Equally adept at fiction (a winner of the National Jewish Book Award) and philosophy (a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” prize), Rebecca Newberger Goldstein now gives us a novel that transforms the great debate between faith and reason into an exhilarating romance of both heart and mind.
At the center: Cass Seltzer, a professor of psychology whose book, The Varieties of Religious Illusion, has become a surprise best seller. He’s been dubbed “the atheist with a soul,” and his sudden celebrity has upended his life. 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. But he is haunted by reminders of the two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his teacher Jonas Elijah Klapper, a renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianism, and an angelic six-year-old mathematical genius, heir to the leadership of an exotic Hasidic sect. The rush of events in a single dramatic week plays out Cass’s conviction that the religious impulse spills out into life at large.
In 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein explores the rapture and torments of religious experience in all its variety. Hilarious, heartbreaking, and intellectually captivating, it is a luminous and intoxicating novel.