counter create hit Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up

Availability: Ready to download

A Lifelong Unbeliever Finds No Reason to Change His Mind   Are there any logical reasons to believe in God? Mathematician and bestselling author John Allen Paulos thinks not. In Irreligion he presents the case for his own worldview, organizing his book into twelve chapters that refute the twelve arguments most often put forward for believing in God's existence. The latter ar A Lifelong Unbeliever Finds No Reason to Change His Mind   Are there any logical reasons to believe in God? Mathematician and bestselling author John Allen Paulos thinks not. In Irreligion he presents the case for his own worldview, organizing his book into twelve chapters that refute the twelve arguments most often put forward for believing in God's existence. The latter arguments, Paulos relates in his characteristically lighthearted style, "range from what might be called golden oldies to those with a more contemporary beat. On the playlist are the firstcause argument, the argument from design, the ontological argument, arguments from faith and biblical codes, the argument from the anthropic principle, the moral universality argument, and others." Interspersed among his twelve counterarguments are remarks on a variety of irreligious themes, ranging from the nature of miracles and creationist probability to cognitive illusions and prudential wagers. Special attention is paid to topics, arguments, and questions that spring from his incredulity "not only about religion but also about others' credulity." Despite the strong influence of his day job, Paulos says, there isn't a single mathematical formula in the book.


Compare

A Lifelong Unbeliever Finds No Reason to Change His Mind   Are there any logical reasons to believe in God? Mathematician and bestselling author John Allen Paulos thinks not. In Irreligion he presents the case for his own worldview, organizing his book into twelve chapters that refute the twelve arguments most often put forward for believing in God's existence. The latter ar A Lifelong Unbeliever Finds No Reason to Change His Mind   Are there any logical reasons to believe in God? Mathematician and bestselling author John Allen Paulos thinks not. In Irreligion he presents the case for his own worldview, organizing his book into twelve chapters that refute the twelve arguments most often put forward for believing in God's existence. The latter arguments, Paulos relates in his characteristically lighthearted style, "range from what might be called golden oldies to those with a more contemporary beat. On the playlist are the firstcause argument, the argument from design, the ontological argument, arguments from faith and biblical codes, the argument from the anthropic principle, the moral universality argument, and others." Interspersed among his twelve counterarguments are remarks on a variety of irreligious themes, ranging from the nature of miracles and creationist probability to cognitive illusions and prudential wagers. Special attention is paid to topics, arguments, and questions that spring from his incredulity "not only about religion but also about others' credulity." Despite the strong influence of his day job, Paulos says, there isn't a single mathematical formula in the book.

30 review for Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up

  1. 4 out of 5

    D. Parker

    Written by a mathematician who went out of his way to refrain altogether from using formulas and equations and stick strictly to prose, this charming book is a humble refutation of a collection of the most common arguments in favor of the existence of god. Paulos goes through these arguments one after the other, first documenting the form of the argument itself before discussing how the argument holds up. For people who are already avowed nonbelievers, this book is an invaluable resource to aid i Written by a mathematician who went out of his way to refrain altogether from using formulas and equations and stick strictly to prose, this charming book is a humble refutation of a collection of the most common arguments in favor of the existence of god. Paulos goes through these arguments one after the other, first documenting the form of the argument itself before discussing how the argument holds up. For people who are already avowed nonbelievers, this book is an invaluable resource to aid in breaking down and analyzing the attempts of the religious to push belief, demonstrating with each page how weak the arguments in favor of god really are. For readers who do believe, this is a confirmation of what they already know - that belief is a personal matter and that for lack of clear evidence, there is no irrefutable argument for the existence of a supreme being. Far from being an extremist about religion, Paulos' tone is that of a man who sees danger in the forceful side of religion and simply wishes to arm those who do not wish to be forced. His arguments are as sensible and thorough as one would expect those of a mathematician to be while remaining very approachable. I would recommend this book to anybody, particularly the nonreligious and religious moderates as well as anybody making a study of contemporary American religious culture.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Eric Hendrixson

    I've been through this one two and a half times and still haven't figured out for whom this book was written. This book takes a few of the classic arguments for the existence of God and refutes them. He refutes them effectively but in the standard manner. Your average atheist or agnostic already knows these arguments. The average theist will be put off by the tone of the tome, which is a bit condescending. Some atheists will be put off by that too. What disappointed me about the book was actuall I've been through this one two and a half times and still haven't figured out for whom this book was written. This book takes a few of the classic arguments for the existence of God and refutes them. He refutes them effectively but in the standard manner. Your average atheist or agnostic already knows these arguments. The average theist will be put off by the tone of the tome, which is a bit condescending. Some atheists will be put off by that too. What disappointed me about the book was actually one of the ground rules Paulos set down for himself: to avoid using too much math. I know. If I'd read the first chapter before buying, I would have been less disappointed, but the title suggested that I would learn something, if not about religious argument, then about math. I ended up learning very little from this book, and I think the people who could learn from this book either will not read it or will dismiss it. This is not really this book's fault, but I was hoping that a book by a mathematician would have less personality and would just state the argument and the rebuttal. Obviously, I was just not familiar with the author. So this is a tough one. The arguments are well laid out, but they are not new arguments. The humorous asides keep things interesting, but they make the author vulnerable to accusations of bias, which (as Hitchens says of religion) poisons everything. They make the book too easy to dismiss, which is unfortunate, since his descriptions of the arguments and the rebuttals are sometimes especially useful. For some time, I've wished that someone would come out with a more objective, theist-friendly book on atheism. This is not that book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Raja99

