54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2000
It's been 35 years since Fr. O'Malley was my favorite high school English teacher. Although I lost touch with him three decades ago, his unique voice is clear and familiar in this book -- wit, insight, scholarship, and respect for both your intelligence and your doubts. Grading your professor is awkward, but I'll try to be fair and frank as he always was.
"God: The Oldest Question" gets an A for its main task -- answering the questions, "Does God exist?" and "If so, what is God like?" O'Malley gives the modern, "sophisticated" doubter an intellectual and emotional basis to believe (again) in a transcendent-and-immanent Ultimate Reality -- with enough food for thought for both the right-side and left-side of the brain. He also does a masterful job of starting the reader on the search for what god is like -- mainly by desribing how peoples around the globe have approached and answered that question over the millennia. His respectful, clear and artful descriptions of the non-Western world's religions and spiritual traditions help to highlight our common threads and common needs.
O'Malley's metaphor of climbers on the Western Face and the Eastern Face working toward the same summit is especially apt and memorable. This is the one book I wish I could get my jaded Baby Boomer "confirmed athesist" friends to read, to shake them out of their fear of the words "spiritual" and "god".
However, "God: The Oldest Question" slips a bit, and only gets a "C" from me, when it comes to fulfilling the expectations of its subtitle, "A Fresh Look at Belief and Unbelief -- And Why It Matters." Like Fr. O'Malley, I am in awe at the feeling of an infant's fist around my finger. The experience does reassure me that we are more than chemicals and electrical impulses, and are part of something transcendent. But, O'Malley does not help me understand how that belief affects my daily life or my lifetime. Frankly, I was expecting another chapter or two while reading Chapter 9, on The Everyday God, and was rather surprised when I turned page 195 and the book had reached its end.
Maybe I brought too many of my own expectations to the book. Maybe the word "belief" is still attached to the words "organized religion" for me. I was looking for a reason to join a congregation again -- to feel a connection with others who are searching to know and understand god, and to be able to sing a hymn or read a prayer aloud in a church without feeling like a hypocrite. Instead, Fr. O'Malley has made me feel comfortable in seeking my own spiritual path up that Mountain without a catechism or set of rituals in my backpack.
Maybe that's what O'Malley had in mind in the first place (did I say he always was sly)-- making it okay to be an ex-Catholic who still wants to climb that mountain. I'll have to re-think that "C".
So, this is also the one book I wish my too-Catholic relatives and friends would read and take to heart -- the ones who believe that those who leave the Church are eternally damned, and who practice a faith and ritual that seems without joy and leaves no room for doubts.
This book was well worth my time. I hope Fr. O'Malley will write a book that tries to re-connect apostates like me with our former religion. I'll definitely read it, with the open, curious mind he helped form 35 years ago.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2009
I could relate deeply to the faith crisis that O' Malley went through. When my conservative Protestant friends could not relate to my faith crisis, I turned to this book. Without it, I would still be in a place of despair. By the way, I am a Protestant, who attended a Catholic high school, where Fr. Michael Pontarelli, a friend of William O' Malley, used to teach.
on June 3, 2014
The book I read was called God, the Oldest Question and it was written by William J. O’Malley. In this book O’Malley attempts to explain why he believes that faith in a God is important. Throughout the book, he explains atheism, science, and the many different world religions to explain the significance of God. When he discusses the different world religions, he makes sure to not only include western ideas but also focuses a lot on the religions of the East. I really enjoyed this book. Often, it is difficult to read a book all about understanding religion because it gets quite boring and very un engaging. However, this book was very interesting and at parts was quite humorous without being offensive. I liked how O’Malley discussed many different scientific theories in relation to religion because that is something that I have always struggled with when it comes to religion. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. Especially for people would like like to learn more about different people’s take on religion but don’t have lots of patience for very traditionally and factually written books.
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2004
It caused me to think & wonder, even beyond my own beliefs...strengthened my Catholic beliefs & helped me to appreciate others beliefs. A good book.