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130 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Author puts in two cents
It does need to be noted that I was NOT in this book presenting the whole of the Christian gospel or making a case for Christianity and Judaism. My aim was much more modest. I was trying to re-create what used to be called "natural theology," the study of all those things we can learn about God based solely on reason alone and our experience of ourselves and the world...
Published on September 1, 2008 by Michael Novak

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27 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed
"No One Sees God" is a thoughtful and daring defense of Christianity, but it has some annoying flaws, and even its best arguments will probably sway few nonbelievers.

For my money, the most interesting part of the book is Novak's answer to the perennial "problem of evil": how can there be an omnipotent, loving God when so many innocents suffer? Novak's answer...
Published on October 19, 2008 by Robert H. Stine Jr.


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130 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Author puts in two cents, September 1, 2008
By 
Michael Novak (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
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It does need to be noted that I was NOT in this book presenting the whole of the Christian gospel or making a case for Christianity and Judaism. My aim was much more modest. I was trying to re-create what used to be called "natural theology," the study of all those things we can learn about God based solely on reason alone and our experience of ourselves and the world around us. This is not the kind of knowledge that brings salvation, or opens the way to eternal life. But it is a form of knowing shared by huge numbers of people around the world, in the ancient and medieval worlds, at the time of the American founding, and today. Belief in God as the abiding presence of light (intelligence, even mathematics) in all things, and as the source of the (to us) inscrutable order, power, and majesty of nature has been the default postion of the human race. Almost all human beings in history have shared in it. In America today, the Pew poll found fewer than ten percent of all Americans identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics. About half of all agnostics and one-fifth of atheists confessed to believing in God as just described -- but not in the Jewish/Christian God. Our country desperately needs a respectful dialogue between believers and unbelievers. I have tried, perhaps unsuccessfully, to mark out one way by which that dialogue might get underway, for the sake of brotherly comity, civility and increasing respect for one another.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting addition, September 2, 2008
Novak's latest work is divided into four parts. In part one, Novak gives a close reading to the works of the most prominent new atheists: Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett.

Part two engages nonbelievers in a Socratic dialogue. Interestingly, Novak spends much of this time addressing an actual Alcibiades in the person of Manhattan Institute's Heather MacDonald. Their exchange sheds light on the problem of evil and the causes of human suffering. Its format as an actual conversation between believer and non-believer makes for a particularly fruitful exchange, usually lacking in hypothetical dialogue or the usual faceless polemic that has marked this genre.

Novak goes on to describe the phenomenology of human life in general--for believers and non-believers. It is an interesting attempt to find common ground between the two camps based on mutual experience.

He concludes by pointing out the flaws in secularism and foretelling the fall of the current Secularist Age.

All in all it's a fascinating addition to the interminable back-and-forth between believers and non-believers. Its even-handedness and charity are to be commended (especially in the face of bile artists like Dawkins and Hitchens). It's well written, if at times tending toward the baroque. Certainly a worthwhile read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insights about Judaism and Christianity, December 21, 2008
By 
Markku Ojanen (Lempäälä Finland) - See all my reviews
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I could pick many original ideas, but I refer on pages 43-48 as an example. On those pages Michel Novak gives "four arresting reflections" of Christianity. They are:
1. A theology of the absurd
2. The burden of sin
3. The bright golden thread of human history
4. The point of the cosmos is friendship

These should arouse your curiosity for the book. I have never looked upon Christianity along those principles.

This is one of the best books I have read lately. Novak points out that it is very easy for a Christian to understand atheism, but opposite seems to be true of many atheists. At least the books of the major proponents of atheism (Dawkins & Hitchens etc.) give this view. The major aim of the book is to improve the mutual understanding of people having different worldviews.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read if you are interested in existentially informed Catholicism, July 22, 2009
I gave this book four stars because, in my ranking system, even though I find the book worth reading I realize it is rather specialized and not really for the general public. Why? Because Michael Novak is really debating atheism from a narrow strand of Catholicism that is informed by his own wrestling with existentialism. First, many of us are not Catholic (for example, I am a Mormon). Second, many people won't have a clue what existentialism is about or why it has anything to do with Christianity. Third, I imagine that many readers will find, as I did, his dismissive attitude to anyone who doesn't share his sense of emptiness and darkness along with his faith to be more blind than informed.

