How to Fill a God-Shaped Hole
Sardar, Ziauddin, The Independent (London, England)
THE GREAT PARTNERSHIP: GOD, SCIENCE AND THE SEARCH FOR MEANING by Jonathan Sacks Hodder & Stoughton, Pounds 18.99, 370pp Pounds 17.09 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
We need all of our brain to understand and appreciate the world around us. The left-brain, associated largely with scientific activity, and the right hemisphere concerned with religious matters, must work in unison. But they also have to be kept apart. The logic of one does not apply to the other. The challenge of our time is to keep the two separate but integrated and in balance. This, in essence, is the main message of The Great Partnership.
The learned and humane Jonathan Sacks normally speaks from within the Jewish tradition. But here he is much more inclusive, drawing from Judaism, Christianity and, he claims, Islam. He emphasises that the foundations of all three faiths rests on a personal God who created the universe in love and endowed all of us with the dignity of His image. His erudition is extensive. We are leisurely taken on a tour of sacred and poetic texts of Judaism and Christianity, as well as the thoughts of noted atheists and old-fashioned and postmodern philosophers.
Sacks is not interested in proving the existence of God. He engages in a conversation, "a sustained argument for the sake of heaven", to demonstrate that it is quite possible for a rational person to hold religious beliefs. Writing in the tradition of 18th- century religious philosophers, such as William Paley, Sacks hopes to promote tolerance and civility. The real urgent conflict, he suggests, is not between different kinds of belief and non-belief, but between militant dogmas, and their champions, of all varieties.
The contemporary militant atheist, the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, are confronted directly; and their primary-school arguments are rendered into mincemeat. Sacks sees Harris, for whom "the very idea of religious tolerance... is one of the principal forces driving us towards the abyss", as a real threat to civilisation and civic virtues.
However, Sacks's argument about the complementary nature of the scientific and religious approaches, the one searching for explanation, the other searching for meaning is not particularly original. In the Islamic tradition, for example, it was debated for over six centuries. We find the best exploration in On the harmony of Religion and Philosophy by the great 12th-century Moorish philosopher, Ibn Rushd. Despite his claim to include Islamic tradition in his analysis, Sacks is rather unfamiliar with the rich heritage of Islamic discourse on reason and revelation.
There is also a problem with his central argument. Meaning of a system, he suggests, must lie outside it. Thus the meaning of our empirical world is …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: How to Fill a God-Shaped Hole. Contributors: Sardar, Ziauddin - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: August 5, 2011. Page number: 24. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.