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IRRELIGION by John Allen Paulos

IRRELIGION

A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up

By John Allen Paulos

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8090-5919-5
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Add this impious brief to the growing stack of earnest texts by atheists set on debunking the venerable notion of an omnipotent, omniscient Almighty.

The old-time religion wasn’t good enough for Epicurus or, more recently, for infidels Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others. And it isn’t good enough for Paulos (Mathematics/Temple Univ.; A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market, 2003, etc.). Heedless of the First Commandment, but not necessarily unmindful of other parts of the Ethical Decalogue, he explains in his brief manifesto why he belongs to the apparently burgeoning congregation of the seriously dubious. First, he assaults some classic arguments: anthropic, teleological and first cause. Next, he demolishes such subjective justifications for the Deity as coincidence, prophecy, emotion, unexplained phenomena and just plain faith. Finally, he deploys the nonbelievers’ philosophical-mathematical methods, dispensing theoretical and metaphysical algorithms with as light a touch as such weighty material can handle. Though Paulos promises no heavy math, many passages will be most meaningful to mathematically minded readers. Throughout, he demonstrates the foolishness of blind faith using seriously defective syllogisms constructed with flawed religious premises. Straw men are demolished with ease. Though even Mother Teresa may have had doubts, such proof is not likely to convert pious readers to the heretics’ cause. Paulos is preaching, naturally, to the choir. He has, thank Someone, considerable wit. He wonders why folk who abhor the notion of evolution are not bothered by the biblical claim that we come from dirt, and he ponders the source of Jesus’s DNA. In the beginning, he asks if there is any logical reason for belief in God. But in the mind of the faithful, logic, no matter how persuasive, has little to do with it. Paulos is speaking a different language.

Reasoned, cool and concise—a good-natured primer for infidels.