The book is an extended argument against the atheists who are attacking religion as contemptible and a request that they cease and desist. Fat chance, really. And he asks believers to see atheists as brothers and sisters who have something to offer. OK. I have talked with atheists all my life. Some are worth talking to and others not so much. Of course, Novak takes this same approach in the book. Because of the Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins express their agenda, Novak has little use for them but addresses their points and lays out what he sees as their deficiencies. Christopher Hitchens, for some reason, draws special affection and attention from Novak. The author has a longer discussions with atheists who are willing to engage in a dialogue to try and lay out a more informed map of where the agreements and disagreements are. I think Novak is right when he says that most of what people think is disagreement is really more mutual misunderstanding and a lack of patient engagement to try and understand each other. My counter is that at a certain point there is a lot more to life than endless talk. I would rather help a child learn piano, or make some food for a family in need than go over the same ground I examined decades ago.

But, as I said, I strongly disagree with Novak on his view that anyone who doesn't see his dark desert of the soul is somehow a child or has a childish view of God. Not so. Paul notes that there are many kinds of spiritual gifts. Some of us are blessed with actually experiencing the Comforter and a testimony of God. We feel his presence. My faith is a faith of revelation and communion with God as I walk down the life path He has put before me. I stumble, I wander, and yet He calls me back. I feel badly that Novak and others don't feel that, too. But I hardly think he has a serious basis for calling my faith infantile. Of course, he seems to have little use for anything outside the Catholic or Jewish spheres, unless it is atheism.

Anyway, read it if this kind of stuff interests you. I am glad I went through it and picked up a few things, but it hardly informed my spiritual life or faith. And when he claims that neither the believer nor the atheist sees God, that NO ONE sees God, he clearly contradicts scripture. If he is being poetic and simply meant that no single finite human is capable of comprehending God, that is true but far less dramatic. Besides, the testimony of the Spirit allows us to experience the Father and Jesus in a way that is more real and permanent than anything obtained from the five material senses.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novak wins the battlefield while observing the rules of rational engagement, September 3, 2008
Michael Novak's entry into the ongoing intellectual debate between Christians and the "New Athiests" is notable both for its content and approach. If Novak had merely brought his impressive intellectual acumen to the debate, that alone would have been a wonderful contribution. Happily he does the debate a second service by remaining civil while pursuing it, and in doing so, he kills his opponents with kindness.

The New Athiests, it should be remembered, rely on outrageous and outlandish language (as well as downright insulting discourse) to get their message out. Novak responds to their vitriol but refuses stooping to their level. By doing so, he comes across not only confident in his position, but also reveals the New Athiests to be the very cultural barbarians they accuse Christians of resembling.

Novak's victory over the New Athiests even on their own terms is evidenced in the very title of his book: while the New Athiests claim that someone is crazy or foolhardy for claiming to see God, Novak responds that in actuality "No One Sees God" (at least not in the anthropomorphic or cheesy way imagined by the New Athiests).

Furthermore, Novak displays a basic rhetorical trait seemingly lacking in his interlocutors, namely, he understands their positions from the inside, while they apparently only possess a caricature of Christian belief. This is an embarrassing situation for the New Athiests to find themselves in because their dismissal of religion is premised upon the claim that they have understood it.

I have only so far spoken about Novak's approach. His CONTENT is detailed, philosophically-rigorous and, most notably, intensely personal. It poses a formidable challenge to the New Athiests on each of these different levels. After all, they claim that atheism is not only a better way to think, but also a better way to live privately and civically. Therefore if atheism is actually any of these things, its proponents must engage Novak's points, and they must simultaneously show to the rest of us watching the debate that they can do so humanely and rationally.

After all, isn't a more humane and rational society their purported goal?
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, thought-provoking, and inspiring, September 6, 2008
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A fascinating book; a remarkable meditation on the "dark night" of those who would believe in God, and those who do not. It's main theme is of finding common ground and rejecting the attitude of the "new atheists" who seem to see their own views as beyond reproach.

I am still digesting a lot of the philosophy presented in the book, and its many discussions of authors, both atheist and believer, have lengthened my "to read" list.

I do not pretend to have many astonishing insights to share in my review, I just wish to encourage others who read this book description and are intrigued by its subject matter to go ahead and purchase this book. It is profound, a meditation on belief unlike anything I've read.

Thank you, Mr. Novak. I only wish I were more articulate so I could leave a worthier review.
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27 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed, October 19, 2008
By 
Robert H. Stine Jr. "Bob" (Arlington, VA United States) - See all my reviews
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"No One Sees God" is a thoughtful and daring defense of Christianity, but it has some annoying flaws, and even its best arguments will probably sway few nonbelievers.