    Why I read this book: I saw a mention of it online, either on a website or Amazon. As an atheist married to a mathematics major, I was curious to see Paulos's take. This was a good book for me to read on the airplane; it was (mostly) interesting, but not too challenging. (As I get older, I find that noisy settings--like airplane cabins--make it hard for me to concentrate.) The book is pleasantly and smoothly written; it deals with how none of the popular "mathematical" or "scientific" proofs of th Why I read this book: I saw a mention of it online, either on a website or Amazon. As an atheist married to a mathematics major, I was curious to see Paulos's take. This was a good book for me to read on the airplane; it was (mostly) interesting, but not too challenging. (As I get older, I find that noisy settings--like airplane cabins--make it hard for me to concentrate.) The book is pleasantly and smoothly written; it deals with how none of the popular "mathematical" or "scientific" proofs of the existence of God really work from a mathematical or scientific standpoint. (This wasn't exactly news to me.) Ultimately I found the book disappointing. I guess that as I get older I want more fire and brimstone in my rants against religion (for instance, The God Delusion ). This seemed too mild; while the author makes his personal hardcore materialism plain (and his descriptions of that were the part I most enjoyed), he won't go so far as to argue that the lack of compelling logical or scientific proof is a weakness of religion or religious belief. The other thing I enjoyed: Like the author, I find it ironic that religious conservatives tend to argue vehemently against any sort of central planning in their rich and diverse free markets but insist that our rich and diverse ecosystem must be the result of central planning (aka "intelligent design"). I noticed this some years ago, but this book is the first time I've seen anyone else draw attention to it. (Finished 2008-09-18 15:16EDT)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    If Dawkins or Dennett are a little too hardcore for you, Paulos might be the one to truly deflect the mainstream meme that has placed the poorly thought out label of 'fundamentalist atheism' on this movement. He's thorough in his debunking of 'God Exist' arguments without being arrogant. For those who want a summary of false claims of the supernatural, IRRELIGION is a nice primer for those of us within the U.S. minority that is, as Penny Edgall puts it, "the glaring exception to the rule of incr If Dawkins or Dennett are a little too hardcore for you, Paulos might be the one to truly deflect the mainstream meme that has placed the poorly thought out label of 'fundamentalist atheism' on this movement. He's thorough in his debunking of 'God Exist' arguments without being arrogant. For those who want a summary of false claims of the supernatural, IRRELIGION is a nice primer for those of us within the U.S. minority that is, as Penny Edgall puts it, "the glaring exception to the rule of increasing tolerance over the last 30 years". (In the U.S., that is, many other countries like Japan are way ahead of us on this progressive front.) Even when the logic gets a little too text-book-y, Paulos returns with some nicely concise prose.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    Paulos playfully takes on 12 alleged 'proofs' of the existence of a deity - proofs that range from the subtly fallacious to the downright silly. The thing I liked most about the book was that Paulos summarized most of the proofs in syllogistic form, to help expose the flaws in the proofs. He cites an example from Woody Allen : All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, all men are Socrates. It has never seemed to me that the proofs of god's existence are very difficult to refute, but Paulos a Paulos playfully takes on 12 alleged 'proofs' of the existence of a deity - proofs that range from the subtly fallacious to the downright silly. The thing I liked most about the book was that Paulos summarized most of the proofs in syllogistic form, to help expose the flaws in the proofs. He cites an example from Woody Allen : All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, all men are Socrates. It has never seemed to me that the proofs of god's existence are very difficult to refute, but Paulos at least brings good humor to the task - humor without rancor or condescension. My question is : what would constitute a 'proof', or even evidence, of the existence of a deity. I think that it would be of the same nature as evidence for, say, dark matter. That is, there would need to be some phenomenon that is not accounted for by our physical theories, that in fact contradicts our physical theories, and that is explainable by the existence of a deity with well-defined properties. Moreover, the deity explanation would have to be such that specific additional predictions could be formed from that explanation, and those predictions could be empirically tested. But there are two problems here: first, religious believers are unable to ascribe any well-defined properties to their deities. Most of their deities were invented by primitive people who imagined god as a kind of really big and powerful person. So contemporary believers either stick with that story, or replace it with a sort of fuzzy 'god is everywhere as a kind of spirit' concept, which inherently has no explanatory value whatsoever. Second, a 'deity hypothesis' that actually predicts and explains natural phenomenon is no longer in the realm of the supernatural, and therefore does not refer to a deity at all. Unless, of course, you want to think of natural laws as a deity. So evidence or 'proof' of god of an empirical nature is doomed from the outset: scientific evidence can only ever be evidence of natural processes, not super-natural entities. Creationists and other fundamentalists seem to have an intuitive idea that this is so - hence the many 'god of the gaps' arguments for creationism and the formation of the universe. On the other hand, purely analytical proofs can tell us nothing about the world. By definition, any statement about the world, in particular any statement about what does or does not exist, is an empirical statement, not an analytic statement. For example, Euclidean geometry tells us nothing about the actual geometry of the universe that we inhabit. Neither do any of the non-Euclidean geometries. The question of whether the fifth postulate holds in the real world is one that can only be decided by observation of the real world. So an analytic proof of god's existence is likewise impossible. This leaves us with Wittgenstein's observation that "a nothing is as good as a something about which nothing can be said". It is often asserted by religious believers that atheists are just like them, in the sense that atheists have a fundamental belief in something that can't be proven but must be taken 'on faith': namely, the non-existence of a deity. But I would argue that most atheists in fact don't feel much need to deny the existence of a deity, but simply see no reason to believe in something for which there is absolutely no evidence and which explains nothing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Preeti

