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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sacks again at his best
This is the 5th book I read by R' Sacks, and as a current doctoral candidate in the sciences this is one of my favorites. Sacks doesn't go the route of various other writers who attempt to integrate the bible and science by using compromised/shoddy science or using 'secret/mystical' readings of the bible to explain that the bible and science are completely in sync...
Published on September 19, 2012 by Roman Sandler

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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best by a Theologian
This is the best book ever written by a theologian seeking to refute the views of "New Atheists" like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

The rabbi is not a nutcase. He is moderate and reasonable, and seems perfectly willing to concede some points that theologians don't normally concede. But while making his concessions, he also qualifies them. Some examples...
Published 19 months ago by Bruce Fox


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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sacks again at his best, September 19, 2012
This review is from: The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Hardcover)
This is the 5th book I read by R' Sacks, and as a current doctoral candidate in the sciences this is one of my favorites. Sacks doesn't go the route of various other writers who attempt to integrate the bible and science by using compromised/shoddy science or using 'secret/mystical' readings of the bible to explain that the bible and science are completely in sync.

Rather, Sacks takes a more philosophical approach arguing that even the assumption the the bible must be 'proven' with science or must corroborate physical phenomena is mistaken and an alien way of reading the bible.

Once again, Sacks does this with his usual gift for beautiful prose that is both clarifying and inspiring.

That having been said those who take a more conservative/literalist approach to theology should be wary as R' Sacks may be challenging to their belief system.

For everyone else, however, from the religious minded to atheists should read this book as one of the best cases for God/the bible in the 21st century.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, scholarly, readable, timely...a winner!, September 29, 2012
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This review is from: The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Hardcover)
The Great Partnership by Rabbi Sachs is a remarkable, scholarly, well written, page turner that will keep thinkers and seekers enthralled. The scope of his scholarship is amazing. I was bookmaking and making notes almost every page. He does justice to every view he presents.

By way of full disclosure I am a retired married Catholic priest / psychologist, active in promoting interfaith understanding for four decades. I still lead workshops integrating psychology and spirituality, and blogs regularly on wellness, braid research and faith. For integrative studies, holistic thinker and those who are concerned about cultural values, this book is a treasure.

Anyone interested in interfaith dialogue will find this book full of insights and quotable statements. Those seeking to deepen the understanding of their own faith tradition will find this book transforming. Scientists, skeptics and agnostics will find this book helps understand the cultural value of the Abrahamic traditions: Hebrew, Christian and Muslim. The book ends with a well written Epilogue for atheists.

Many people of faith do not know or want to know the enormous harm done in God's name for several thousand years. Rabbi Sachs faces the world as it is, and addresses this "power over" human temptation and abuse with adequate discussion of remedies. "Men never do evil so comfortably and cheerfully as when they do it from religious confection." Blaise Pascal.

In the main, Rabbi Sachs shows how science and religion need one another, and how either by itself, is incomplete. I can hardly recommend this book highl6 enough. I made over 200 notes on my kindle while reading this. I look for his other writings. For its purposes, scope, scholarship, readability and relevance, this book is a winner.

Paschal Baute, Ed. D.
[...]
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elequent advocate for "both/and" thinking., November 13, 2012
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This is one of the finest discussions for those of us who do not believe that science and religion need to be at odds. His integration of current scientific understanding and religious thinking is a breath of fresh air after the spate of new atheists writings and radical right rhetoric.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Wonderful, A Bit Uneven, June 10, 2013
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This review is from: The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Hardcover)
It was difficult to decide how many stars to give this book because it was incredibly strong and important in some parts, but in others, merely laborious and repetitive.

Let me explain.

First, it's important to say from the outset that I think is Rabbi Sacks is incredibly learned, maybe a genius, and his facility to weave Biblical texts with those held sacred from the Western canon is always thrilling for this English teacher.

