Reading List - Graham Oppy: Arguing about Gods

Graham Oppy: Arguing about Gods

If you are like me and ask yourself the Big Questions fairly frequently, you probably asked yourself perhaps the biggest question of them all: Is there a God?

Not only that, but it is also possible you wandered around and changed your mind here and there. Perhaps once you were a theist, then you suddenly became an atheist, then started to call yourself an agnostic, all based on the best available data you had at the time.

There is nothing wrong with it. The important thing is that you live an honest life. And ask yourself if what you believe is correct and if it is based upon the best knowledge, information and arguments that were available to you at the time.

So, how does this book help you do that?

Well, Oppy in this book examines the works of many theistic and anti-theistic philosophers and tries to show where their arguments are strong and weak. That means this book is not written strictly from a theist or an atheist perspective, rather it is a book that discusses arguments of both sides and tries to show where they are weak, where they are strong, why they do not succeed.

The sheer amount of arguments he analyses is staggering. He discusses cosmological, ontological, teleological, arguments about morality, consciousness, beauty, miracles, Pascal's Wager, as well atheistic arguments, such as arguments from evil, arguments from heaven. He also discusses a rather interesting argument, the atheist arguments from cosmology. Namely, you might be familiar with the theistic cosmological arguments, and those are discussed in the book too, but what surprised me a bit is a comprehensive discussion about cosmological arguments against the existence of God.

As an atheist, I also found the ”Problem of Heaven”-type arguments extremely interesting and I am more surprised than ever they are not used more often. 

The argument analysis is, in my humble opinion, extremely precise, and he sidestepped the issue of drawing too strong conclusions, that some theistic and even atheistic thinkers are prone to making. He is very careful not to diminish an argument and then to attack this weakened argument. Instead, he always criticises what is in his opinion the strongest argument of a particular variety. And once that was shown to be problematic, then the weaker versions do not need to be addressed. 

His conclusions might be a bit surprising, as he argues that none of the arguments seems strong or sufficient enough to change the mind of a rational person. So, as you can imagine both theistic and atheistic arguments are examined in great detail. He also takes us on a journey into a discussion about arguments themselves - when an argument should be considered successful. So, as you can imagine, you’re in for an interesting ride.

The book is not completely easy to read, and unlike, for example, Think: A compelling introduction to Philosophy, it is not for an absolute beginner. It is not that it will be impossible to understand, but I would just not suggest it as the first book of this nature you should read. Optimally, you would need at least a bit of experience in the sense that you should know what to expect - as the arguments are really discussed in great detail, absolute beginners might be a bit overwhelmed, that’s all.

The only small problem I have with this book is the price. At around 50€ for a Paperback or 30€ for a Kindle version, it is certainly not cheap. But as I myself bought it, I will of course argue that it is indeed worth it, as it has given me many “whoa” moments, and after all, that is what our little adventure on this earth is all about.

All in all, this book should not be skipped if you are interested in the philosophy of religion at all, as both atheists and theists if they are really serious should not skip Oppy’s critiques and see if their beliefs still stand up to this kind of scrutiny.

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