The fear of death has been a major struggle for human beings all throughout history, and we have found a variety of ways to cope with this uncomfortable fact. Our world religions are man-made institutions designed to give comfort from this fear in the form of purpose, meaning, and life that transcend death. Embracing these realizations, John Shelby Spong's Eternal Life: A New Vision argues for the necessity of abandoning traditional theistic religion for the adoption of a more humanist, life-centered perspective. Nevertheless, Spong's labels for numerous concepts are often pointless and sometimes even confused. If the divine is fully experiencing the human, why call it the divine in the first place? What stands to be gained from calling the totality of human experience, and the sense of transcendent unity, God? Carr sees this as merely an attempt to ease the transition out of a system which is already in the process of collapsing.
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It isn't too difficult to get lost in the language of the God debates. Navigating the landscape can quickly turn frustrating when so many of the foundational texts of theology rival the Bible itself in terms of length. Thankfully, there are books like John Shook's The God Debates that accurately and elegantly break down these sorts of subjects for a lay audience. Shook distinguishes five categories of theology that form the bedrock of discussion in the book. The chapters on these categories constitute an impressive and fairly comprehensive survey of the major approaches to theology in the last several centuries, cataloging important differences that help Shook construct a powerful case for doubt utilizing some of the very same issues that provoke these separations in theological thought. There is much to enjoy and learn from in The God Debates, even for those already acquainted with its major areas of focus. The overview given throughout the book is thought-provoking and insightful on multiple fronts. The author's awareness of so many domains of intersection with religion, and his attention to them, sets a high standard for discourse that needs to be emulated in more of the God debates.
Graham Oppy's Arguing About Gods is another entry in the long line of treatments of the philosophical arguments in support and rejection of "orthodoxly conceived monotheistic gods," albeit one that brings a depth of discussion and a fair-headed consideration of reasons and motives that helps to set it apart from many other entries. In this review, Taylor Carr finds Arguing About Gods distinctive in its consideration of both theistic and atheistic arguments with equal precision and discretion, with Oppy ultimately finding them all to admit of enough room for disagreement that none can be truly called successful.
For those interested in the philosophical arguments over God, this book deserves a place of honor next to J. L. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism or even David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Not only has Arguing About Gods aided Carr in his appreciation of the case for unbelief, it has also contributed to a more sympathetic understanding of the theistic outlook for him, which ought to be true of any scholarly and well-balanced survey of arguments for and against orthodoxly conceived monotheistic gods.
Does the afterlife exist? In this episode of the Armchair Atheism podcast, Taylor Carr explores the evidence for life after death and some of the questions surrounding it with philosopher and skeptic Keith Augustine.