Also, as a response to recent works by New Atheists (Sacks's term, not sure if it's pejorative) like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens (RIP), and Sam Harris, Sacks's defense of the religious life is thoughtful, moderate, respectful, and conducted at low decibel. And though It is an incredibly welcome and needed entry into that discussion, in many ways, Sacks's preoccupation with defending religion against the NA's overtly dismissive diatribes is one of its faults as well. What I mean is that, and maybe I'm wrong here, I don't think that many thinking people believe, as Hitchens claimed, that "religion poisons everything." Emanating from such brilliant minds, it's a startlingly stupid assertion. OBVIOUSLY, one can cherry pick ANY "ism's" most morally deranged followers, most chillingly nationalistic writings, and most violent outliers and claim that the ISM "poisons everything." So Sacks spends far too much of this book arguing that there is something worthwhile, noble, and good, about leading a religious life. He never claims that these are guaranteed, only that throwing out religion altogether, as the NAs would have us do, robs humanity of one its most beautiful creations.

One other weakness (and then onto the justification for FOUR stars). As Sacks spends chapter after chapter explaining what is lost if we abandon religion (and by contrast what one gains through its maintenance), he bases much of his argument upon the foundation that the alternatives to God are meaninglessness, loneliness, loss, and desperation. In time, perhaps all of those are possible. But just because an existentialist understanding of the universe causes sadness and a sense of life's being absurd, doesn't make it UNTRUE! Sacks says here, as he has elsewhere, that he doesn't see why it's any more intellectually honest to choose despair over hope and faith. He's right. But he's mis-identifying the context of that belief moment: For many, especially in the atheist camp he's chiding, the disbelief in God is NOT a choice. To suppose that they're making a choice is to presuppose God as a given. As if God is a completely natural, logical, and untaught conclusion to come to merely through living. It is, for scientists, not that way at all. I think Sacks KNOWS this as well because he's brilliant.

And so the REAL choice being offered and defined in this book is: given the pain and suffering in the world, and frequently, its seeming meaninglessness, doesn't religious faith offer an amazingly healthful, holistic, communal, and thoughtful alternative? Absolutely! It just doesn't mean that its tenets are TRUE!

Where Sacks is strongest is in two sections. First, his discussion of right and left brain thought as mirrored in Hebraic and Hellenistic LANGUAGE and culture is absolutely fascinating, and as far as I know, novel. He admits that the right/left split he describes is overly reductive, but it is illustrative nonetheless.

Finally, and this is no small feat---Sacks's chapter on suffering and why bad things happen to good people is brilliant. Thankfully, at least from this reviewer's perspective, he REJECTS all traditional theodicies as facile and "comfort too cheaply earned." He never explains away suffering, but rather, argues that central to Hebraic thought is the REJECTION of comfort and an embracing of conflict and cognitive dissonance. He calls this the "The Theology of Protest," and though at times its real life implications seem cloudy, it is on the whole inspirational and smart.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best by a Theologian, June 20, 2013
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This review is from: The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Hardcover)
This is the best book ever written by a theologian seeking to refute the views of "New Atheists" like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

The rabbi is not a nutcase. He is moderate and reasonable, and seems perfectly willing to concede some points that theologians don't normally concede. But while making his concessions, he also qualifies them. Some examples are:

1. It is possible that God does not exist, he concedes. Not very likely, he insists, but possible. Not believing in God is as much an act of faith as believing in God, he points out.

2. It is possible to be moral without believing in God, he concedes. In fact, he says, it happens all the time. But people who believe in God are statistically more likely to be moral than people who don't believe in God, he insists.

