original thinking, highly intellectual thought leaders. There are good reasons for this - society could not function properly otherwise. The humanism he describes is therefore only for an elite, and this again reminded me of religion. Thankfully, the last few chapters improved further, and I did appreciate the comments on love and death especially.
It is not very well edited, with many repetitions of the same points. Too rushed perhaps?
Many of those inclined to read a book of this complexity probably already agree with most of what Grayling has to say. How to reach the others? I think the everyman's guide to humanism still needs to be written.
4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars IT'S HARD TO BE NICE,
I'm writing as one jaded by 'New Atheism' and Grayling's tract adds nothing new to what's already been written: the same darts thrown at the same vulnerable targets - the absurdities of the stories in the O.T; religion's responsibility for terrorism and war; the creationists in the U.S.; the 'cherry-picking' applied to liberal C. of E. clergy etc. etc. The one saving grace to this book, as opposed to Dawkin's vituperation, is that Grayling addresses the reader in a tone of avuncular condescension. On the other hand, if you happen to be intelligent, you may object to being addressed as mentally defective.
The section on Humanism as a modus vivendi lacks conviction as all Humanists do when defining their beliefs. It is over-long and fatuous in its identification of a middle-class Nirvana: being nice to people; going for walks in the countryside; enjoying a good dinner with one's friends etc. In face, it's nice to be nice.
As an antidote I suggest 'King Lear'. Or something less harrowing e.g.Terry Eagleton.
6 of 61 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Squabbling for the laurels of the godless,
Not again! (See my one-star review of To Set Prometheus Free.) If you approach the world starting from the God hypothesis (whatever you mean by that - and it can get very, very vague before it gets chapter-and-verse specific) it's well nigh impossible to discard - far from being created in God's image, we create him in ours - but if we start from the world it becomes an impossibility. A creator of snow, birdsong and spina bifida? Riddle that. (Of course the mystery is the point - it's that that provides the thrill, the warm glow of being an initiate.) How choose between the clownish Gray and Grayling, the Morecambe and Wise of philosophy (though I did award Gray two stars for his lamentable latest - while describing his mind as one of surpassing banality!) If there is a God I fervently hope he will offer these bishops of bosh a career change
4 of 61 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Mediocre,
The best I could say about The God Argument is that it is just another contribution to the very undistinguished tradition of the `thoroughly mediocre ... utilitarian Englishmen' who walk `clumsily and honorably in Bentham's footsteps'. It also has that `small-soul smell' of the `socialist dolts and flatheads' in their drive for the `animalization of man into the dwarf animal of equal rights and claims.' [Quotes thanks to Nietzsche]
AC's method is a compilation of first-year `philosophy lectures' denying the existence of a God, which are `glued' onto a sort of `self-help' tract for college freshers, although the latter would be better described as a `self-destruction' tract being, as it is, a call for experimentation with sex, and an ambiguous suggestion that `responsible' drug use is no worse than smoking or drinking.
The method betrays a typical duality of the liberal `mind'. First, they need to convince themselves that there is no such thing as God, then they can indulge themselves in sexual clichés, and the latest liberal trends. Of course, they need the former to justify the latter, otherwise their `consciences' may play tricks on them.
The `argument' is totally confused. Essentially, it claims that there is no objective right and wrong, and certainly not one ordained by any God, and that humans can themselves construct a set of `rights and wrongs' for themselves. Well, of course they can. In fact, that is all the human race has ever done. Genghis Khan had his version, as did Stalin and Hitler.
But, no doubt, AC would argue that their `reasoning' was defective. The liberal/humanist/etc argument goes like this: `if you `reason' in the right way, you will agree with us. If you don't agree with us that, in itself, is `evidence' that you have not `reasoned' in the right way'. The obvious fallacy in such an argument, even if it were true, is that it is a claim that there is an objective `right and wrong' which is discoverable by employing the right procedure. Sounds a lot like `religion' to me.
The only difference is that the liberal `god' is `reason'. However, to adapt from Alf Ross's observation about `justice' (another liberal favorite), `invoking `reason' [in support of an argument] is like banging on the table.'
I see no difference in the Atheist/Humanist/Rationalist invoking `reason', to this: `There are many who say that reason is not the decisive factor, but that other imponderables must be considered. I believe that there can be nothing of value which is not in the last resort based on reason.'
That, of course, was Adolf Hitler. The fact is, as I demonstrate in my next book, reason is a neutral faculty. Contrary to what Kant claimed, it tells us nothing `on its own account'. Worse still, if reason and instinct were the only `faculties' in the human mind, or brain, then it would be better for mankind if reason were expunged from the brain.
Yet, I should consider for a moment AC's application of `reason'.
Since liberals are obsessed with sex, let me look at some of his `reasoning' on that subject. In true liberal fashion, AC scratches around in zoology textbooks to find examples of promiscuous sexual behavior in animals which he cites as a sort of validation of his views. He finds the example of bonobo chimpanzees which `engage in sex almost as a greeting, casually and often'. I expect that little example must be titillating to impressionable young students - must get loads of giggles. And, no doubt, this engagement in sex `casually and often' leads him to be able `to report that chances of loving and being loved more fulfilling than ever before improve with experience. Thus might the voice of experience speak'. His `experience', I presume. [Pps 205,203 respectively]
That is the kind of nonsense I would expect to hear from some teenager, not a professor of philosophy. It is the product of an academically institutionalized mind.
AC seems totally incapable of comprehending that each human being is a unique, exclusive, and special individual who deserves to be conceived in a unique, exclusive and special act, and brought up in a unique, exclusive and special relationship, which in turn should endure for the benefit of even the next generation, health permitting. Anything else is a betrayal of the human life two free individuals bring into this world by their own voluntary act. It is not a question of whether such a commitment may generate any `sexual frustration' in those who `lack ... the intelligence or the courage' [p214, in relation to drug addicts] to properly make such a commitment. Every human life deserves nothing less.
It is odd that the liberal mind seems so incapable of grasping the fact that those things worthwhile in life, and most of us recognize that the creation of a human life is one of those things, require enormous sacrifices in respect of every aspect of life - before, during and after the creation of that life. Ironically, although I expect the irony will be lost on AC, those students who would wish the `honor' of attending AC's lectures (which would be a mystery worthy of philosophical and even scientific enquiry in itself), would be expected to have made very significant sacrifices in their youth to attain the grades worthy of being offered such a dubious `honor'. But for the creation of human life? No such sacrifices required!
In his book Dreams of a Final Theory, the physicist Steven Weinberg gives the anecdote of the complaining university Chancellor - the physics department costs an enormous amount of money with the experimental equipment it requires; the mathematics department is better, they only require pencils, paper, and wastepaper baskets; but the best is the philosophy department, they don't even need the wastepaper baskets. In the case of The God Argument, a wastepaper basket would have been a sound, if relatively costly, investment.
The back cover of my book Freedom v A Tyranny of Rights says that for any philosophy etc to be of any worth it will have to clear the hurdle set by the Ten Principles of Freedom. Grayling's work is written proof of that prediction.
Yet, to be fair to AC, I will present him with a riddle - perhaps he could set it as an examination question: `When Nietzsche mocked Kant for having discovered a `moral faculty in man' he inadvertently solved Kant's dilemma of being unable to identify what his `moral law' actually was, for fear of offending against the charge of empiricism from the likes of Hume.'
If AC hasn't solved the riddle by the time my next book is published, I would be happy to send him a complimentary copy.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism by Professor A. C. Grayling (Paperback - 13 Mar 2014)