36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD by Rebecca Goldstein
A WORK OF FICTION

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Synopsis

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 professor—a renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianism—and 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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Rebecca Goldstein

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Rebecca Goldstein graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College and received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in the philosophy of science. She has taught philosophy at Barnard. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
 
Published December 18, 2009 by Vintage. 530 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

Kirkus Reviews

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Madcap novel of ideas, careening between the hilarious and the ponderous.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

The New York Times

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A Ph.D. candidate watches his professor throw over Matthew Arnold for Yahweh in this novel about the conflict between faith and reason.

Jan 31 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

The New York Times

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A big, ambitious novel that is nominally about God but unfolds on the earthly plane, following an academic who finds success with a best seller on atheism.

Jan 21 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

The New York Times

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A Ph.D. candidate watches his professor throw over Matthew Arnold for Yahweh in this novel about the conflict between faith and reason.

Jan 31 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

The Guardian

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The occasional glow of such nicely gratuitous atmospherics aside, the most successful sequence here is the "appendix" (ostensibly from Cass's own book), in which the titular 36 arguments for God are coolly dissected: it is as though the book finally breathes a sigh of relief at no longer having t...

Apr 09 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

BC Books

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A contemporary novelist looks at the varieties of religious experience

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NPR

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Rebecca Goldstein's 36 Arguments for the Existence of God is part academic farce and part metaphysical romance. The novel may not settle the question of whether God exists, but it does affirm the phenomenon of literary miracles, says Fresh Air reviewer Maureen Corrigan.

Jan 20 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

New York Journal of Books

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Her research is impeccable and her vocabulary skills, as expressed through her characters, makes 36 Arguments a wonderful balance between entertainment, intellect, and religious philosophy, with Cass Seltzer’s 36 arguments faithfully “reproduced” as an appendix to this wonderful story.

Jan 12 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

Book Reporter

During the contest period from January 9th to January 23rd, FIVE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win a copy of FEAR THE DARKNESS by Becky Masterman, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins, and SAINT ODD: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz.

Apr 21 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

AV Club

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This novel about a reluctant spokesman for atheists comes from a MacArthur grant recipient who set out to write philosophical fiction.

Jan 28 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

National Post

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36 Arguments for the Existence of GodBy Rebecca Newberger GoldsteinPantheon/Random House402 pp.; $34Review by Elaine Kalman Naves, Canwest News ServiceMeet Cass Seltzer, intellectual celebrity and all-round nice guy. A psychologist knee-deep in “the swampy humanities,” he has been studying the ph...

Apr 03 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

The Telegraph

If God doesn’t exist, why are atheists so obsessed by .

Mar 23 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

The Bookbag

The plot – such as it is – is told mainly in flashbacks from the present, to a time before Seltzer became successful.

Apr 03 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

Patheos

however, what a reasonable person is going to ask of me is proof of the existence of an extraterrestrial body named Vulcan (or Epsilon Eridani) that is Earth-like and contains humanoids like Spock, “arguments” be damned.

Jan 15 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

“When Cass, in all the safety of his obscurity, set about writing a book that would explain how irrelevant the belief in God can be to religious experience — so irrelevant that the emotional structure of religious experiences can be transplanted to completely godless contexts with little of the i...

Feb 20 2011 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

The Jewish Chronicle

Her novel also consists of 36 chapters, each of which is presented as an "Argument" that stands in opposition to the rational arguments of the appendix, setting up a talmudic dialectic for the reader, so that we are caught up in Cass's struggle between faith and doubt.

Mar 18 2010 | Read Full Review of 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENC...

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