3. Religion at times has been more of a force for evil in the world than a force for good, he concedes. Although the good has generally outweighed the evil, he insists.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explores the alchemy of wisdom...Well written, informed, almost poetic in parts, December 26, 2012
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This review is from: The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Hardcover)
I heard Rabbi Sacks on a radio show, and had to buy the book. I'm now on my third copy as I keep giving them away. A great book for a thoughtful college student to help him or her navigate overwhelming secularism. Jonathan Sacks reminds us that we have much wisdom to learn from each other in our quest for meaning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Educational and Insightful, January 15, 2013
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Insightful, intelligent, thought provoking. Very good for anyone with an open mind to hearing the positives of religion on long lasting cultures and the downsides of pure philosophy, neo-Darwinism, and the like on the cultures that have abandonned the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) specifically. Sacks makes a very convincing argument not just for mono-theism but for societies' need for religion. I highly suggest that anyone with curiousity give this book a chance. (Note: I'm a cradle Catholic with a degree in Biological Sciences trying that is very excited to see someone bring together Science, Philosophy, Religion and a bit of Theology in a logical and well thought out manner.)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed in the details, July 21, 2013
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This review is from: The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Hardcover)
I was disappointed in this book. Such a learned man could have written a better book. I think Rabbi Sacks should have written for his usual audience instead of trying to convince atheists why they should believe. They won't. But a book synthesizing science with Jewish thought could have been very uplifting and inspiring.

Like some other reviewers, I thought this book would draw more heavily on Jewish textual sources to make its argument. Rabbi Sacks does so, mostly in the last chapter; these chapters shine and are the reason I give it 3 stars. When he draws on Maimonides, other sages, and Talmud, his case is solid and his writing superb. He should have done more of this to educate those of us who lack his grasp of these texts.

In other areas, drawing on physicists and philosophers, the writing is still wonderful, but the facts muddled.
Examples:
1) Einstein's quote regarding G-d not playing dice with the universe is not a comment on religious view, it is Einstein's rejection of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle;
2) The Greeks did not practice infanticide of deformed infants, the Spartans (with whom the Greeks were at war at times) purportedly did. They also gave such children to slaves to raise;
3) The story of Oedipus was misrepresented: Oedipus' father Laius received an oracle that a son would be born who would murder Laius and marry his mother Jocasta. When a son was born (with a club foot, hence the name Oedipus, meaning swollen foot), Laius put the infant on the hillside to die. A shepherd couple found the infant and raised it as their own. The rest is told by Sophocles in the famous trilogy.
4) Ancient Greeks believed strongly in an afterlife; indeed the most famous street in Paris is named for the Greek concept of Heaven, and there are descriptions in stories such as that of Orpheus and Euridice;
5) In the last chapter discussing technological advances Rabbi Sacks thinks demean human civilization he includes "abortion on demand." That's a legal construct and not a technological advance;
6) Several times Rabbi Sacks mentions abortion and contraceptives as if they are antithetical to Judaism; it is not so. There are limits, to be sure. But I noticed that nowhere did Rabbi Sacks mention the Talmudic notion of a fetus as rodef (that is, pursuer, meaning a pregnancy that if allowed to continue will kill the mother);
7) In the discussion of the rabbi with Lucretius, Rabbi Sacks would leave the reader thinking that Judaism accepts ensoulment at conception. That is not the mainstream belief- ensoulment at birth is;

An index would have been most useful, so that one could go back to specific topics covered within chapters. I think I will stick to Rabbi Sacks' strictly religious books (which, by the way, I think are the best out there- siddur, haggadah, machzorim for the High Holy Days) in the future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book, May 23, 2013
This review is from: The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Hardcover)
This is a remarkable book. Sacks has read all that there is to read in Western philosophy and literature from the Greeks through Nietzsche and beyond and makes a strong case against the "new atheism." This is far from a fundamentalist tract, and although Sacks is a former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, this is not a case for the Jewish religion. Rather, it is an effort to show that after Darwin and after all those thinkers who may be seen by some as negating the possibility of the belief in God, there is a strong basis for belief. Religion and science, Sacks says, are complementary and not contradictory. In order to see the subtlety of his thought, one must read the book carefully.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkably powerful and convincing argument for Faith in God And a defense of Harmony between Science and Religion, April 21, 2013
This review is from: The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Hardcover)
Instead of seeing Science and Religion as implacable enemies the success of one of which must lead to the demise of the other Rabbi Sacks sees them as two complementary areas of human endeavor. His method of doing this is not through trying to see the Biblical text as somehow containing or even foreshadowing basic scientific discoveries, a method which is employed by many apologists for Religion. Instead he by and large accepts scientific findings as authoritative even in areas where others see them as contradicting fundamental religious doctrines, such as those involving the Age of the Universe, or the Origins of Humanity.
Instead he distinguishes Science as providing explanations of Reality, while Religion provides interpretations that give Life Meaning. As he understands it the meaning of the Universe can be understood only by going outside the universe, and pointing to the transcendent God that Abraham first revealed to Humanity. The discovery and revelation of God , is for Sacks the key element in transforming the story of Humanity from being one of Tragedy to one of Hope.

