36 Arguments for the Existence of God

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Award-winning novelist and MacArthur Fellow Rebecca Newberger Goldstein explores the great debate of our day: the clash between faith and reason. Her novel 36 Arguments for the Existence of God explores why people refuse to embrace skepticism and continue to embrace faith in God as their source of meaning, purpose, and comfort.


Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Comments [25]

Ed H. from Larchmont, NY

To Rob from the Bronx, that's a beautiful quote from Isaiah. But it is after the fall, so it's not the world as God originally created it, but the fallen world.
Karen Armstrong I suppose believes in God, and I guess she's a Christian, but it's hard to tell because she always reports on these things.
So, she isn't a good example of someone that has been interviewed who believes in God. She is also someone who probably has strayed from her religious tradition. Please get someone else.

Feb. 23 2010 09:16 PM
Rob from the Bronx from Bronx, NY

@Bob Abate from Yonkers,
Would not such an experience be an argument for Poseidon/Neptune rather than God, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah? And maybe some Sky God to complete your scene of ocean and sky plus a God of war for the Navy rather than an Almighty God. I am sure that you get my point, just observing an awesome inexplicable event does not prove or disprove the existence of a deity. It may simply prove our collective lack or understanding or imagination.

Feb. 23 2010 03:31 PM
Bob Abate from Yonkers

My childhood and teen-aged belief in God was dramatically reconfirmed when I was in the Navy:

... Lying topside, in mid-ocean, under an infinite canopy of midnight stars, watching countless shooting comets as far as the eye could see in every direction.

... Witnessing the daily sunrise and sunset, weeks-on-end, in full-colored reflection on a glass-clear ocean.

... Experiencing Mother Nature's full fury - a North Atlantic hurricane - taking 40-50 foot waves up to the bridge, rolling 56 degrees side-to-side and looking UP, only to see the ocean.

... Realizing that if the entire U. S. Navy - all 600 ships - were to sink, the world's sea level wouldn't rise one inch.

... The high and low tides - twice a day - every day - no exceptions.

... Add to these the four seasons - each and every year - never failing.

It is this constant, endless repetition and cyclicality that convinces me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the universe is no arbitrary, one-time, "shot-in-the-dark" random occurrence.

All of this leads me to one inescapable conclusion - there IS an Almighty, an Infinite Being - God, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah or whatever one and/or wishes to call It/Him/Her.

Feb. 23 2010 03:11 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

@Cathy I think the first thing you need to be skeptical about - in order that your skepticism be truly healthy - is your own experience. Many people seem not to know or to forget just how extraordinarily complex and sophisticated the mind and brain are and go looking for external causes for 'strange' experiences. And, personally speaking, I've found that exploration and appreciation of the profound and beautiful order in the real, physical universe obviated any need or desire I had to find an extra supernatural or spiritual kind of order. In fact by comparison all the mystical stuff I've ever come across seems lame, simplistic and ugly.

Feb. 23 2010 02:50 PM
Paul from Manhattan

how do we explain the jump from all those bubbling amino acids? all it took was a protective membrane and on went the continued combination and creation. It's tough to recognize we have a genetic predisposition to religion (that fourth dimension which the Neanderthal's appear to have lacked) aided our survival. We are believers (including us atheists). I grew up a believer. It was tough to face the music--the 2nd most painful experience of my life. But it was liberating. Also, think of all those free sundays (or saturdays)!

Feb. 23 2010 02:35 PM
Rob from the Bronx from Bronx, NY

Ed H. from Larchmont, NY
Are you making the argument from Isiah 45:7?
"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things"

So if I get you, God allows illness and then creates the means to treat that illness, and for this benevolence we should be grateful?

Feb. 23 2010 02:33 PM
john from office

Not with this constant attack of liberalism.

Feb. 23 2010 02:08 PM
hjs from 11211

john from office
downfall? after 3000 years i see no signs of downfall. it's the ability to change, evolve that has kept the tribe well.

Feb. 23 2010 01:28 PM
Martk Leach from Manhattan

The tone of some of these remarks leads me to recognize the religious fanaticism of some atheists. We are evolving spiritual beings enduring a human experience. I suspect that on some other plane of existence there are intelligent beings doubting the existence of "Man."

Feb. 23 2010 01:26 PM
Connie from NJ

I have no problem admitting that my atheism is as much a matter of faith as any religious belief (and religion fascinates me, too). I'm not interested in proving what I believe to anyone. I know what I know (you can substitute 'believe' for 'know' if you must) and everyone else is free to do the same.