    I really enjoyed this book. It introduced me to some interesting arguments that I hadn't heard previously. I really liked Paulos' random humor sprinkled throughout as well. There were some concepts that I felt were beyond my understanding but I don't think that detracted from the reading overall. I think this was a great intro book to read for the beginning atheist (is there such a thing?) or an agnostic. Now onto more in-depth books! Perhaps Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins? I really enjoyed this book. It introduced me to some interesting arguments that I hadn't heard previously. I really liked Paulos' random humor sprinkled throughout as well. There were some concepts that I felt were beyond my understanding but I don't think that detracted from the reading overall. I think this was a great intro book to read for the beginning atheist (is there such a thing?) or an agnostic. Now onto more in-depth books! Perhaps Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jim Razinha

    This won't convince anyone not already convinced, but Paulos does apply a mathematical edge to the analysis. The most telling chapter was the last - Athiests, Agnostics, and "Brights". I agree with Paulos in that I am also not too fond of the name "Brights", but maybe it'll catch on. The statistics are disturbing in how others view atheists and non-believers. The stigma is still hard to overcome. This won't convince anyone not already convinced, but Paulos does apply a mathematical edge to the analysis. The most telling chapter was the last - Athiests, Agnostics, and "Brights". I agree with Paulos in that I am also not too fond of the name "Brights", but maybe it'll catch on. The statistics are disturbing in how others view atheists and non-believers. The stigma is still hard to overcome.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is a wonderful book! It is short, elegant with a sometimes humorous angle. Some of the arguments are subtle, so subtle that you need to think "between the lines". But that is fine, because unlike other books on this subject, Paulos does not throw things in your face. His writing is concise, not repetitive at all, and yet the occasional humorous approach helps to keep one's interest. This is a wonderful book! It is short, elegant with a sometimes humorous angle. Some of the arguments are subtle, so subtle that you need to think "between the lines". But that is fine, because unlike other books on this subject, Paulos does not throw things in your face. His writing is concise, not repetitive at all, and yet the occasional humorous approach helps to keep one's interest.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rod Horncastle

