Tsclif's Reviews > 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction

36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein
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U 50x66
's review
Feb 18, 2012

really liked it
Read from February 04 to 17, 2012

First, regarding the literary side, I enjoyed this book but I wouldn't put this at the top of my all time lists. I liked the characters but I wasn't always completely taken with their story lines. I actually was finding the main character a little shallow until the very end - for much of the book he seemed taken with his material successes, that really changed only at the end. The breakup in chronology seemed a little choppy at times, I felt I was being constantly taken between plotlines for no other reason than not to give us too much too soon. Well in spite of this I still found the story to be engaging, and the analytical side of me appreciated the appendix with the philosophical arguments.

Now, what has a much larger impact on me than the above, is grappling about the big questions in life. And the author's perspective (which I glean both from this book and having listened to an interview) is right in line with my evolving stance on religion/philosophy/morality. I have always been a religious skeptic, at least when it comes to the established religions, preferring to think of God as a more abstract concept in the sense conceived by Einstein. I've always held myself as having a spiritual bent. Yet I find it increasingly unrealistic or even kind of silly to imagine there is any kind of over-arching force out there that is taking care of moral paybacks, monitoring my progress, or in general looking out for me. It's really kind of narcissistic when I think about it. Yet, there are some things to be said for aspects of religious practice: on a personal level things like meditation, not to mention some (and I mean some) of the ritual observances instill discipline and arguably make us better for it. Equally so, the feeling of shared community by the religious is significant and something I feel I miss out on. (The best answer to this seems to be Unitarianism which does provide some sense of community.) I am also annoyed by this idea of Pascal's Wager where I should make a game theory style decision to believe in a God, which seems ultimately self-serving and not about actual belief. Ultimately, as the rational person I am (and why shouldn't I be), I find it unappealing that on one hand I can really not see an argument for the existence of God as any kind of moral force, and on the other hand that I should not be able to tap into the 'benefits' of a belief (community, ritual discipline, and certitude) in God that seem to be enjoyed by the devout. Listening to an interview with the author and reading this book, I am starting finally to get a sense of there being a way out of this dilemma. I particularly like the point rejecting that morality is God's domain, and even more so the point rejecting that only God can provide us with meaning. I would summarize it as to consider not whether your life has a 'purpose' (i.e. an assignment handed by God) but what can you do to make your life have meaning. Then your actions have meaning because you have a sincere authentic belief in them that doesn't require all of the entrapments of religion.

I'm thankful to the author for getting me to think, and in influencing this direction.


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