Monday, March 24, 2008

The Reason for God

In recent years there has been a wave of anti-God, anti-religion books, from the likes of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others. Many of these books are angry tirades that not only argue why God doesn't exist but essentially argue that anyone who believes in God or a religion is an anti-intellectual backwards crazy psychopath. Ok, so I get the anger, I get that there are a fair number of Christians out there who make it particularly tough for the rest of us (we are all still human, and all still sin, even as Christians, don't forget), I get that there are loads of misconceptions and misperceptions and misunderstandings, I get that movies like Jesus Camp get hundredfolds more attention than any video about "normal" Christians (as does any material on the extremists of any religion). But really, this approach (and therefore these books) is not a particularly intellectual or articulate way to make the point. They're like the Michael Moore of God books. And they pretty much just polarize people even further and prohibit people from coming to the table to discuss their doubts their questions their issues. Thus, they are just as insensitive and judgmental as the people they are "arguing" against. Not. So. Productive.

In response to this deluge of polarizing literature and in general to this big media circus around all things "born again," my pastor wrote a book. I say "my" pastor, but he's really the pastor of my church. His book, The Reason for God is currently (as of March 24, 2008) number 7 on the New York Time bestsellers list (non-fiction), and it's pretty much making some waves in all this muck that flies around and around. This "Reason" is meant to mean the use of rational, intellectual, and logical means to come to a conclusion, and that he does in an articulate and thoughtful way. For both skeptics and believers alike, this book will certainly challenge you to think outside the box of what you think you know about God and religion and faith. This book is written by a New Yorker to (in some sense) New Yorkers, which is just to say, people who are skeptical to the Nth degree about nearly everything and are eager to poke holes in anything that comes their way. It's also well-cited and draws from fields as diverse as philosophy and pop culture and anthropology. So this isn't some light fluffy pop-religion book. And I've read quite a few on both ends of the spectrum.

The book has two parts, the first of which addresses 7 of the top questions/criticisms people have of Christianity (infallibility of the Bible, how a good God can allow suffering, issues of evolution/creation, etc), and walks through the concern and then gives a thoughtful and well-reasoned response. In the second half, he essentially talks about many of the "clues" that exist in this world that help us come to the conclusion that God exists, how belief in God is in fact rational and logical given these clues, and then goes on to talk more about a Christian God and what that means. These are tough issues for both doubters/skeptics AND believers in Christianity; they are meaty questions that we ALL at some point in our lives need to answer for ourselves. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, I think you will find he does a pretty good job of walking through the issues/questions/doubts in a non-confrontational manner, one that will make you think, again, regardless of what you believe.

The website (linked above in the book title) is also pretty cool because there are loads of free audio downloads that address many of the same topics and go into further detail. Check it out, let me know what you think. Think. Reason. Discuss.

No comments: