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Why Faith Matters Hardcover – September 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Rabbi Wolpe (Making Loss Matter) joins the throngs of authors responding to the new atheists with defenses of faith. Yet rather than tense up about atheism, its defenders and their dismissive attitudes about people of faith, Wolpe answers these challenges with such kindness and thoughtfulness that even the heart of Christopher Hitchens might find itself warmed. Wolpe does not make his case for faith by hiding the darkest moments of Western traditions. Rather, he shines a light on religion's deepest scars—for instance spending a good deal of time discussing the relationship between religion and violence—while at the same time showing how religions have also (almost) always been a force of good in the world. (Take Christianity's extraordinary response to the tsunami in Indonesia, Wolpe explains.) With gentle, wonderfully engaging prose, Wolpe scrolls through history and shows how faith traditions don't offer easy, simplistic answers for the intellectually weak, as the New Atheists imply. More often than not, religion sparks believers to ask even more difficult questions, while at the same time building a platform on which to live under a canopy of hope. (Sept.)
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From the Back Cover
Judging by today's bestseller lists, one would think that religion is either irrational or extreme. What's missing is a genuine debate between the atheists and fanatics; someone to point out that religion has value in the modern world. Why Faith Matters is an articulate defense of religion in America. It makes the case for faith and shows its relationship to history and science. Refuting the cold reason of the atheists and the hatred of the fanatics with a vision of religion informed by faith, love, and understanding, Rabbi David J. Wolpe follows in a literary tradition that stretches from Cardinal Newman to C. S. Lewis to Thomas Merton—all individuals of faith who brought religion and culture together in their own works. Drawing on the personal and powerful story of his battle with cancer, Wolpe offers a moving statement in support of religion today. In a poignant response to the new atheists, Wolpe takes readers through the origins and nature of faith, the role of the Bible in modern life, and the compatibility of God and science. He concludes with a powerful argument for the place of God, faith, and religion in today's world.
Top customer reviews
In that sense, the book matched my expectations: Wolpe's Jewish faith is a definitely a philosophy that leads to good in this world. But as the book claims to be a response to the critics of religion, one can expect more than beautiful stories and anecdotes. Unfortunately, this is where this book falls short: Wolpe doesn't prove anything, and while his religion is productive, his defense doesn't apply to faith as a whole. Also, while it's true that faith can make people more moral, I didn't find in this book any reason why it would do that better than a humanist philosophy.
On its own, this book further increased my appreciation for Judaism, but as a response to the critics of religion it really isn't all that useful.
A lot of the arguments that Wolpe tried to make actually *were* made more clearly and elegantly in two other books--by other authors. The first one is: God's Undertaker, by John Lennox. The second one was The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions by David Berlinski.
The book seems that it can be read out of order and it is very light (as in "easy to read"). But it's also "light" in a negative way (as in, devoid of much serious argument). In contrast to the other two books, this book does not get into more serious arguments. There are about 9 pages of footnotes, but they are not such great quality. A lot of them are links to web articles.
I don't think the distinct lack of meat in this book is a reflection on this author's intellectual capacity (I've seen him in debate and he was very good), but instead he tried to make the book something that was not overwrought with philosophical details (i.e.--teleological vs ontological arguments for the existence of God and other intensely boring philosophical topics) and hence approachable by a popular audience. But in trying to be a Jewish Rick Warren, he just didn't do so well.
Verdict: The book only cost $0.01 plus shipping (and it costs $3.97 on Kindle) so it is not so much being out of the money as it is the time that it takes to read this. Give this one a miss in preference to the other two aforementioned authors.
Thoughtful, insightful, challenging and charming . . .this is a great book. If you are at the place in your life where you are asking what matters, this book is a companion to your thoughts. It's not a book of orthodoxy or of theology as much as a philosophical look at how your belief system will change your experience of life - and why that matters.
The author is a rabbi, my friend is a Seventh-Day Adventist, and I'm a somewhat non-denominational Christian. This book has light and relevance no matter what label your religous experience comes with. Read it with a high-lighter - there will be a lot of nuggets you want to come back to.
Most recent customer reviews
Written clearly, and stimulates serious thought without being "preachy."
The book we were very disappointed with. I purchased it new as a gift and it turned out to be used and had coffee stains on the pages.