    Here it is: This book will explain WHY the arguments for God just don't add up. Once i'm done this collection I'll never have to go to church again, no more religious studies, no more pondering theological issues that are spread throughout the globe and history, no more praying, or hope of an eternal existence with a Savior... "Cough!" Finally done this bit of atheist pseudo-intellectual crap. (Does that sound mean? Naw. Just getting started) Is this guy just another nerd who had his girlfriend s Here it is: This book will explain WHY the arguments for God just don't add up. Once i'm done this collection I'll never have to go to church again, no more religious studies, no more pondering theological issues that are spread throughout the globe and history, no more praying, or hope of an eternal existence with a Savior... "Cough!" Finally done this bit of atheist pseudo-intellectual crap. (Does that sound mean? Naw. Just getting started) Is this guy just another nerd who had his girlfriend stolen by some buffed up religious guy? (I can't think of what else would make Dawkins and John Allen spend so little time on their actual areas of expertise? Oh Well!) But be assured my Christianity is 100% sound after reading this dribble - and Church is looking better than ever. God and I are most likely both laughing. This stuff will make good toilet paper in Heaven/or HEll? But that's mostly theologically incorrect. My bad. I know this books title can be misleading to some people. All that assumed self-righteous belittling of the Jesus of Scripture - with a promise that arguments for God just won't add up. Of course the author latter shoots himself in the foot by stating: "So do the arguments and counterarguments in this book conclusively prove there isn't a God? No, of course not..." Well then, Nothing much to see here folks, move along. Hmmm, the interesting thing about math is that it gives very accurate answers (so we hope, ask my accountant?) - too bad this guys hatred of religion is mostly just complaining about his personal misfortunes from select bits of the religious groups and thought. NO math or science here really. Not even anything conclusive really - like i said "My faith is perfectly in tack." ____________________________________________________________ Now for a guy who attempts to reduce god to his own understanding of science and logic - he didn't even succeed in making a straw god that he could later light on fire. It seems John Allen is desperately hoping that none of his readers will actually study Theology in any depths. Or how Christianity has played out over the last 20 centuries. (Oh, i'm sure atheists claim to be an expert in this area, but any quick conversation usually just shows their frustration with anything that calls sin what it actually is. Until it bites them in the.... Wait till your eight year old daughter turns sixteen: Sin will have a whole new meaning (unless you don't really love or care for her.) If you wish to destroy Christianity and make the world a better place, here's two suggestions (I'm helpful that way!): Read the Bible - admit that it's an amazing wonderful loving tale of redemption (love and Justice)... but maybe it's just not true. Anything other than that is a waste of any Christians time. The Good book speaks for itself. (even if you don't like or comprehend it.) Remember: God is a Cosmic Father, He's not your buddy. What do the words RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU say? Don't fuss about with how liberal secular scholars hatefully claim they got there. Just SHUT UP and read them. Then go from there. :cD Suggestion two is: prove that you have carefully and extensively questioned Atheism. I'll wait... It's one thing to desire to remove religious values, but it's another to boldy hold up something else in its place that is a guaranteed noble and goodly truth. Atheism really has no goodness (or even badness for that matter). Everything in its' meaningless path is up for grabs. Live then DIE! The universe does not care. Even truth does not really matter or care: Death does not care. Now enjoy your joyful atheism. (and STOP borrowing moral values from the Bible, get your marriage from apes and evolving fish with legs.) Remember that when your husband cheats on you with his 21 year old secretary. Atheism doesn't care or really have any equality or justice. I was going to go through each chapter in this book and show where it fails. (Not that any atheist would agree with me: hatred trumps ALL). But after reviewing I realize that most of these arguments are really NOT worth discussing. But I'll do one: Argument From Subjectivity Chapter... 1.People feel in the pit of their stomach that there is a God. 2.They sometimes dress up this feeling with any number of unrelated, irrelevant, and unfalsifiable banalities and make a Kierkegaardian "Leap of faith" to conclude that God exists. 3.Therefore God exists. Wow, there's an argument that doesn't add up. You think? Just silly. Way to stack the deck and show some deep thinking Mathboy. Rule number 1 of proper Christian theology: never trust your feelings - they often lie. Attacking charismatic religious folk is as easy/dumb/ and obvious as an atheist challenging God by giving him 3 minutes to appear in a taco chip. (YES, i've heard atheists say crap like this ENDLESSLY... "Yawnnn!") WHAT?! It actually worked. Bizarre. Okay lets try one more - just to see how systematic professor Paulos really is: John's remarks on Jesus and Other Figures (chapter). I was looking forward to this chapter (I find Jesus incredibly interesting). But there was nothing here. Just some interesting babble about "these figures are often themselves taken by many as proofs of God's existence." Sorry, but you don't see me Looking behind bushes for Jesus, Buddha or Muhammad (or the Jolly Green Giant.) And mentioning the Da Vinci Code is just pure comedy in any serious religious discussion. I don't see anyone worshiping THOR just because he's written about in a few stories. Here's some deep thoughts: Mankind doesn't go around inventing religions (too busy sinning and getting our freak on). It takes demons with nothing better to do for a few centuries to invent and sustain false religions. Just FYI. Which leads us to John's (desperate for any material to fill this atheistic propaganda pamphlet) chapter on: The Argument from Prophecy (and the Bible Codes). Once again our "Hacking at Burning Strawmen" author picks some fringe Bible Code charismatic lunacy to prove His rebellious hatred for the Biblical God (and possibly some other gods that are just comically mythical). Kind of like me finding a God hating homeless guy who hasn't bathed in 2 years and lives in a box behind a Chinese food store - and making him my example of the present/future reality of atheism. (We all know Stalin is a better example anyway.) But seriously, the Bible is fun enough to read normally without having to turn it into a math puzzle that spells out Chicago Bulls. (at least J.A. Paulos has a sense of humor. I'm sure your wife enjoys that - it's good for your marriage. You don't have a 21 year old HOTTIE secretary do you? Nah...) At the end of the day Paulos is really just an evangelical atheist who assumes he made his point because HE'S TALKING. Typical Professor's ego here. But to help the guy out (again...) Here's what does add up about God: Our planet, Our nature, Our hopes, Our sins, Our purpose. But that's probably way over any atheists head - but fun to think about on their deathbeds. (there's still time, and hope. May God Bless you!) Here's another: Observe how our world reacts to Jesus and the Bible. Just read it and watch carefully. You'll see some interesting things - from confusion, to Love, to debauchery, to evil, to blasphemy, to murder, to false religions springing out of this classic and successful religion... all from this simple source. And for a bonus: Have a look at the Jews and Israel throughout the last 19 centuries. Fascinating! The Nation that shouldn't be - and yet there it is, doing what the Bible said it would over 1900 years ago. This of course is pointless to discuss with atheists (and fun!)- but if you are just about sick and ready to vomit from this NEW militant atheistic onslaught, do some basic research with an open mind. (too much - I know!) But I can hope.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Martin Crim

