Despite the recent ferocious public debate about belief, the concept most central to the discussion "God" frequently remains vaguely and obscurely described. Are those engaged in these arguments even talking about the same thing? In a wide-ranging response to this confusion, esteemed scholar David Bentley Hart pursues a clarification of how the word "God" functions in the world's great theistic faiths. Ranging broadly across Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Vedantic and Bhaktic Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, Hart explores how these great intellectual traditions treat humanity's knowledge of the divine mysteries. Constructing his argument around three principal metaphysical moments, "being, consciousness, and bliss", the author demonstrates an essential continuity between our fundamental experience of reality and the ultimate reality to which that experience inevitably points. Thoroughly dismissing such blatant misconceptions as the deists' concept of God, as well as the fundamentalist view of the Bible as an objective historical record, Hart provides a welcome antidote to simplistic manifestoes. In doing so, he plumbs the depths of humanity's experience of the world as powerful evidence for the reality of God and captures the beauty and poetry of traditional reflection upon the divine.
©2013 David Bentley Hart (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Intellectually challenging but well worth the effort. The central argument of this book is that belief in God (across all the major Theistic traditions) is actually rational whereas Atheism/Materialism/Naturalism is necessarily irrational. Very well argued in my opinion.
This is what happens when an obsession with the craft of philosophy causes evidence, fact and common sense to play second fiddle to word-play and arrogant posturing. The author has seemingly decided to invent, off the top of his head, a definition of God rarely seen in scripture and almost never in practical religious observance, and declare it to be 'self-evidently' true. This description is worded in such a way as to place it beyond challenge. We cannot, we are told, ask where God comes from because he is not a 'thing' therefore does not come from anywhere. We cannot ask when he was created, because he was not created, he just 'is'. We cannot ask where he is because... you guessed it, the author has decided that he is everywhere... and nowhere. To put it simply, any probing question we might ask about God can be rebutted on the grounds that, He's God, that doesn't apply to him.
We have literally pages and pages of wordage to this effect, telling us exactly the same thing. "God is the indivisible and always transcendent actuality out of which all things recive their imminent actuality in all possible respects... The infinite to which nothing can add and nothing can subtract... the source and fullness of all being... not a being but beyond being..."
In other words, nonsense; a word salad that despite its grammatical correctness is utterly without meaning, and its premise without foundation.
These fantastical mantras are interspersed with a selection of arrogant and bitter attacks on people far more learned than the author himself, both Atheist and Theist; people who actually posit reasoned and evidential argument to support their position.
Occasionally the author hauls in and grossly misrepresents an element of quantum mechanics in an attempt to support his case. He tells us, for instance, that when talking of existence it is clearly impossible for something to come from nothing and therefore God must have been involved. This is a shockingly naive position. If the author had even a basic knowledge of quantum physics he'd realise that trying to describe quantum mathematical processes in language then arguing against the inevitable and gross misrepresentation that results is simply building a straw man. Quantum mechanics can only be described in mathematics and its in mathematics that any proof, rebuttal or argument must be couched.
As an Atheist I clearly disagree with the positions of all Theists but on that does not mean their arguments are all without merit. However, this book does not pose any sort of argument. It has no premise, no line of logic and presents no evidence. What it does is insult its readers by assuming we will be so over-awed by the author's undoubtedly impressive command of language that we will discard our critical faculties and embrace this flowery claptrap as fact.
"The clearest thinking I have heard in ages."
A metaphysical masterpiece! "Atheism is too infantile and primitive to be considered a philosophy, it is much more like a therapy."
"Recommend story and performance"
Enlightening book, thoroughly study presented in a magisterial style, and preformed in an eloquent manner....in short best audiobook I have had the pleasure of listening to!
"A thorough walloping of materialism"
While the new atheists play at philosophy and decorate their contentions with a dollop of pompous snark, David Bentley Hart dismembers them handily with serious philosophy and throws in a healthy amount of amusing snark well.
"Annoying and unfinished reading; Dense book."
This was a frustrating purchase, in that the audio seemed unfinished at times - repetitions, for instance, that were not edited out. The reader also had what was to me a terribly annoying habit of replacing "book" with "audiobook" in the text, even in key points of the author's argument. "The computer is no more conscious of the ideas in a program than the ink on the pages of this book are of the arguments therein" is changed to "the device playing this audiobook" - totally obscuring the analogy. A strange thing to do.
The book itself is a fascinating topic by a great mind, but I think in the end it was too dense for translation to an audiobook. Hard to follow the argument. And at times this really is the fault of Hart. Granted these are very esoteric and abstract concepts, but that's why we pay him the big bucks to write a book. He relies to much on stilted academic language, and I'm convinced he can do better.
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