As he passionately argues "man despite being the product of seemingly blind causes is not blind, that being in the image of God he is more than an accidental allocation of atoms; that being free, he can rise above his fears, and, with the help of God, create oases of justice and compassion in the wilderness of space and time, that though his life is short he can achieve immortality by his fire and heroism,his intensity of thought and feeling, that humanity too, though it may one day cease to be , can create before night falls, a noonday brightness of the human spirit , trusting that none of our kind will be here to remember, yet in the mind of God, none of our achievements is forgotten-all these things, if not beyond dispute have proven themselves time and again in history. We are made great by our faith,small by our lack of it. Only within the scaffolding of these truths,only on the firm foundation of unyielding hope, can the soul's salvation be built."

In making this forceful argument Sacks underlines the truth that Religion provides to the masses of mankind possibilities of Faith and Hope that Science does not. But he too acknowledges that the scientific method over the past four centuries has provided Humanity with a means of insight into the workings of Nature, and powers to transform it unlike any other Power Humanity has known.

As in other realms Sacks tone and emphasis is on a kind of peace- making and 'dignity of difference.' He wants practicioners of Science and religious believers to respect and honor each other. Here he has harsh words for the New Atheists not because of their Atheism which he surprisingly seems to consider a serious and respectable human option but because of their harsh accusatory tone, their dismissal of religious practice without real understanding of it. This is not to say that Sacks does not have strong corrective words against extremists of religion, does not have a real awareness of the horrors advocates of various Religions have brought to the world historically. But his emphasis is on human dignity, on mutual respect, on living the moral life, one with emphasis on Justice and Compassion.

This is an eloquent and in many ways strongly persuasive work. It certainly shows why Science is not and cannot be a substitute for Religion.

My one real problem with it is that it does not deal with the question of how scientific discoveries have by undermining tradiional religious doctrines put into question the truth- value of each of the three Abrahamic faiths. It is after all one thing to defend Religion as useful, and even invaluable to Mankind, and another to defend it as Truth.

Nonetheless even this objection has a kind of answer in Sacks text. In perhaps the most illuminating section of the book called 'Why God?' Sacks makes telling arguments against Atheism showing how in its hypothesis of Multiverses it substitutes what he calls an improbability, the existence of a transcendent Creator of the Universe for greater improbabilities. Sacks takes the scientific findings regarding the improbability of their being a Universe at all, the improbability of their being Life on Earth, the improbability of our unique human consciousness, and makes the argument that improbability should not stand in the way of Faith. As Sacks sees it Faith is Courage and Faith provides the means through which humans not simply establish a connection with God but give order and meaning to their own lives. It is almost as if he is saying that we should believe in God be religious believers because it is better for us. Here I find certain echoes of the Pascalian wager but where Pascal was telling us to wager for God in order to win the world- to- come Sacks suggests we wager for God in order to provide meaning, happiness, goodness in this life.

This book is one of the most helpful and meaningful books I have read in many years. I have long held a position similar to the one Rabbi Sacks espouses in this book and this is the most convincing presentation of this position I know.
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The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning
The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning by Jonathan Sacks (Hardcover - September 11, 2012)
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