Book Review: The Six Ways of Atheism: New Logical Disproofs of the Existence of God by Geoffrey Berg.
Published May 29, 2009
Temple DPS Ltd
Like many non-theists my attitude to the god hypothesis is the same as to any question of fact. It’s based on evidence and experience, as well as logic. There is no doubt that arguments based on logic alone are susceptible to subjective distortions. And we should be aware there are limits of common sense logic when confronted with the most basic questions about reality (see Different ways of knowing? ). So, it’s unavoidable that I see limits to an approach based purely on logic – as the arguments in this book are (obvious with a subtitle New Logical Disproofs of the Existence of God).
However, I still consider that this is a useful book. Most religious apologists try to justify their god beliefs using logic. True, some will try to use a caricature of science – but when challenged they quickly retreat to “theological logic.” They feel safest there – presumably because of the freedom it gives to make “leaps of faith.”.
And it’s true that atheist arguments rarely concentrate on logic alone. Some would say “why should we?”, When we have the evidence!
So there is an imbalance between the theist reliance on logic and the atheist reliance on evidence. Theists rarely come to grips with the scientific evidence and atheists rarely fully challenge theological logic. I suggest this is one reason the science-religion debates often involve participants talking past one another.
Geoffrey Berg has gone a long way to repair that imbalance by presenting a series of extensive and detailed arguments against the god belief based on logic alone. He is taking on the theologians on their own ground – where, because they are rarely challenged, they have become rather lazy in their arguments.
The logical arguments
In summary he presents six logical arguments:
1: The aggreagte of qualities: There is an infinitesimal chance that an entity would posses even one of the qualities attributed to God. Therefore the chance of an entity having several, let alone all, of these attributes is so remote as to be impossible. This means God can’t exist.
2: Man and god comprehension gulf: Man, being finite, can’t possible recognise an infinite god, or even know such a god exists.
3: God has no explanatory value: The questions an all-knowing god is supposed to answer still remain. Therefore God is an unnecessary complication with no explanatory value.
4: This is not the best possible world: If God exists she would have created the best possible world and that is demonstratively not the case.
5: Universal uncertainty: There is no way of gaining certainty about the universe and therefore God, if she exists, cannot have certain knowledge. If God cannot be sure she exists she cannot be God.
6: Some of God’s defining qualities cannot exist: It is impossible for any entity to have some of the qualities that are essential to define a god.
Berg argues each in detail (some would say exhaustive detail – but that may be my bias). And he sometimes takes a unique approach. In particular, he takes a god’s-eye view in some of the arguments. For example, he shows that a god, if she exists, would logically be forced to be agnostic about her own existence!
One for believers
This book should be useful to those atheists preoccupied with logical arguments. Those more interested in evidence and science may find it of less value.
But the theologically inclined should be most interested in this book. After all, they have been raised on the arguments of “theological logic.” They have usually not seen these arguments tested. (Isn’t that why they don’t consider Dawkins The God Delusion worth reading?). So their arguments have become formulaic and weak. They ignore or accept logical gaps – presumably because these are rarely challenged.
So here’s a challenge to the religious apologists who love to repeat the “theological logic” of people like William Craig (“cosmological argument,” “argument from design,” and “argument from morality). Buy the book. Read it and try to refute Berg’s six arguments.
You should find this mental exercise unusual, but stimulating. You may even identify the gaps in your own logical justifications for belief. Maybe even discard some of those beliefs.
And that can’t be bad thing can it?
(This book can be ordered direct from The Six Ways of Atheism website).
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