I found this book to have similar problems to that of Kenneth Miller’s book. It really didn’t convince me that there was absolutely no such thing as god especially since the author even agreed that God could just be working behind the natural processes. I think he misunderstands Paul’s statement in Romans 1:20.
Romans 1:20 – Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;
It would have to be asked if Paul meant that God’s existence was proven from the natural world in the first place. Paul was living amongst pagans too. Is he excluding their gods or is he just stating that the glory of the universe expresses its maker?
Stenger is clearly not a New Testament scholar or an Old Testament scholar. I felt like everything I had learned in my New Testament class last semester at ASU was flushed down the toilet by Stenger’s comments on how pretty much everything in the Old Testament never happened. Again, he makes a contradiction here when he insists that a lack of evidence doesn’t disprove something. Even still, some of Stenger’s statements on Old Testament history seemed suspicious so I think I want to study this a little bit more before taking Stenger at face value for what he says.
There were a lot of arguments Stenger made that had me saying things like “Stop talking at this point” or “Re-phrase your argument” or “Cut!” It was in some of his arguments on the subject of morals. He contradicts himself even more. He believes that religious people and non-religious people are equal in morals but yet, we’d be better off without religion. He even states that a lot of wars have been created from non-religious causes. Okay, so if religion and non-religion are just as bad, then isn’t it an extraordinary claim to insist that we’d be better off without religion? He highlights a lot of the bad stuff that religion has done to demonstrate that God probably isn’t the source of morals and this is actually a good argument. But then when he starts pretty much blaming religion for all evil, I began to wonder if he would mention Stalin and Mao. Newsflash: Religious people know that religion has caused conflicts, they also know that these two atheists have performed a lot of abuse.
Though his argument that God cannot be the source of morals, some of his statements on the interpretation of Biblical passages where God has Israel carrying out war are way out of line. A lot of those nations that God had commanded Israel to destroy were already sacrificing their children to gods. He seems to take a lot of these Biblical passages way out of context as if he only wants his reader to see his side of the argument. This is a similar approach to that of Alister McGrath. I think it would have been better if he had just spent his time demonstrating how Biblical morals can be interpreted so differently, therefore, there is no way God could have been the source of morals. Because while his argument convinced me, I had to file out a lot of junk in order to actually be convinced.
The first four chapters of the book were really not that bad. There was a lot of good science and a lot of good insight being raised. His proposed solution to where the natural processes and laws came from I found to be rather interesting. He admits that no scientist other than himself has come to that conclusion yet but also demonstrates why he comes to that conclusion. Of course, when you get to the fifth chapter is where it starts a downfall.
He argues against Hugh Ross’s fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. I think the debate on fine-tuning is about half-and-half. I’ve seen Michael Shermer admit to fine-tuning so I am not totally convinced that there is no fine=tuning of the universe. But he believes that a god that consists humanity, his most prized possession, to just an isolated place in this vastly large universe we live in cannot possibly be a loving, caring God. This encouraged me to ask the following question, am I unloving if I don’t let my cat go into our neighbors’ backyard or am I just watching out for his safety because I know there is food for him if he stays home?
His problem of evil argument was quite well-stated but I was not convinced by it. My presumption is that if there is evil in this world, than perhaps God would actually be the one to be able to solve this problem. What better to judge and destroy all the evil than the absolutely perfect judge himself? Thus, I really haven’t been totally convinced by the problem of evil argument.
He investigates the hidden god argument by arguing a Calvinist. I would have tried my hands at arguing a Christian universalist instead, personally. This type of god reveals himself to all at the resurrection or at death and gives people the choice of whether to accept him or reject him. That is, from what I have studied on the subject of universalism. He does make a good point though that some of this stuff is simply re-defining god and is absolutely correct to assert that the Christian God probably shouldn’t be re-defined. He doesn’t go into detail about the re-definitions of the Christian God though or the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God.
His exegesis on the creation account really isn’t too detailed and from the sources I have seen on it, didn’t convince me. The stuff about the Biblical prophecies of Jesus and some of the secular nations were actually fairly convincing and not junk at all.
In his final arguments, he answers two critical questions. Is it religion that gives us purpose? What will comfort us if not God? These two arguments were great. Most atheists I have seen would just say “life is meaningless!” Stenger believes that the meaning of life is to give ourselves enjoyment. We couldn’t care less about the winner of a baseball game ten years from now, we’re just here to have fun. Of course, in answering the second question, it seems to be a bit suspicious. His argument seems to be that science gives us comfort. He seems to suggest that either we should all be scientists or that religious people are opposed to science, or both. Neither of which is true. Without businesses like Apple, you wouldn’t be listening to your iPod. We need more than scientists to give us comfort. Likewise, religious people (and he quotes from religious scientists) are not always opposed to science. Thus, his approach at the end seemed like regurgitated scientism.
Ultimately, I am unconvinced by his argument against the existence of God but this book is nevertheless a great reference source and a good conversation starter. I would recommend being extremely careful when reading Stenger’s book since a lot of his arguments were parroted (such as religion is to blame for all evil) and contradictory (but non-religion has also caused problems, nevertheless, we will be better without religion). I think from now on, when I look into Biblical scholarship, I will stick with Bart Ehrman. And if I want philosophy, I will stick with Dimmu Borgir, Behmoth, and Mayhem.