36 Arguments for the Existence of God: Summary and book reviews of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein, plus links to an excerpt from 36 Arguments for the Existence of God and a biography of Rebecca Goldstein.
36 Arguments for the Existence of God A Work of Fiction
by Rebecca Goldstein
Hardcover: Jan 2010,
Paperback: Feb 2011,
After Cass Seltzer's book becomes a surprise best seller, he's dubbed "the atheist with a soul" and becomes a celebrity. He wins over the stunning Lucinda Mandelbaum, "the goddess of game theory," and loses himself in a spiritually expansive infatuation. A former girlfriend appears: an anthropologist who invites him to join in her quest for immortality through biochemistry. And he is haunted by reminders of the two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his mentor and professora renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianismand an angelic six-year-old mathematical genius who is heir to the leadership of a Hasidic sect. Each encounter reinforces Cass's theory that the religious impulse spills over into life at large.
36 Arguments for the Existence of God plunges into the great debate of our day: the clash between faith and reason. World events are being shaped by fervent believers at home and abroad, while a new atheism is asserting itself in the public sphere. On purely intellectual grounds the skeptics would seem to have everything on their side. Yet people refuse to accept their seemingly irrefutable arguments and continue to embrace faith in God as their source of meaning, purpose, and comfort.
Through the enchantment of fiction, award-winning novelist and MacArthur Fellow Rebecca Newberger Goldstein shows that the tension between religion and doubt cannot be understood through rational argument alone. It also must be explored from the point of view of individual people caught in the raptures and torments of religious experience in all their variety.
Using her gifts in fiction and philosophy, Goldstein has produced a true crossover novel, complete with a nail-biting debate ("Resolved: God Exists") and a stand-alone appendix with the thirty-six arguments (and responses) that propelled Seltzer to stardom.
For a book whose title sounds like an affirmation of faith but whose story is about an atheist refuting the existence of God, reading it is a spiritual experience... Many of the positive reviews laud the wit and entertainment Goldstein provides, but honestly, the breadth and depth of ideas covered require close and thoughtful reading... This novel can be read on a few different levels: a romance, a mystery, an intellectual thriller or a philosophical/religious treatise. In any case, some grounding in science, math and philosophy or at least a willingness to explore those subjects would be helpful. (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
New York Times
[T]he pleasures to be found in “36 Arguments for the Existence of God” are scattershot. But there are a great many of them, and this novel’s bracing intellectual energy never flags. Though it is finally more a work of showmanship than scholarship, it affirms Ms. Goldstein’s position as a satirist and a seeker of real moral questions at a time when silly ones prevail.
Amid the multitude of bestselling books by atheists and apologists preaching to their respective choirs, here finally is an answer to prayer and reason: a brainy, compassionate, divinely witty novel... Goldstein doesn't want to shake your faith or confirm it, but she'll make you a believer in the power of fiction.
Huffington Post - Rabbi David Wolpe
This is a charming story, deftly told, crackling with intelligence. If I can be granted the license to end with a rabbinic flourish the book itself would frown upon, I would say this work is evidence of the gifted novelist's ability to create world in imitation of the Author of all.
Los Angeles Times - Jane Smiley
[Goldstein's] style is so effervescent and knowing that even if we have only the dimmest grasp of certain concepts, we are carried along. And so 36 Arguments for the Existence of God is also an education in math, philosophy, academia, psychology and Jewish culture.
Christian Science Monitor
Thoughtful, witty, and – I cannot stress enough – really entertaining, 36 Arguments is part campus comedy, part romantic farce, part philosophical treatise... how many works of fiction can tackle thorny questions such as theodicy and still make you laugh? Not since The Tao of Poohhas philosophy been so much fun.
Always smart and intermittently very funny, but the shifts in tone, leaps in chronology and changes of focus can induce whiplash.
Starred Review. Irreverent and witty, Goldstein seamlessly weaves philosophy into this lively and colorful chronicle of intellectual and emotional struggles
A psychology professor copes with his celebrity present and haunting past after writing a best seller called The Varieties of Religious Illusion. An award-winning novelist and MacArthur Fellow for her work in philosophy, Goldstein has the wherewithal to discuss a hot topic—where our religious impulses originate and how they shape us.
Starred Review. Goldstein is entrancing and unfailingly affectionate toward her brilliant yet bumbling seekers in this elegant yet uproarious novel...
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein does it all. She has written a hilarious novel about people's existential agonies, a page-turner about the intellectual mysteries that obsess them. The characters in 36 Arguments For the Existence of God explore the great moral issues of our day in a novel that is deeply moving and a joy to read.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Richard Fauber Varieties of Character This is not a book about God at all but one of the roots of identity and discovering oneself. What I found most attractive was the variety of vivid characters, all of whom resemble people I have known but are their own individuals.
Goldstein... Read More
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein received a PhD in Philosophy from Princeton University, has taught philosophy at Bernard College and written five previous philosophically motivated novels. Her most recent book of nonfiction is Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity. Bertrand Russell considered Spinoza "the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers."
Spinoza (1632-1677) also figures in 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. In fact, the 35th argument is based on Spinoza's philosophy. Though raised in the Jewish faith and receiving a rabbinical education, Spinoza was expelled from the synagogue at Amsterdam for defending heretical opinions in 1656. He went on to develop his own philosophy, contained in a series of books. Ethics, completed in 1676 and published shortly after Spinoza's death, presents his conviction that the universe is a unitary whole and forms the basis...
Hitchens frames the argument for a more secular life based on science and reason, in which hell is replaced by the Hubble Telescope's awesome view of the universe, and Moses and the burning bush give way to the beauty and symmetry of the double helix.
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