Feb. 23 2010 01:24 PM
Cathy from Brooklyn

As a Medium and as a research subject, my experiences have opened me up to moving into belief in things that I can't quantify or completely understand. I find that skepticism is healthy, but confronting my skepticism allows me to find deeper meaning within myself. I don't know about God...but I do believe there is some greater order to the universe that does not comply with the rules of the physical world. I have seen it too often in my work, and it has at times blown my mind, or my intellectual confines, so to speak. Still have that healthy skepticism though, one is ungrounded without it. Don't like religion at all, as it does not account for individual spirituality, and tries to make rules for it.

Feb. 23 2010 01:23 PM
john from office

The jewish people are a great culture. But, the constant need to question, each aspect of life, will be its downfall.

Hence, Jewish anti zionists, gay marriage (the new york times always has a gay jewish male couple), and female rabbis.

The strenght comes form the traditions, keep them.

Feb. 23 2010 01:21 PM
hjs from 11211

weak minded people need something to lead them. that's it!

Feb. 23 2010 01:18 PM
tom from NJ

Has the guest read
How to Think About God: A Guide for the 20th-Century Pagan by Mortimer J Adler ?

Feb. 23 2010 01:17 PM
Carol Davis from NJ

I am so glad that you are featuring a guest who gets it! Compassion towards all sentient beings is the only true 'religion.' The rest is a collection of divisive and ridiculous stories that ultimately breed hatred and violence.

Feb. 23 2010 01:15 PM
Ed H. from Larchmont, NY

True. Religion comes from experience of God, not primarily reason that concludes that God exists.

Feb. 23 2010 01:13 PM
Ed H. from Larchmont, NY

Another atheist. What a surprise. Organized non-religion. Funny.

Feb. 23 2010 01:12 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Thanks for having this guest on the show. This interview (and the next with Mr. Ferris) goes a long way in making up for your recent non-critical show about homeopathy. Keep up the good work.

Feb. 23 2010 01:11 PM
Ed H. from Larchmont, NY

The fact that illness exists at all is an argument for the fall of man. The existence of medicine is an argument for the mercy of God.

Feb. 23 2010 01:06 PM
Rob from the Bronx from Bronx, NY

Is Will making the argument that unless we understand something then it is not so? Science has come along and explained many things that had supernatural or God explanations in the past, e.g. it used to be believed that diseases were a result of evil and the fall of man until the germ theory of disease. Now we know how many illnesses are caused and in some cases have even eradicated (smallpox) or greatly reduced the incidence of diseases. Now almost no theologian of any repute makes such claims anymore, they have moved on to other things such as hurricanes, earthquakes etc. When science learns to mitigate such phenomenon, they will again move on to other fare.
By stating that there is no scientific reason for life Will may indeed be more correct than he realizes, the universe does not care if we live or not, nor is this planet the center of it.

Feb. 23 2010 01:01 PM
peter from vancouver

will, just because we don't understand something doesn't mean that god must have done it. even primitive humans will soon be able to create synthetic life. there are also interesting scientific explanations for the origin of life. please look into the facts before taking the lazy path of believing in god.

Feb. 23 2010 01:00 PM
Ed H. from Larchmont, NY

The fact that we benefit from the existence of God is independent of whether God exists or not. If God exists, one would expect to benefit (Freud's argument doesn't work).

Feb. 23 2010 01:00 PM
JEFF from NJ


That is my enitre point in a nutshell i.e., you are comfortable. Your id defeated your ego's argument here.

Feb. 23 2010 12:25 PM

Stop trying to intellectualize that which no one can understand. Personally, I think that anyone who s that an assemblage of amino acids arranged themselves out of the primordial soup and spontaneously became life for no reason is seriously misguided. We can scientifically explain every chemical that we know of. We can scientifically explain why different elements can combine to become all of the substances that we can see and touch. However there is no scientific reason for life. Our planet's existence is not dependent on the life which exists on it's surface. When an atheist can scientifically explain the reason for life I will be all ears. Until then I am comfortable to believe in God.

Feb. 23 2010 12:11 PM
Jeff from NJ

This "debate" has been long been settled by it victors, reason and science, which do not have to prove a negative. Man’s need for a belief or faith in a God is nothing more than a defense mechanism, just one of many Man maintains, for some people to endure this cruel world, or as Schiller said: “to bear the burden of existence”. That is fine. I say go for it, but let us understand it for what it is, a defense mechanism.

"Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has."


Feb. 23 2010 09:11 AM

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