This book appraches the reality of spiritual engagement in today's challenging world. Novak engages the thought of prominent contemporary atheists Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. He describes the struggle to know ourselves and to participate in the life of this world as it plays out for believers and non-believers. Lastly, he defends the Christian worldview by revealing the flaws of secularism.
As Novak states in the Epilogue to this volume, "The main thesis of this book is that atheists and believers in God can and should open civil, reasoned conversations about questions important to each. Who really are we? What may we hope? How ought we to live?"
©2008 Michael Novak (P)2008 St. Anthony Messenger Press
At the beginning of the book Novak dove right into a subject that is extremely interesting to me, about how no one sees God and about the dark night of the soul (which often last a life-time for some). He wrote about Mother Teresa and how most of her life she only felt God's absence, silence and cold shoulder. In Novak's view, this is the normal Christian life and what mature Christian should expect. Only immature Christians get to experience Christ intimately, basking in his sweet nearness, eventually we grow up and must only feel nothingness, yet are suppose to keep the faith anyways. But as soon as he gives his extreme opinions, he just lets them drop and never goes into any depth or tries to make his perspective persuasive. So yeah, I was hoping the whole book would be centered around the title and subtitle of the book. But really only the first tiny bit of it was. After that the rest of the book is pretty much him going on and on (its a long book) talking about the new fundamentalist atheist and then he sets out his catholic apologetic in response and though some of it was interesting, it began to get really old towards the end. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author, and sadly I report Novak reads slow and has an irritating voice, making it hard to finish the audiobook.
So I'm about 1/4 of the way through this and I'm not sure how much longer I can take it. I was hoping for an honest account of how a Christian sincerely combats atheist objections. (Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the best they can do.) He starts by saying again and again that even believers like him have doubts. (So?) He seems to go on (it's never very clear) by adopting Tertullian's claim that he 'believes because it is absurd.' An argument which is self-confirmingly absurd. He then claims to respond to Hitchens' challenge of 'tell me some moral shortcoming I have because I'm an atheist' by saying Hitchens wouldn't comply with the first three commandments (have no other gods before me, no craven images, honor the Sabbath), simply assuming without justification that anyone who does so is immoral. He asserts, with no real facts or argument, that atheism is self-contradictory. He cites many appeals to what the founding fathers believed (so?), but so far, he has not even attempted to answer why anyone should believe whatever he believes without any evidence whatsoever. I'm trying to keep an open mind, but I don't know how much further I can go in what seems more and more like a basic (unresponsive and irrelevant) claim that believing what he does makes him feel better about other people, himself and his place in the world. I may amend this review later if he ever comes to grips with the real issues atheists propound, but I'm having doubts about that ever happening.
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