    Like a person with no ability to appreciate art writing about painting, Paulos writes about religion from the perspective of a strong, early intuitive feeling toward materialism. Paulos conflates the idea of explanation with the idea of meaning, thus missing the richness of life. Toward the middle of the book, Paulos acknowledges the metaphor of a person with perfect pitch trying to explain music to someone who is tone deaf, but he then pivots to an analogy of sightedness v. blindness, as if the Like a person with no ability to appreciate art writing about painting, Paulos writes about religion from the perspective of a strong, early intuitive feeling toward materialism. Paulos conflates the idea of explanation with the idea of meaning, thus missing the richness of life. Toward the middle of the book, Paulos acknowledges the metaphor of a person with perfect pitch trying to explain music to someone who is tone deaf, but he then pivots to an analogy of sightedness v. blindness, as if the ability to perceive blunt facts were more important than finding and appreciating their meaning. Throughout, Paulos is contemptuous of all believers and though he can be witty most of the contempt just comes across as cruel. On page 100, Paulos calls the belief that God is Love "equivocating" and not persuasive, but offers no explanation for this beyond making fun of the syllogism, "God is love, love is blind, my uncle is blind, therefore my uncle is God." While that false syllogism is equivocating because it uses the word "is" in different ways, he fails to appreciate that intuition of the divine love is as real a way of knowing as skeptical inquiry is. That's just the way he's made, but he doesn't appreciate that others are made differently. Paulos makes some assumptions about his arguments: -That everything important is subject to empirical or public evidence. -That everything important is open to being resolved by public debate. -That people's minds are open (although, ironically, Paulos acknowledges that this isn't true). Paulos comes back again and again to what is "persuasive" without delving any deeper into what persuasion entails. Persuasive to whom? Based on what presuppositions or intuitions?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mateo

    This is a nifty little (150 pages) book that takes the major arguments for the existence of God and dispatches them quickly and more or less painlessly, simply by examining the logic behind them. All of the hoary favorites are here (Argument from First Cause, Ontological Argument, etc.), plus some newer, less formal sources of belief, each presented in the form of a syllogism that Paulos examines and breaks down. For the most part, Paulos doesn't bother with marshaling facts and evidence against This is a nifty little (150 pages) book that takes the major arguments for the existence of God and dispatches them quickly and more or less painlessly, simply by examining the logic behind them. All of the hoary favorites are here (Argument from First Cause, Ontological Argument, etc.), plus some newer, less formal sources of belief, each presented in the form of a syllogism that Paulos examines and breaks down. For the most part, Paulos doesn't bother with marshaling facts and evidence against theistic arguments, but concerns himself solely with the logic (or lack thereof) behind them. Thus, for example, in discussing the Argument from Design, he doesn't try to show how bacterial flagella or the mammalian eye could have evolved; he points out that the general argument that things are too complex to have arisen without a designer begs the question of what "too complex" means; necessitates a greater (supernatural) complexity whose origins are inexplicable; and then details, from a mathematician's perspective, how probability works in favor of, not against, evolution. The discussions are quick, to the point, and effective. Now if someone would just shoot Kirk Cameron.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    My 16 year old son read it and told me "don't read it!" as my sister had loaned it to me. Well, now I know why, because I didn't get it (and neither did he). I didn't understand the logic in it. What's the need for all these huge words throughout? Making it easier to read would have made it easier for the reader to understand his point of view. I hated this book and could hardly wait to finish it, made myself finish it. My 16 year old son read it and told me "don't read it!" as my sister had loaned it to me. Well, now I know why, because I didn't get it (and neither did he). I didn't understand the logic in it. What's the need for all these huge words throughout? Making it easier to read would have made it easier for the reader to understand his point of view. I hated this book and could hardly wait to finish it, made myself finish it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ciaran

    Quite fun, but skates very fast over a lot of the arguments. I can't imagine it being persuasive to anyone who wasn't an atheist already. I must have been given this as a present years ago, and forgotten I had it. I found it on my shelves and read it as I enjoyed other more mathematical books by Paulos. Quite fun, but skates very fast over a lot of the arguments. I can't imagine it being persuasive to anyone who wasn't an atheist already. I must have been given this as a present years ago, and forgotten I had it. I found it on my shelves and read it as I enjoyed other more mathematical books by Paulos.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eliot Parulidae

