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, 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, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World
“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
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, Return to Reason