Michael Martin is a professor of philosophy at Boston University. His research interests include the philosophies of law and of social science, but he is best known for his defences of atheism.
Martin has published a number of works in the philosophy of religion, several with atheist publishers Prometheus, and also participated in public debates (c.f. the Fernandes-Martin debate, and the Frame-Martin debate). He is the author of Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, The Case Against Christianity, The Big Domino in the Sky, and Atheism, Morality, and Meaning, and the editor of The Impossibility of God and its follow-up The Improbability of God.
Atheism: A Philosophical Justification
Martin’s Atheism: A Philosophical Justification presents a powerful defence of the atheist world-view. It is an important work, comprehensive in scope and careful in argument. In my opinion, there is no better work on the philosophy of religion from an atheist perspective than this; I strongly recommend it.
The first part of the book is a defence of negative (or “weak”) atheism, the absence of belief in God. Martin considers each of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, in each of its forms, and finds fault with all of them. There is, he concludes at the end of this section, no good reason to believe in God.
The second part of the book is a defence of positive (or “strong”) atheism. (For an explanation of the difference between this and negative atheism, see Theism, Atheism, and Agnosticism in the Glossary section.) Incoherence arguments are considered, as is an atheist telelogical argument, but greatest weight is placed on the argument from evil. Both major and minor theodicies are explained, along with Martin’s reasons for deeming them inadequate. Martin’s overall conclusion is that atheism, in both its negative and positive forms, is rationally justified; theism is not.
The Case Against Christianity
While Atheism: A Philosophical Justification deals with the philosophical arguments for theism, and the philosophical arguments for atheism, The Case Against Christianity deals less with abstract philosophical questions and more with the specifics of Christianity. Martin considers, among other things, the doctrines of the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Second Coming. Philosophical and theology scrutiny, Martin argues, exposes serious difficulties with each of these doctrines. If Christianity is assessed on rational grounds, as it should be, he concludes, then Christianity should be rejected.
The Impossibility of God
The Impossibility of God is a collection of papers edited by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier. Included are contributions by the likes of Theodore Drange, James Rachels, Anthony Kenny, John Mackie, Quentin Smith, and Michael Martin himself, thirty-three in all. Each paper presents a disproof of God’s existence. The arguments are categorised as definitional, deductive evil, doctrinal, multiple attribute, and single attribute disproofs. The quality of the papers is variable, but this is an excellent reference resource, a catalogue of arguments for atheism.
The Improbability of God
The Improbability of God is a follow-up to The Impossibility of God. Like the earlier work, it is a collection edited by Martin rather than all his own work, but this time the emphasis is on showing that God’s existence is unlikely rather than impossible. Contributors to this volume include Richard Dawkins, Quentin Smith, Theodore Drange, William Rowe, Wesley Salmon, and Victor Stenger.
Atheism, Morality and Meaning
It is a common criticism of atheism that it cannot account for morality; this is the thought that underpins the moral argument for God’s existence. In Atheism, Morality and Meaning, Martin seeks to dismiss that criticism, and even to reverse it. The first part of the book attempts to rebut criticisms of atheist ethical systems. The second attack religious theories of ethics, including divine command theory. The third examines how life can be meaningful without God. The fourth attacks certain specifics of Christianity.
The Big Domino in the Sky: And Other Stories
The Big Domino in the Sky is a collection of fictional stories designed to illustrate the atheist worldview. Those who would rather not wade through a philosophical text, preferring something a little lighter, may find this easier going than Martin’s more technical works.