Peter Lopatin in Commentary:
Arguments on the subject of religious faith come variously and abundantly these days, from theist and atheist alike. From the former, they range from the oracular hectoring of slick televangelists concerning the rewards that await the believer—both in this life and the next—to the carefully wrought arguments of the more intellectually rigorous Christian and Jewish clergy as they confidently and earnestly assert the rationality of faith, its cognitive inevitability, and its ethical necessity.
Not to be outdone, however, come the New Atheists, fierce conscientious objectors to what they regard as the hollow temptations of religion. These acolytes of pure reason assert, as against their religious counterparts (and with no less self-assurance), the manifest irrationality of religious faith, its logical incoherence, and its ethical superfluousness.
This is all a terribly disheartening spectacle for the beleaguered agnostic, moved as he is by the felt need for the transcendent yet unable to yield fully to the allure of faith or to any of the particular creeds of the conventionally religious, aware as he is of the power of science to explain the hitherto mysterious, and struck as he is by the discordant irony in the fact that the atheists share with their theist adversaries what is, to the agnostic, a strangely apodictic certainty concerning that matter about which certainty is surely not possible.
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein enters this fray armed with a sophisticated grasp of philosophy (Ph.D., Princeton, 1977) and religion (raised in an Orthodox family, she is the author of a short biography of Spinoza). In previous works of fiction, (The Mind-Body Problem, Mazel, Properties of Light, among others) she has examined the rich territory that lies at the intersection of fact and intimation, thought and passion. In her latest, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, she explores the conflict between faith and reason, and the result of that engagement is a captivating, original, and at times riotously funny novel.