Tuesday, March 2, 2010

36 Arguments (well, not really) To Read This Book

Over the week-end, I read Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. It's about an academic who almost accidentally writes a bestselling book that defends atheism, and it's fully of witty and profound observations about academia, religion, and relationships. It's the perfect book for people who like to think about theological issues but don't necessarily want to read heavy, non-fiction books.

The main character, Cass Seltzer, seems an unlikely creation, "the atheist with a soul," as popular magazines have dubbed him. He spends his life trying to understand the varieties of religious experience and expression, and his journey takes him to some interesting places: grad school, a separatist Hasidic group, and into the arms of some fascinating women (the goddess of game theory and a dreadlocked anthropologist who leaves for years at a time to go to the remotest region of the world).

The book considers some of the historic and contemporary reasons for both belief and disbelief, and looks at the choices that are required of us. It's both funny and profound, which is quite an achievement. I found it hard to put down, and even though I was sad when it ended, it felt complete (unlike some books, which I want to hurl against a wall, because there are so many loose ends at the conclusion).

I suspect we're not done with winter yet. When you need a book for your next snow day or your next trip or your next waiting room time, this one's a keeper.

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