Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

Atheism: A Philosophical Justification

Synopsis

In this book Michael Martin provides logical reasons for being an atheist. Carefully examining the current debate in Anglo-American analytic philosophy regarding God's existence, Martin presents a comprehensive critique of the arguments for the existence of God and a defense of arguments against the existence of God, showing in detail their relevance to atheism. Claiming that atheism is a rational position while theistic beliefs are not, he relies both on logic and evidence and confines his efforts to showing the irrationality of belief in a personal supreme being who is omniscient, omnipotent, perfect, and the creator of heaven and earth. The author's approach is two-fold. By presenting and criticizing arguments that have been advanced in favor of belief, he makes a case for "negative atheism." By offering arguments against atheism and defending it from these attacks, he presents a case for "positive atheism." Along the way, he confronts the views of numerous philosophers-among them Anselm, Aquinas, Plantinga, Hick, and Swinburne-and refutes both classical and contemporary arguments that have been advanced through the history of this debate. In his conclusion, Martin considers what would and would not follow if his main arguments were widely accepted, and he defines and distinguishes atheism from other "isms" and movements. Building on the work of religious skeptics and atheists of the past and present, he justifies his reconstruction of this philosophical dispute by citing some of the most interesting and important arguments for atheism and criticisms of arguments for the existence of God that have appeared in recent journal articles and have yet to be systematically addressed. Author note:Michael Martinis Professor of Philosophy at Boston University and author of several books, including The Legal Philosophy of H. L. A. Hart: A Critical Appraisaland The Case Against Christianity(both from Temple).

Excerpt

This book is dedicated to the person who had the greatest influence on my disbelief in God, my step-grandfather, Louis Young. Lou--I always called him that--was a self-educated man. Although Lou had only a fourth-grade education he read highbrow nonfiction books, wrote letters that were published in the Cincinnati newspapers, and attended lectures on a wide variety of topics. All this greatly impressed my mother and father, who considered Lou to be very smart and intellectual.

Even as a young child I had many talks with Lou about God. He was an atheist with a definite metaphysical turn of mind, and I recall vividly his saying, "It is difficult to understand how something could be uncaused; but it is also difficult to understand how a chain of causes could go on forever." This was heady stuff for a young boy, and it no doubt influenced not only my later views but even my choice of profession. There were few careers besides philosophy in which one was paid for pursuing the sorts of questions that Lou asked. Lou's influence was particularly strong since my parents had only the vaguest religious convictions, were never members of a church, and gave me no religious instruction. His influence remained with me all through my childhood in Cincinnati, my service in the Marine Corps, my brief stint at the U.S. Naval Academy, my college days in Arizona, and my years in graduate school at Harvard.

Growing up as an atheist in a Catholic lower-middle-class neighborhood in Cincinnati was not as difficult as one might suppose. When the subject of God came up in our childhood conversations and I expressed my atheistic views, they were not greeted with scorn. Whether this was the result of my friends' respect for my fighting prowess or their natural religious tolerance, I do not know. Although I was a quiet, introspective . . .

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