For my money, the most interesting part of the book is Novak's answer to the perennial "problem of evil": how can there be an omnipotent, loving God when so many innocents suffer? Novak's answer is to assert that yes, everything that happens is God's will, but in the grand scheme of things, even the apparent evils are blessings, if well disguised. Novak explicitly reiterates God's response to Job: men are not equipped to judge God.

Novak's argument did not hit home with me, although I respect the view that God's will for you and me may not be pleasant in the short run (along with Job, witness Jeremiah, Jonah, Stephen, Paul, and, of course, Jesus). The logical problem with Novak's argument is that if God's ways are beyond the comprehension of man, then belief that God is working out things for the best is strictly an article of faith. It's great if you have this faith, but not a compelling argument if you don't.

The most annoying aspect of the book is Novak's repeated assertions to the effect that without God, there is no basis for ethical behavior. He hauls in Dostoevsky's quote, "without God... anything goes". This seems to be a contention made more often by theists, such as Dostoevsky, rather than atheists, and in fact is just not so. In philosophy, there is not much study of systems of ethics are based on divine revelation. As for cultures, Confucianism is an ethical system that has guided billions of people, with no reference to God or religion. For that matter, the Christian existentialist Kierkegaard, who coined the expression "leap of faith", argued in "Fear and Trembling" that at times obedience to God's will could be contrary to any objective system of ethics, as, for example, when Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac. I am sure that most Christians disagree with Kierkegaard on this, but the point is that ethics and moral behavior can exist outside of the framework of religion.

Despite the above criticisms, it is a pleasure and something of a relief to read a reasoned discussion of religious issues.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Brandy with Michael, December 29, 2009
By 
Paul Adams (Ave Maria, FL) - See all my reviews
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This is a fascinating book. It adopts a charitable, friendly tone in addressing the views and experiences of atheists from within the Judeo-Christian tradition. Novak sees a kind of common ground with atheists in the experience of nothingness (the dark night of the soul) experienced by Catholic mystics and articulated by those in the Carmelite tradition like St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux.

This is a wise and thoughtful book, open and reflective in tone. It is a kind of summing up of the life experience and reflections of a lifetime--the author more than once mentions his age as of writing--74 years.

What it is not: If you are looking for a polemic that takes on the knock-down arguments and jibes of popular atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens in a similar vein of knock-about debate, this is not your book, though it does discuss and dispute them. For that, the reader should go Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity? or one of several books that take these authors to task for their arrogance and ignorance, like Terry Eagleton's Reason, Faith, and Revolution or David Bentley Hart's Atheist Delusions.

This book reminds me more of the 1981 film, My Dinner with Andre. Instead of dinner, though, Novak imagines a genial but spirited conversation (or series of conversations) over several brandies. (And I myself spent a few hours with this author, brandy in hand.) The real and imagined atheists who serve as his Alcibiades tend to be blunt, to the point, and commonsensical, like Wallace Shawn in the movie. Novak's replies are long and subtle, like Andre Gregory's in the film, but with less of the pretentious and more of sharp philosophical acuity. As Novak says and shows, it is much easier for a believer to put himself in the shoes of an atheist than the other way round.

I recommend the book highly to atheists interested in an understanding of Jewish and Christian belief that goes beyond the usual objections and who are open to the possibility that those objections have been considered and responded to at a very high level of sophistication over centuries or millennia. But the book is also deeply enriching for believers who seek to understand their atheist friends and family members in way that respects them and is both civil and non-defensive. The book requires and rewards effort from both kinds of reader. For the closed-minded, whether atheist or believer, who are content to stay that way, this book is probably not for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take a moment, April 28, 2010
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Novak is a thoughtful author with an immense intellectual depth and capacity. He deals humanely with an important subject that is "ripe" in our time. That subject is atheism and the problem of faith for believers in a period of unbelief and cynicism. He studiously and respectfully establishes common ground of thought and life that both atheists, non-believers and believers share. He shares his conclusions and beliefs while respectfully understanding that other conclusions can be drawn. Life does not spare anybody, we all wrestle with doubt.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice exposition of a difficult subject, January 23, 2013
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This review is from: No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers (Hardcover)
Good defense of faith by an erudite scholar. Arguments range from complex to simple. Answers to the atheist perspective are illuminating. A memorable remark is paraphrased thus: the problem of evil is more than answered by the problem of good.
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No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers
No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers by Michael Novak (Hardcover - August 5, 2008)
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