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Summary

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.

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A Crash Course in Philosophy

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.

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Lots to think about

This is worth listening to as it provides an alternative perspective to the more usual materialist account of the universe. Hart argues that we have forgotten metaphysics and need to learn it again - if we pretend we aren't doing metaphysics in a materialist universe he points out that the questions metaphysics asks are - literally - after physics - and so not answerable by the usual scientific methods. So if we are honest - Hart argues - we have two alternatives - we can do metaphysics "properly" using reason and philosophical methods or we can just give up on it. Thus he says a materialist who does not engage in metaphysics is profoundly irrational because they can provide no reason for the basis of their beliefs. He is particularly critical of the "new atheists" who claim metaphysics can be done with science, and this Hart argues is a clear category error caused by philosophical ignorance. Just because someone is a scientist and an expert in one particular area does not mean they are qualified to speak on questions of philosophy and if they try to do so their ignorance is evident as they make many basic errors that even an undergraduate in philosophy would be able to spot. Hart argues the metaphysical principles of all the major theistic traditions - Islam, Hindu, Christianity and Judaism are quite similar and can generally be summed up as follows: God is not a being like other beings in the universe but is being itself, the source of all that exists. God is what gives all other contingent things their existence - God is why there is something rather than nothing. Our Consciousness exhibits properties not found in the material universe - qualia, intentionality, purpose, awareness and so on - which shows we are more than just material objects and there is more to the universe than just material objects. Through our consciousness we can become aware of God who exists in all things. The search for God is not like the search for properties of material reality - it requires something from our mind, it demands something from us, yet through following a spiritual path we can achieve empirical experience of God and come to know the bliss of the reality of God. Hart also argues our success in science has blinded us to our lack of awareness of God, and that we should not think that just because we are technologically advanced that means we are are an advanced culture. In many respects we are a very primitive culture. I felt most of the points Hart made were successful - he does seem to have a very negative view of the modern world which is understandable but there are also plenty of people who are not caught up in desiring only wealth, power or fame and who are trying to make this a better world for everyone. Whether we are justified in believing in a spiritual reality is also perhaps more problematic than Hart will allow. There are experiments which could have shown there is a spiritual world separate to this material reality - it should be possible to test telepathy, precognition, out of body experiences, recollection of past lives and so on but of course so far no proof has been found. There are suggestive stories (near death experiences for example) but it is still really just a matter of pure faith whether we do believe in a world beyond the visible. However this is really one of the biggest questions anyone can ask and the answer can change the whole course of an individual's life. Hart provides an excellent case for taking theism seriously and gives the listener plenty to think about.

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Outstanding

Far too much here for just one listen. Meticulous, broad and informative. A thorough treatment of the metaphysics of being. Some real wisdom on coming with ultimate reality.

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A must read!

I loved the book. DBH gives a wonderful account on the classical definition of God

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  • Si
  • 10-02-15

Shockingly bad

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.

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  • Carlos Miranda
  • 17-06-15

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."

10 people found this helpful

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  • Walt Mayfield
  • 27-05-18

Basically made me believe in God

Shallow atheism is less attractive after hearing Aristotle's unmoved mover argument. That God is not a magician inside the world changed my view on Him.

4 people found this helpful

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  • I'm all ears
  • 02-03-18

A Tour de Force

Formidable, compelling, and masterfully written, this book aggressively confronts the dismal and sadly bankrupt worldview of mechanistic materialism in all its permutations. In the process it constructs a powerful and multifaceted case for God as the only truly convincing account of reality. This is a highly sophisticated and rigorous work -- a true joy to anyone who wishes to unpack the foundation of their faith and a devastating challenge to any atheist with the intellectual gifts to approach it. My one qualification is that it does not in fact do much to incorporate views of God from different faiths, despite its stated intention to do so. Other faiths are quoted at times, especially works from Sufi writers and from the Upanishads, but only in passing, used to add their affirmations to points already made. The issues are approached almost elusively from the perspective of Western assumptions and thought. That it does very, very well, though. I suppose it would be greedy to ask for more.

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  • D. Erasmus
  • 08-05-19

Fresh Air in the God Topic

If you’re disillusioned with the God debates you might enjoy a fresh perspective. The author is clear to delineate an anthropomorphisized God from the “ground of all being”. Some, like myself, who were raised in Christian fundamentalism or evangelicalism will benefit from this book especially the last chapter. The chapters are long and can be arduous at times given the stringing together of similar thoughts and at times rapaciously refined rhetoric. All in all a big help to me in my recovery from an anthropomorphic theistic primitivism.

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  • Randy Vanderpool
  • 14-01-18

Good Book, but to Darn Tactical

I really wish there was a dumb down version of this book because I'm really not that smart, but iI can pick up on the principles of this book. A simple explanation would have been better.

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  • Matt
  • 04-10-16

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.

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  • sunil
  • 25-07-15

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!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Aaron Elrod
  • 19-11-19

Transcendent

Stunning. A book I will listen to over and over again. Beyond being a brilliant work of philosophy, it also manages to touch the heart of spiritual experience. It illuminated so many intuitions I have had and organized them into a coherent whole.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lee Cerling
  • 27-04-19

CS Lewis on steroids

I think no one will ever accuse the polymath David Hart of “wearing his learning lightly.” He eschews the avuncular, amiable polemical style adopted by C.S. Lewis; he prefers the pugilistic style of someone like the late Christopher Hitchens. But he knows far more than Hitchens ever knew, both in scholarly depth and breadth; and he employs his mind, as did Lewis, to the vigorous presentation of an intellectually robust, classical theism—not merely a Christian theism, but one that he sees as shared by all of the major theistic traditions, both East and West. His willingness to incorporate Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and other non-Western conceptions of God will alarm traditional Christian theists, but his aim in this book is not to defend Christian theism; rather, his aim is to demolish the trivial, ignorant, and superficial conceptions of God that “the New Atheists” regularly invoke when they make their anti-theistic arguments. Although he has done this elsewhere, as for example in his equally satisfying demolition of “the New Atheist” view of Western church history in his book *Atheist Delusions*, this is Hart’s fullest response to the theological misunderstandings of Richard Dawkins, et. al. Overall, a very enjoyable book, though it is likely to be somewhat opaque to those who have not previously been exposed to philosophical thought about Being and non-being. And I should add that Tom Pile’s reading of the book was fantastic. I was worried that whoever read this book would make a mess of it; but I came away thinking that the hubristic edge that often characterizes David Hart’s writing was considerably softened by Tom Pile’s reading, and the overall effect was probably that of improvement.

1 person found this helpful

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  • wondersforoyarsa.blogspot.com
  • 22-02-16

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.

5 people found this helpful