Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion Paperback – 9 May 1996
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..". clear, honest and fairminded; it makes a good introduction, not just to the question of God, but to metaphysics in general."
-"Donald Cupitt, Emmanuel College, Cambridge
..."Arguing for Atheism is the best recent introduction to the philosophy of religion. Le Poidevin writes in a clear and engaging manner withou
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Just for the record im not a theist, so id be writing exactly the same if this book was a heavily slanted argument in favour of God. The point is however, a religious philosophy course should always aim to give the student a fair and balanced *overview* of both the theistic and atheistic positions. Such a course should not be used as a opportunity for lecturer to disseminate his or her personal views on the subject to the point of almost completely drowning out all other voices.
As i said - as a book in its own right this is perfectly acceptable stuff. But not for an introductory module.
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The chapter on moral realism served as a weaker point in the book, with conclusions which many atheists will likely object to. A few chapters also seem to take Le Poidevin's novel approach and apply it in a contrived manner. Chapter 8 and 9 introduce "fictional objects" and "ontology" and seem to serve the sole purpose of forcing in metaphysical ideas that the author is interested in, while contributing little to a more robust understanding of philosophy of religion as a whole.
Given the brief, less than exhaustive treatment of each subject, Arguing for Atheism may not be as useful as a handbook of arguments against theism, but it does succeed in providing philosophical context that will deepen the understanding of the issues at hand.
When I got to the skinny, but typical chapter on the problem of evil (17 pages) I was aghast the author is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Leeds and I truly had expected his best work in the book to be in the areas of his expertise - philosophy. I could easily give him a pass when he was writing about physics, or biology, but now we are in his arena, the main course you could say. But the meat has turned suddenly rancid.
Perhaps a slight history is due the reader of this review, the problem of evil used to be the crème de la crème of the aspiring atheist. Beginning atheists feel it is the final nail to theism’s coffin; their strongest and unassailable argument. The problem with the argument as they begin to acknowledge in most cases is that it is a straw man and this as and has been known and shown for centuries.
Most intellectually honest atheists know this; you will note that many modern day writers have actually dropped this form of argument from their books. I was surprised to see it still contained here and worse yet still defended.
The so called problem of evil’s error is in class confusion. In other words:
What is the taste of blue?
What is the smell of light?
What is the color of pity?
Now let me explain it another way
You buy a house. You buy a wood stove and have it installed in your house that provides your heat. You tell your 8 year old child not to touch or play around the stove because it is hot and can burn them.
Sure enough several months later you hear a blood curdling scream. Your child has fallen against the wood stove, he is taken by ambulance to the hospital and he has third degree burns. The child protection service worker is called in (a atheists) and proclaims
You bought the house
You bought the stove
You warned your child, so you knew that the stove was dangerous.
You knew that you could have heated with a gas furnace which is safer.
Therefore, you CAUSED the child’s injury.
You CREATED this EVIL.
You are UNJUST.
This is the same charge that atheist are bringing onto God.
Did you really cause the child’s injury?
(The argument that God could intervene is of course valid but many theists reject the notion of an ever intervening god to placate fallen men’s follies.)
Did you really create evil by buying the stove?
Is the stove inherently evil?
Is fire inherently evil?
What is evil? (You would be surprised at the answers you will receive on this one)
One last question: If you were God how would you make a world with humans in it that had moral free agency and no evil? Just try to get an atheist to answer this one – it can sometimes be absolutely hilarious ;) So let’s at least be fair and not complicate a strawman argument with another strawman argument to bolster that one.
Once you begin to break down the analogy you get into a deeper philosophical discussion. You will find that the real reason class confusion exists is because atheists like the author are imposing manmade epistemological rules onto an ontological being.
If they wish to truly challenge the problem of evil intellectually honestly they must do so from an ontological perspective. It only makes logical sense since they are trying to disprove an ontological being they must do so on an ontological basis. They need to define evil biblically not using their own definition.
Once that is done the intellectually honest atheist admits as many have about 90% of all their arguments are effectively destroyed.
The last 10 % of the arguments usually focus on does he have knowledge of evil in him? Did he create beings with the propensity for evil or just free will? While most of these questions are fun to debate they will honestly be answered with an I THINK or this is what I BELIEVE. These are areas that we may never know until we ask God ourselves.
By the way, I don’t assume for one minute that the author doesn’t know what I have written, he’s too smart. What he does know is that ontologically speaking there is NO problem with evil and the atheists has lost as the author puts it “the most powerful and convincing argument for atheism.” (88)
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