    Atheist authors such as John Allen Paulos strive to bring out a contrarian streak in their readers, but they may get more than they bargain for - though I've been living religion-free for over a year now, I have yet to find an atheist book that doesn't disappoint me in some way. Books of any genre written by atheists and agnostics? Often amazing. Books about atheism and agnosticism? Often tedious, derivative, and repetitive. I had hope for this one when I put it on hold at the library. The autho Atheist authors such as John Allen Paulos strive to bring out a contrarian streak in their readers, but they may get more than they bargain for - though I've been living religion-free for over a year now, I have yet to find an atheist book that doesn't disappoint me in some way. Books of any genre written by atheists and agnostics? Often amazing. Books about atheism and agnosticism? Often tedious, derivative, and repetitive. I had hope for this one when I put it on hold at the library. The author is a mathematician, so I thought he would avoid low-hanging fruit and focus on the refined arguments for deism which so trouble intelligent people. I guess I expected something like Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story. Certainly I expected more than a few passing references to Gödel. Alas, this emaciated volume is yet another primer for arguing with fundies on the internet. In each chapter, Paulos picks up a famous argument for God's existence, then states the almost-as-famous refutation in his own words. Every time his big mathematician brain starts going down an interesting path, as with his thoughts on complexity and the amusing possibility of an emergent god, he changes the subject to miracles or Bible codes or something else beneath him and his readers. For a man who thinks atheists are smart, John Allen Paulos talks to me like I'm pretty stupid. The prose has that snotty quality that is de rigueur in post-Dawkins atheist writing; there's nothing wrong with unbeliever's drollery in the abstract, but Paulos' digs at missionaries, the Republican Party, and people who send him hate mail only serve to enhance the sense that I've read this book before...several times. When one goes back and reads Russell, Camus, Steven Weinberg, Nietzsche, and Freud, one gets the sense that atheist writing used to have a lot of tonal diversity. What the hell happened? This book makes me sad. I'm sad now.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David

    This small, breezy book covers many of the main arguments for god. Most of the refutations aren't original, but Paulos doesn't claim they are - he just thinks it'd be useful to have them all in one place. Fair enough. He's generally pretty careful, as you'd expect a mathematician to be, but he does at one point make the extremely silly mistake of assuming perfect mixing of human populations when calculating descendents. In any case, his subject matter doesn't interest me a great deal. Yes, all th This small, breezy book covers many of the main arguments for god. Most of the refutations aren't original, but Paulos doesn't claim they are - he just thinks it'd be useful to have them all in one place. Fair enough. He's generally pretty careful, as you'd expect a mathematician to be, but he does at one point make the extremely silly mistake of assuming perfect mixing of human populations when calculating descendents. In any case, his subject matter doesn't interest me a great deal. Yes, all these arguments have been used (even Pascal's wager, believe it or not - I had it used on me once). And yes, they're all silly. But I prefer the in-depth critiques of Taner Edis and Dawkins, and am really interested in why people believe these things. (The "logical" arguments don't make sense, so it must be something else, and people cling to their beliefs with the tenacity of an affective decision, not an empirical one.) Hence Breaking the Spell, for example, was much more interesting to me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Keith Swenson

    I have been a long time fan of John Allen Paulos's Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences where he talks about the harm to society of a population that does not know how to do math. When I saw this book, couldn't help picking it up. Gave it four stars because it is well written and important. He runs through the various arguments for the existence of God, and points out the fallacies in each. Very clear, very organized. And not too long. I listened to the audio version which las I have been a long time fan of John Allen Paulos's Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences where he talks about the harm to society of a population that does not know how to do math. When I saw this book, couldn't help picking it up. Gave it four stars because it is well written and important. He runs through the various arguments for the existence of God, and points out the fallacies in each. Very clear, very organized. And not too long. I listened to the audio version which lasted a mere 5 hours. It is probably not going to convince anyone either way. After all, there are no new arguments. Instead, it is helpful in getting an overview of the entire range of various traditional arguments.

  17. 5 out of 5

    James

    Another excellent book from the author of 'Innumeracy' - this time he takes on about all the arguments for the existence of God, at least in any of the forms envisioned by mainstream religions. Some other authors writing on this topic have taken tones ranging from urgent to strident. I believe there's a place for their outlooks, because as they note, a large share of the human suffering in the world is rooted in religion. However, Paulos' take is much gentler, more accepting of believers though n Another excellent book from the author of 'Innumeracy' - this time he takes on about all the arguments for the existence of God, at least in any of the forms envisioned by mainstream religions. Some other authors writing on this topic have taken tones ranging from urgent to strident. I believe there's a place for their outlooks, because as they note, a large share of the human suffering in the world is rooted in religion. However, Paulos' take is much gentler, more accepting of believers though not of some of their actions; he's good-naturedly poking fun at them and at their belief systems rather than yelling at them. Near the end of 'Irreligion' he gets more serious in arguing for acceptance of atheists as an increasingly necessary form of tolerance akin to that being won by ethnic, racial, gender-identity, and indeed religious minorities. Hear, hear!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Iris

