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A comprehensive assault on theism
on 14 February 2007
Having read `Atheist Universe' I thought that this book would be another light and enjoyable read. What I didn't expect was a philosophy book! It is a carefully reasoned book but, at times, it can be rather heavy going. It is a credit to the author that I could (generally) follow his arguments.
The book starts by defining terms such as `atheist' and `agnostic.' For me, the book was worth purchasing just for the clarification it offered here. No longer will I see agnosticism as a way of sitting on the fence. One must still fall into the `theist' or `atheist' camp - there is no third way.
A lengthy section of the book deals with the conception of god and, particularly, with the Christian `God.' This is tackled from the perspective of a reasoned approach to the matter.
The author then turns his attention to faith. Much of this is motivated by closing the door on theological arguments which will, in the final resort, fall back on an appeal to faith. By the time he has given thorough consideration to faith, revelation and miracles there isn't even a fig leaf for the theist to hide behind.
In this connection, there is a whole section which deals with `Faith as Authoritative Trust.' This explains in some detail how religious faith differs from the faith one might have in one's doctor or a scientist. It is not adequate to say that all of us rely on faith on a day to day basis because it really isn't the same beast we are talking about.
The third part of the book concerns Natural Theology and any attempt to infer the existence of a supernatural being from natural phenomena. Both cosmological and design arguments are dealt with at some length and, when the arguments become too technical, the author refers the reader to other sources.
For me, the fourth section on the practical implications of theism was the least interesting. Much of the earlier material could be applied to any theistic religion but the final section deals more with the biblical figure of Jesus and his teachings and also with the harmful psychological repercussions of Christian faith and the concept of sin.
Reason or Faith - it really doesn't matter - whichever underpins a theist's belief then George H. Smith has it covered.