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.
I'm not quite sure what I was expecting from the cover of this book, but what I got wasn't quite what I expected. It took me a little while to consider if this was a good or a bad thing. This wasn't because I didn't enjoy the book, on the contrary I had no negative feelings about it at all. It was just that, for some reason, the whole thing left me so spellbound that at first I wasn't sure what I thought at all. Let me explain.
The characters seemed so real at times that it was hard to believe this wasn't really happening around me. Some moments felt like reading private diaries, others like watching a drama on TV. I felt connected to Cass and Azarya, whilst Klapper infuriated me at times as much as he would of had he been real.
The insights into Hasidic Judaism were particularly interesting to me, as there were lots of things mentioned that I didn't know anything about. It felt like I was being let into a totally new world, and being guided around by someone who really wanted me to understand what was going on.
At the back of the book are the 36 Arguments for the Existence of God I was not sure when to read these. Part of me thought I should use them as a reference too, looking at them each time they were mentioned in the story. However, the flow of the book stopped me doing this. In the end I decided to read them when I had finished the story. I'm quite glad I did this as I think they made more sense that way.
The philosophical arguments were quite hard to follow in places, making this unsuitable for a light read. I found that if I was tired words in these passages could just float over me with no meaning. However, this didn't seem to cause me any problems with the story as a whole.
I think I really enjoyed this book, however there is something so profound about it that I am still struggling to come to grips with my true feelings.