The Cambridge Companion to Atheismby Michael Martin
Pub. Date: 12/31/2006
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
In this 2007 volume, eighteen of the world's leading scholars present original essays on various aspects of atheism: its history, both ancient and modern, defense and implications. The topic is examined in terms of its implications for a wide range of disciplines including philosophy, religion, feminism, postmodernism, sociology and psychology. In its defense, both classical and contemporary theistic arguments are criticized, and, the argument from evil, and impossibility arguments, along with a non religious basis for morality are defended. These essays give a broad understanding of atheism and a lucid introduction to this controversial topic.
Table of ContentsPart I. Background: 1. Atheism in antiquity Jan Bremmer; 2. Atheism in modern history Gavin Hyman; 3. Atheism: contemporary rates and contemporary patterns Phil Zuckerman; Part II. The Case Against Theism: 4. Theistic critiques of atheism William Lane Craig; 5. The failure of classical theistic arguments Richard Gale; 6. Some contemporary theistic arguments Keith Parsons; 7. Naturalism and physicalism Evans Fales; 8. Atheism and evolution Daniel Dennett; 9. The autonomy of ethics David Brink; 10. The argument from evil Andrea Weisberger; 11. Kalam Cosmological argument for atheism Quentin Smith; 12. Impossibility arguments Patrick Grim; III. Implications: 13. Atheism and religion Michael Martin; 14. Feminism and atheism Christine Overall; 15. Atheism and the freedom of religion Steven Gey; 16. Atheism, a theology and the postmodern condition John Caputo; 17. Anthropological theories of religion Stewart Guthrie; 18. Atheists: a psychological profile Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi.
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This is a very thought-provoking collection of essays, edited by Michael Martin, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Boston University. Eighteen leading scholars, mostly from the USA, discuss aspects of atheism and its implications for philosophy, religion, law, anthropology, sociology, psychology, biology and physics. Sociologist Phil Zuckerman estimates that there are about 500-750 million atheists, agnostics and unbelievers, which is 58 times the number of Mormons, 41 times the number of Jews, 35 times the number of Sikhs, and twice the number of Buddhists. Atheists, agnostics and unbelievers are the fourth largest group, after Christians (two billion), Muslims (1.2 billion) and Hindus (900 million). Daniel Dennett examines the relationship between atheism and evolution. He shows how matter has evolved to produce mind, rather than matter being produced by an originating mind. Philosopher David Brink discusses the need for a secular ethics based on objective standards. He notes that in ethical subjectivism, ethics depends on the beliefs of an appraiser, but God is an appraiser too. So religion brings subjectivity into ethics. Also, if ethics depends on God¿s will, then it is relative to God¿s will, so religion brings relativism into ethics. Again, if God commands an action because it is good, then God and his commands are unnecessary. If an action is good because God commands it, then ethics is unnecessary and obedience to God is the only virtue. So religion, which supposedly sets ethics on an objective basis, with independent values and standards, in fact reduces ethics to subjective opinions, with no independent values or standards. Also religion compromises morality. When eternal bliss is the reward for goodness, then selfish considerations cannot but intrude, inevitably corrupting goodness. Belief in God becomes an insurance policy. Philosopher Andrea Weisberger writes, ¿The existence of evil is the most fundamental threat to the traditional Western concept of an all-good, all-powerful God.¿ If we are morally obliged to reduce evil, then God must also be obliged. If he is all-powerful, why doesn¿t he prevent unnecessary suffering? Those who argue that God uses evil for some greater good are saying that God immorally uses people and their suffering as means to ends. Philosopher Patrick Grim shows that God¿s traditional attributes - omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection - are all intrinsically impossible, self-contradictory idealist fantasies.