God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet
June 2013, University of California Press
What would it mean to prove the existence of God? What would it mean to you if you could?
God in Proof tells the story of those who’ve tried. Some believed they succeeded in finding the God they were looking for, while others unleashed new revolutions in thought in the attempt. From the ancient Greeks, to medieval Arabs, to today’s most eminent philosophers and the New Atheists, the existence of God has been argued about and wrestled with by some of history’s greatest minds. This book takes their proofs out of the textbooks and back into the flesh from which they came.
Encountering these ideas in the midst of an adolescent conversion to Catholicism, I found both fascination and consternation. Ancient proofs became an invitation to a millennia-old brotherhood of thinkers in whose company I never quite belonged. The search for proof led me to suburban storefronts, philosophy conferences, and creationists in Turkey, to hobbyists and professionals alike, and to hours upon hours of debates on the Internet. After crossing the God divide myself, I began to see that the partisans on either side, in their quest for certainty, are often closer to one another than they would like to think.
“What to call this odd, fascinating, and absolutely compelling book? History? Treatise? Manifesto? Travelogue? Confession? It’s all of the above, plus drawings that are as full of wit as the delightful prose. The combination is deceptively casual, for as Schneider’s excursions into philosophy and theology knit together into a story, we see the shape of subtly powerful argument for proofs as a genre more akin to visions than logic. That makes them no less true or false; only (like this remarkable book) revelatory.”—Jeff Sharlet, Dartmouth College, author of The Family
“A heartfelt exploration of a matter typically assumed to be about the head alone, full of faith yet faithful to reason and gloriously free of the cliches of ‘true believers’ and ‘new atheists’ alike.”—Stephen Prothero, Boston University, author of Religious Literacy
“If Walter Kaufmann and Annie Dillard had a love child, it would be Nathan Schneider. Part philosophy junkie, part spiritual seeker, all journalist, Schneider takes us on a tour of proofs for the existence of God. Rather than trying to advance a single theistic idea, he reveals that the question of God’s existence remains as urgent as ever—not in a final proof, but as an irrepressible confrontation between the self and the world. This is a very special book, written by a gifted observer of the human condition.”—Kathryn Lofton, Yale University, author of Oprah
“God in Proof is a tour de force. I mean this, first of all, in the dictionary sense—the book is an exceptional achievement, unequaled by anyone else; it is a feat of extraordinary writing and ingenuity. But I also mean it metaphorically—Nathan Schneider takes the reader on an exciting historical tour of attempts to reinforce religious belief by way of proof. Though I’m a philosopher by profession and Schneider is not, I couldn’t put the book down—philosophical insights veritably popped from the pages. I enthusiastically recommend the book to anyone, professional philosopher or not, interested in philosophical argument, in general, and proofs of God’s existence, in particular.”—Kelly James Clark, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, author of Return to Reason
“breathes life back into proofs … entertaining, well written, and historically comprehensive … Schenider has given us a means of clearly seeing the intimate relationship between a religious way of being in the world and the expression of this life in the rational language of proofs.”—Robert Bolger, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Schneider explores [proofs] as cultural artifacts, with value regardless of how one evaluates their truth value. Hence, one can glean insights in perusing both works in order to gain a deeper understanding of this never ending debate.”—Becky Garrison, The Washington Post
“Philosophy is the centerpiece of God in Proof, but at heart the book is a despairing/joyous/troubling/awe-inspiring/universally understood story of an individual struggling with the idea of God.”—Chris Francis, YES! Magazine
“Schneider amply shows that proofs of God offer much that is revelatory, even if they say more about the humans who form, argue, and take solace in them than they do about the God who is their ostensible subject.”—Phil Klay, Full Stop
“The book is a work of emotional subtlety and sensitivity, and full of interesting evidence that the activity of proving is rather hard to disentangle from the business of living. It will make my business as a philosopher a great deal more exciting for a lot of people.”—J.L. Schellenberg, Mount Saint Vincent University, author of Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason
“eminently readable … Schneider hints that the practice of proving, ever inconclusive, is itself an opening on the divine.”—William Rehg, S.J., America
“Schneider ties intellectual history to his own life in a manner that seems almost seamless.”—Tom Gilson, Thinking Christian
“At the age of 28, Schneider defines the next generation of public intellectuals—fiercely articulate, indefatigably curious and Internet-savvy. … God in Proof is a fascinating intellectual history, but it’s also a spiritual memoir—’a history of my religious opinions,’ writes Schneider, quoting Cardinal Newman. … As he recounts the proofs for the existence of God, Schneider tests his own less definitive faith against them, the result of which is an engaging book that never resorts to tendentiousness or narcissism.”—Gordon Haber, Religion Dispatches
“A philosophically engaging and challenging work, accessible enough for the nonacademic reader as well as specialists.”—Library Journal
“Though Schneider’s approach is serious, Proof is the work of a journalist, and a young one, whose sketchy cartoons illustrate some of the schools of thought he surveys. His approach is broad gauged, including Jews and Muslims as well as medieval scholastics, scientists and mathematicians as well as today’s debate-circuit regulars and online bloggers. There are professional philosophers as well as religious dropouts religiously devoted to proving God non-existence, and a self-appointed apostle who chases him down a hall to bring him to his self-defined version of faith. For a non-specialist, Schneider, in a compact, book provides background on, synopses of, and observations about a wide spectrum of efforts to prove and disprove God’s existence. … I recommend Proof to those whose taste in reading runs to philosophical theology and to all those for whom the intellectual side of the religious quest is an interest.”—Fr. Drew Christiansen, America
“Philosophy is hardly everybody’s cup, but by adding dollops of memoir and first-person reportage to a history of attempts to prove that God exists, Schneider makes an often dry subject quite companionable. … A book that starts attractively and gets more enjoyable by the page.”—Ray Olsen, Booklist (starred review)
“a moving, enjoyable and an intensely interesting tour of the history of arguments for and against the existence of God … I enjoyed Nathan Schneider’s wonderful book, God in Proof, as much as any work on apologetics I’ve ever read.”—John H. Armstrong, part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
“As a popularization of recondite argument, God in Proof mingles accessible explanations with a reporter’s fresh outlook.”—John L. Murphy, New York Journal of Books
One of the Jewish Book Council‘s “most anticipated Spring 2013 titles”
One of America magazine’s list of books of “spiritual nourishment”