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The Impossibility of God

The Impossibility of God

Most people, believers and nonbelievers alike, are unacquainted with the variety and force of arguments for the nonexistence of God. In fact, the very mention of such an argument is usually a source of amusement, if not derision. Indeed, how can there be a serious argument for the nonexistence of God, let alone for the impossibility of God, when so many people “simply know” that God exists?

Since 1948, a growing number of scholars have been formulating and developing a series of increasingly powerful arguments that the concept of God–as understood by the world’s leading theologians and major religions–is logically contradictory, and therefore God not only does not exist but, more significantly, cannot exist. In short, God is impossible.

This unique anthology brings together for the first time a comprehensive collection of articles containing arguments for the impossibility of God. Included are selections by J.L. Mackie, Quentin Smith, Theodore Drange, Michael Martin, and many other distinguished scholars. The arguments are grouped into five areas focusing on definitional, deductive evil, doctrinal, multiple attributes, and single attribute disproofs of God.

Part one, definitional disproofs, comprises arguments for the impossibility of God based on a contradiction within the definition of God. Startling contradictions are found, for example, by J.N. Findlay, when God is defined as the adequate object of religious attitudes, and by Douglas Walton, when God is defined as a being than which no greater can be thought.

Deductive evil disproofs–based on a contradiction between the attributes of God and the existence of evil–compose part two. J.L. Mackie formulates and develops the famous logical argument from evil for the impossibility of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God. Several scholars, such as Quentin Smith, explore and further develop this argument.

Part three contains doctrinal disproofs, each based on a contradiction between God’s attributes and a particular religious doctrine or story. For example, Christine Overall shows that a God with the attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence is inconsistent with the doctrine of miracles. Richard Schoenig demonstrates that this God is inconsistent with the theistic reward/punishment doctrine regarding the postmortem fate of humans.

In part four, multiple attributes disproofs expose a variety of unexpected contradictions between different divine attributes. Theodore Drange, Matt McCormick, and many others offer arguments for the incompatibility of such attributes as omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, omnipresence, agency, and immutability. Michael Martin, for instance, argues that omniscience and omnibenevolence contradict one another.

The last part comprises single attribute disproofs, each based on a self-contradiction within just one divine attribute. For example, J.L. Cowan formulates and defends an argument that omnipotence is self-contradictory, and Patrick Grim presents a battery of arguments, including indexical, Cantorian, and Godelian arguments, that omniscience is self-contradictory.

Finally, in the appendix, there is a remarkable selection written by Paul Thiry d’Holbach in 1770 that anticipates many of the insights in this anthology.

By providing a diverse collection of arguments for the stunning conclusion that God cannot exist, The Impossibility of God is an invaluable resource for anyone who ponders the nature and existence of God.

About the Authors: Michael Martin is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Boston University. His published works include Atheism: A Philosophical Justification; Atheism, Morality, and Meaning; and The Big Domino in the Sky and Other Atheistic Tales. Ricki Monnier (Ph.D. in mathematical logic) is the Director of The Disproof Atheism Society.

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