“Religion is irrational”. “Religion is no longer relevant.” These are common statements you might hear all the time. For the non-religious, these quotes are considered facts. For people of faith, it often makes them question whether their belief is legitimate. Whether you believe in God or not, this book is for you!
1. What is this book about?
The book starts off by challenging two basic assumptions:
1. Religion is becoming irrelevant. People think religion is irrelevant because most developed countries don’t need to rely on a “God” for growing crops or healing the sick since modern science is advanced enough. Additionally, there is no need for “God” when it comes to making decisions because we live in an age where we can rely on our logic and rationality instead. More broadly, there seems to be no need for religion or faith in modern 21st Century life.
2. Religion is based on faith while secularism is based on facts and evidence. The word “secular” or “secularism” is used in this book to refer to a worldview that claims there is “no God or any supernatural realm beyond the natural world.” This is why secularism is often associated with and known to be factual, empirical and logic based. On the other hand, religion is often stereotyped as requiring a blind leap of faith in something not fully evident, such as a belief in a God that is invisible.
In this book, Keller compares secularism to Christianity and highlights how they both similarly seek to provide meaning, satisfaction, identity, morality, and hope. The book finishes with two chapters that present a strong case for Christianity.
2. What did I learn?
The two main lessons I learnt from reading this book are:
- A lot of the facts and reasoning behind secularism rely on ‘background beliefs’ that cannot be empirically proven. Therefore, secularism is also based on faith or belief. For example, many people say that God does not exist because they can’t seem to reconcile the existence of an all good and powerful God with the existence of evil in the world. This logic inherently assumes that “a God beyond our reason could not exist.”
- Christianity can truly provide meaning, satisfaction, identity, morality, and hope. Secularism and other religions fail to do so. An example Keller points to is how secularism imposes the burden of creating your own identity which constantly needs to be expressed. In contrast, Christianity provides an identity in Jesus that is unshakable and free from the pressure of maintaining it.
3. What did I enjoy?
Even though this book is predominantly catered to the sceptic, I truly think this book strengthened my faith. It is so comforting to know how Christianity isn’t based on blind faith but is actually based on solid reasoning and rationale. I like how Keller does a dive deep into the beliefs of secularism and how they fail to truly fulfil our longings. It helped me to understand the things in life that I tend to idolise, such as making my own identity, finding hope in finances or relationships, and living life for pleasure alone.
4. Why should other people read it?
For the secularist or non-Christian, this book is a good read especially if you like reading arguments. This book will challenge everything you believe in. This book is very factual, rational and intellectual. Even though Keller uses rationality to comment on secularism, he also uses rationality against Christianity. This book contains uncomfortable truths that your Christian friend may struggle to articulate whenever you have discussions about Christianity. So if you want to understand why your friend is still a Christian, despite the fact that you always beat them in a debate, read this book!
For the Christians, this book would be great to read, as it will strengthen your faith, by making you understand the logical arguments that support Christianity. It will also comfort and challenge you by showing how secularism will fail to fulfil the many things that humans by default tend to idolise. Reading this book will provide you with a greater assurance and appreciation of the rationality of Christianity.