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The God Argument Part 1: Against Religion

06/05/2013

Some very brief notes:

Grayling’s approach is much more philosophical and methodical than a Dawkins or Hitchens book. What kind of bothers me is the lack of citations or sources backing up some of his more controversial points.

At first I was annoyed at his criticism of “religion” that seemed to totally ignore Buddhism or Jainism for example. These seemed to totally falsify some of his claims that religion is centrally about “submission to its dogmas” (14). But thankfully he specifies later that by religion he means basically a “set of beliefs and practices focused on a god or gods” (21). Of course some may dispute his definition, but he seems to be using the strategy of tabooing his words. Fine with me.

I’m also wondering who his audience is. If it is believers, he is starting miles away from common ground, calling it mental slavery to submit to dogmas and interpreters of dogmas (14). He also claims it would be much better for religious doctrines not to be taught until children reached maturity (39). Well yeah, if you’re an atheist, and want kids to be more skeptical and resistant to religion. But if you’re a believer and want your kids to believe as you do because other beliefs are harmful and dangerous, then of course you want to teach your kids what’s right from an early age. Grayling’s points often don’t seem convincing to those who don’t already share his views.

His confrontation of the main arguments for God (cosmological, teleological, ontological, moral) are all very, very brief. I can’t see them convincing anyone. I guess this is more of an intro book? I also really don’t get his claim that somehow capitalizing the word “God” is begging the question, or assuming God exists before investigating it. I could question whether Harry Potter exists. I don’t have to call him harry potter before I believe. I have to rate it highly likely that I’m misunderstanding his point, because it seems so obviously flawed.

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