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Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The reviews of this book reveal that Mr. Guinness is "dinged" for one consistent reason only: his Christian faith. There is no criticism of his thinking (he is exceptionally lucid and insightful) or his delivery (always candid and respectful). Mr. Guinness is Christian, and as such, he does not receive the level playing field of the naturalist or secular humanist. This bothers me. I am especially concerned because the book is about evil and the devaluation Mr. Guinness receives simply because of his faith is nothing if it is not evil and bigotry.

This is not limited to the individual reviews. Look at the Publishers Weekly review above: "Guinness, one of evangelical Christianity's few public intellectuals...." Why is it okay to do this with Christians? Could we be so accepting if it were blacks? Muslims? Atheists? Chinese? Hindus? Publishers Weekly continues: "His Christian convictions are evident, but he engages respectfully with those who do not share them." It is very interesting that other reviewers also emphasize that Mr. Guinness is a Christian, but doesn't write offensively. Have we lost even the concept that those whose convictions differ from our own cannot extend to us respect and courtesy? Is respect only to be expected from those who have NO convictions (or perhaps no Christian convictions)? Is it possible for anyone to be without some absolute convictions? I think not. I guess we are all doomed to be offensive to each other, instead of grateful for the freedom to think and express ourselves, to the end we might be iron sharpening iron.

Reading this book is like taking in calories - it is nourishing even though it is not a comfortable read. Mr. Guinness has a rare gift of very deep thought and the ability to write in precise language. His arguments are, at least to my mind, unassailable.

Those who discredit Mr. Guinness for his faith should re-read pp. 231 and 232 of this book, which I will quote here: "One of the main lessons is to reconsider the significance of evil for our understanding of public and international life, though this topic would require a book in itself. I would simply argue here that living with our deepest differences is one of the world's critical problems and that one of the overlooked keys to solving it is to give religious liberty its due place in public life. People of different faiths--including secularism--might then relate to public life constructively and to each other civilly.

"At the very least, we must shed Enlightenment prejudices about religion and consider the facts more objectively. We must reject the hoary myth that 'religion is the problem,' as well as the fallacious idea that the answer is a public square denuded of all religion....The quality and tone of the public discussion would improve immeasurably if secularists were to acknowledge that their faith is one faith among others and talk openly of their own failures--on the one hand, directly inspiring utopian evil, and on the other, failing to provide humanistic values strong enough to resist modern evil.

"As the global public square emerges, there are two particular errors we cannot afford. One is to replace the religious establishments of the past with a secularist establishment or semi-establishment. The other is to create a two-tier global public square in which the cosmopolitan liberal secularists form the top tier of the global elites and all religious believers are relegated to the second rank. In a truly diverse world, neither of these options for the public square is just and neither is workable."

I find it frightening that Mr. Guinness's words appear to be coming true. The bottom tier, the back of the bus, is to be occupied by Christians and others who embrace religious world views, while the top tier would never include them simply because they are people of faith.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Os Guinness does us all a tremendous service by parsing out bedrock elements regarding the presence of evil in our world and our potential response to it...primarily fight or flight. The call is clearly to step up to our responsibility to address the evil done, both to us and by us, and to overcome evil with good...like Jesus did.
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on September 15, 2014
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This book was awesome...great insight
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4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Os Guinness has given us a very serious consideration of the topic of "evil." He analyzes definitions and historical examples, attempting to derive a definition and to propose means of understanding and coping with the presence of evil in the world. As Guinness himself says, he "lays his cards on the table" and identifies himself as a Christian, and thus his conclusions fall back into the territory of "faith." While the writing was excellent and compelling, this was where the book fell short, in my opinion. While occasionally touching on religiously-based purposeful harm, he glosses over such events quickly. In contrast, he hammers home again and again the "secular" nature of the horrors of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. His analysis of secular humanism intimates that it must come down to a science-based natural selection of survival of the fittest (as well as reality television!). I just don't see that. Can we really lump members of the Ethical Culture Society, American Humanist Association, or even the Unitarian Universalist Association in with mass murderers, just because they all shy away from the idea of a personal deity? Guinness writes in a gentlemanly manner, and notes repeatedly that the reader is free to draw different conclusions. I have, and I expect many others will as well. Secular humanists can and do subscribe to beliefs that rule out the type of evil behavior Guinness describes, for example the 7 guiding principles of Unitarian Universalists (many of whom do not subscribe to the personal deity found necessary by Guinness). A well-written and fascinating book, but you may disagree with the author's conclusions.
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Excellent Service. Thank You.
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1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
If you are of a certain mindset, this is probably an excellent book. But if you can't buy into all the premises, which I couldn't, it is unsatisfying. But it is a decent read.
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