Writing with his usual grace and fluency, Jonathan Sacks moves beyond the tired arguments of militant atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens, to explore how religion has always played a valuable part in human culture and far from being dismissed as redundant, must be allowed to temper and develop scientific understanding in order for us to be fully human. Ranging around the world to draw comparisons from different cultures, and delving deep into the history of language and of western civilisation, Jonathan Sacks shows how the predominance of science-oriented thinking is embedded deeply even in our religious understanding, and calls on us to recognise the centrality of relationship to true religion, and thus to see how this core value of relationship is essential if we are to avoid the natural tendency for science to rule our lives rather than fulfilling its promise to set us free.
Since 1991, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth has been Sacks, who is retiring in 2013. Educated in philosophy at Cambridge and Oxford, he holds an earned Ph.D. as well as several honorary doctorates. He wrote more than 20 books before tackling the knotty problem of the relationship between religion and science. In clear language, he sets forth the arguments put forward by atheists, respectfully demolishing them in favor of the religious stance that he forthrightly espouses. The range and depth of his familiarity with authorities in both camps, some relatively obscure, are most impressive. His erudite position is largely compelling, but he is somewhat less successful when discussing the issue of theodicy: how can a powerful and just God permit evil in the world? He devotes a chapter to this enigma, but along with other authorities who have confronted it, he is unconvincing in his response, especially since he omits any reference to the Holocaust. This book is essential reading because of Sacks's splendid range of knowledge and his powerful ability to tackle tough issues.