    I borrowed the book from my neighbourhood library, curious about how a Mathematician might perceive believers' reasons for their faith. While the author attempts to argue against the reasons given for the existence of God, there is a lack of consistency in the train of thought and conclusions drawn were less than solid. The fleeting chapters seem unrelated to one another. I came away from the book feeling confused and not sure what the author's intention of writing the book was - to prove the non- I borrowed the book from my neighbourhood library, curious about how a Mathematician might perceive believers' reasons for their faith. While the author attempts to argue against the reasons given for the existence of God, there is a lack of consistency in the train of thought and conclusions drawn were less than solid. The fleeting chapters seem unrelated to one another. I came away from the book feeling confused and not sure what the author's intention of writing the book was - to prove the non-existence of God or to show the incredulity of believers' arguments? While the book title is clear on the author's intention, the content is not. The author's arguments appear to be jumbled up and somewhat inconclusive, ending sometimes in jest, which further devalued his assertions. It becomes even more confusing with the inclusion of philosophies as support for his arguments.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Prospero

    God does not compute...or at least the belief in a divine power does not logically withstand scrutiny according to Paulos, who systematically refutes all the extant arguments for the supernatural from his perspective as Professor of Mathematics at Temple University. This is a subject Paulos has written on before in various columns so readers of his will find all of this to be familiar ground. Are his analyses as eloquent as those of Hitchens, or as provocative as Dawkins? Not hardly. He's a numbe God does not compute...or at least the belief in a divine power does not logically withstand scrutiny according to Paulos, who systematically refutes all the extant arguments for the supernatural from his perspective as Professor of Mathematics at Temple University. This is a subject Paulos has written on before in various columns so readers of his will find all of this to be familiar ground. Are his analyses as eloquent as those of Hitchens, or as provocative as Dawkins? Not hardly. He's a numbers guy and his reasoning will appeal primarily to students of mathematics or logic. Still, this is a different take on a subject that has seen dozens of new works in recent years.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jerrod

    Over all a good read. I don't know if I would put it up as something for a philosopher per se to read. But, anyone interested in a mathematical glean on the proofs for god could benefit from this book. It is a short engaging work. Which I think would be only slightly offensive to any theist reading it, though I can't imagine any theist picking it up unless they were already beyond them self in such a way as to not get offended. Over all a good read. I don't know if I would put it up as something for a philosopher per se to read. But, anyone interested in a mathematical glean on the proofs for god could benefit from this book. It is a short engaging work. Which I think would be only slightly offensive to any theist reading it, though I can't imagine any theist picking it up unless they were already beyond them self in such a way as to not get offended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Roger Blakesley

    I have read most of Paulos' other books. In this one he falls apart, blinded by his hatred of morality. He erects a facade of mathematical legitimacy and then hides behind his paper tiger to take cheap, angry potshots at people of faith. And I am not writing this as a hurt person of faith. I, too, am atheist. Paulos takes the cheap and angry way and ends up sounding like all of the other angry anti-moralists writing their angry books and calling themselves "The Brights" (sic). I have read most of Paulos' other books. In this one he falls apart, blinded by his hatred of morality. He erects a facade of mathematical legitimacy and then hides behind his paper tiger to take cheap, angry potshots at people of faith. And I am not writing this as a hurt person of faith. I, too, am atheist. Paulos takes the cheap and angry way and ends up sounding like all of the other angry anti-moralists writing their angry books and calling themselves "The Brights" (sic).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Saeed

    Easier to read than most books of this genre, at times the author does wander off a bit with difficult references. However, for the most part, this concise text evaluates and debunks (not always successfully) most of the arguments for the existence of God. A good read that is more approachable than you would expect.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    God is dead! Long live God! God will exist as long as humans in their present form exist. God lives within the hearts and minds of humans. Whether God exists outside of our hearts and minds is what is at issue, and once again when the arguments are examined in some objective depth it becomes clear that, as Paulos puts it, they "just don't add up." He formally presents a dozen arguments and finds them all wanting. He begins with the "first cause" argument, namely that everything must have a cause a God is dead! Long live God! God will exist as long as humans in their present form exist. God lives within the hearts and minds of humans. Whether God exists outside of our hearts and minds is what is at issue, and once again when the arguments are examined in some objective depth it becomes clear that, as Paulos puts it, they "just don't add up." He formally presents a dozen arguments and finds them all wanting. He begins with the "first cause" argument, namely that everything must have a cause and that God is the first cause. This argument was refuted many centuries ago, mainly because it begs the question of what caused God? The obvious answer, God is the uncaused cause, or God caused himself, or God always existed, doesn't help since we could simply say the universe is uncaused, or that it always existed and leave a superfluous God out. The second "classical" argument for the existence of God is the argument from design. This is the one creationists employ in their attempt to get around biological evolution. The world is too complex to have come about through the work of natural forces and/or it shows unmistakable signs of being designed. Therefore there has to be a designer and that designer is God. The problem with this argument is that what we think of as being "too complex" is more a statement about our lack of imagination than it is about anything else. The tendency for matter to self-organize along with the interplay of replication, mutation, and natural selection is more powerful in its ability to bring about complexity than our poor minds can imagine. Furthermore, the universe and its systems are not "designed." They evolve. The idea of a designer is an anthropomorphic notion alien to the way the universe works. The third argument, which Paulos calls the argument from the anthropic principle, is basically a version of the argument from design. Here it is argued that the universe is just so perfectly fine-tuned for humans (or life) that it couldn't have come about by chance. Consequently there must be a fine-tuner and naturally that fine-tuner is God. The fourth argument, the argument from being or ontology contends that God is the greatest and most perfect of all beings, and that one of the attributes of perfection is existence. Therefore God exists. I might say that an attribute of perfection is non-existence. Therefore God does not exist. The ontological argument is really a play on words and proves nothing. Or one could say, as Paulos reminds us, that the most perfect island (or most perfect anything) must exist since a necessary characteristic of perfection is existence. Most of the other arguments are even less compelling than these hoary old deceivers. Take what Paulos calls the argument from coincidence: "1. All these remarkable events happening at the same time can't be an accident. 2. There must be some reason for their coincidence. 3. That reason is God. 4. Therefore God exists." Note that "1." is an unwarranted assumption, as is "2." "3." is an assertion which assumes that which is to be demonstrated. Paulos allows that this howler "is seldom made explicitly, but a number of common inane statements do more than hint at it." (p. 52) What most of these arguments have in common is human incredulity. That is, what exists or has happened is just too, too much for us to accept without calling on some supernatural explanation, and that explanation is God. Therefore God exists as the explanation for everything we can't understand, which is an "argument" for God that Paulos doesn't consider specifically. It could even be said that as long as we are confronted with things we don't understand or events that are beyond our comprehension--that is, forever--God will necessarily exist as an explanation for these things and events. Therefore, you can't kill God. God is part of human nature. It could also be said that if God didn't exist, we'd have to invent Him. And it could be added that we did. All in all this is a very readable introduction to a very slippery subject. Paulos is an engaging writer who knows how to entertain the reader. However, I was not quite so entertained here as I was with his A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market (2003) which I highly recommend. Probably I have been too much with the subject of arguments for and against God for too many years. For those of you interested in a more nuanced and deeper look at this subject you might want to read The Impossibility of God (2003) edited by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier. Therein you will find that SOME Gods (that is, definitions of God) really are impossible in the same sense that there can't be an irresistible force and an immovable object, or a God that can do impossible things like squaring the circle. Bottom line on all such philosophic adventures as far as I am concerned is this: you can't prove or disapprove supernatural things. Regardless, unlike Paulos, I am a deist, but as I like to say, the God I believe in is nothing like the usual ideas of God. In fact I guess I could say I believe in a God that represents what is beyond human understanding. Therefore I believe in a God about which nothing can be said. --Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    It's me, over here in the choir robes. Nothing in this book I didn't already embrace, I mean. The geeky mathematical angle was a huge bonus. I found this audio book fun, funny and comforting. If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you like. And I do. It's me, over here in the choir robes. Nothing in this book I didn't already embrace, I mean. The geeky mathematical angle was a huge bonus. I found this audio book fun, funny and comforting. If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you like. And I do.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    A less than original but concise and approachable summary of rebuttals to arguments for the existence of god. Read my full review at my book review blog, Em and Emm Expound on Exposition. A less than original but concise and approachable summary of rebuttals to arguments for the existence of god. Read my full review at my book review blog, Em and Emm Expound on Exposition.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joel Sassone

    Short and sweet, like a Beatles song. If a Beatles song were to describe the logical fallacies underlying belief in a god, that is. The author is a mathematician, but no math is involved in this book, just logic.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Patrick

    Good, short book, but it didn't really cover any new ground or re-cover ground in a new way. Nothing new here for people already decently well-read in the genre. Good, short book, but it didn't really cover any new ground or re-cover ground in a new way. Nothing new here for people already decently well-read in the genre.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Swiped this from Dad's bookshelf. Don't know why he had it. Don't know why I swiped it. Don't know why I should finish reading it. Swiped this from Dad's bookshelf. Don't know why he had it. Don't know why I swiped it. Don't know why I should finish reading it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joey

    BORING. Was more motivated by eating Chinese Food.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    I originally got this book sometime around 2008. I don't know if current me would have picked this up. I basically got this book because I remember the book "Innumeracy" by the same author being very good and one which I'll probably re-read again. I listened to this book through audible and originally had the speed at 1.4x since I had listened to a previous book at that speed. I realized I was hitting the "back 30 seconds" button a lot so I decided to slow it down to the original speed. Once I d I originally got this book sometime around 2008. I don't know if current me would have picked this up. I basically got this book because I remember the book "Innumeracy" by the same author being very good and one which I'll probably re-read again. I listened to this book through audible and originally had the speed at 1.4x since I had listened to a previous book at that speed. I realized I was hitting the "back 30 seconds" button a lot so I decided to slow it down to the original speed. Once I did that, I realized I didn't really like the smugness of the book, and I especially didn't like the over-actor-y voice actor. I might give this another chance in the future, but I really wasn't feeling it. There are fantastic quotes throughout the book though, one of my favorites from Voltaire is "Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities”

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.