Francis S. COLLINS, Editor, Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith. New York: HarperOne, 2010. xviii + 328 pages. $19.99 hc. ISBN 978-0061787348
Reviewed by Sharon CHRISTY, Lourdes College, Sylvania, OH 43560

This book, a collection of essays from a wide variety of philosophers and theologians, provides a fresh look at the seemingly opposed virtues of faith and reason. It challenges the reader to reassess his/her own beliefs (faith) and examine how rational thinking (reason) supports and affirms those beliefs.

Collins was a former atheist who did not see the relevance or rationality of belief in a supreme being. After schooling in quantum mechanics, Collins was quite comfortable to rely on mathematical equations to explain the universe. As his love for science led him into the medical world, however, he began to confront issues of life and death. His views began to change as he sat at the bedside of good people who were dying peacefully because of their unshakeable belief in God. His search for answers led him to the teachings of the Church fathers and modern theologians and to a belief in a God who is creator of all. Theologians of all faith traditions inspired Collins to search for a connection between faith and reason.

Collins divides Belief into ten chapters, organized topically into three sections. The first is an anthology of ancient Greek writers, early Church fathers and early philosophers. He uses classical arguments of persuasion (such as Anselm’s argument for God’s existence: a Supreme Being than whom nothing greater can be thought) to lay the groundwork of a faith built on reason. The second section consists of five chapters which all focus on obstacles for faith: What is truth? (Pontius Pilate’s famous query), a loving God (a relationship that humans alone have enjoyed with God since the Book of Genesis), the problem of evil and suffering (Bishop Desmond Tutu considered suffering to be the opportunity to become created anew through our sufferings and bringing good out of the suffering as our highest calling), the cry for justice in our faith (how difficult it is to change and work for justice even when we think it is the right thing to do), and the harmony of science and faith (which was evident for physician Paul Brand who marveled at the intricacies of the human body that could only have been created by a higher power). The third section of this literary buffet speaks of the transcendental aspects of faith: miracles and mysticism, love and forgiveness as pointers to God and the irrationality of atheism. In order to deny the existence of a supreme being, a higher power who creates and maintains the universe, one must ultimately deny one’s own rational ability to think.

Collins’ use of a wide variety of sources gives his book a depth and richness it might otherwise lack. Its wisdom spans not only the breadth of time, but also the width of cultures. From eastern thought and philosophy to the traditions of the Catholic Church this book is a must read for all who seek to answer the question, “Is there a God?” This anthology is extensive and well-researched. In addition, the index makes the book very easy to use as a reference. This book was written for those seeking to understand how faith can be reasonable and rational, so most contributions are easily readable for people at any academic level.

I would highly recommend Belief to anyone who really wants to discover a rational, intellectual basis for their heart-felt beliefs. Even the most ardent of atheists will have a hard time not being convicted by this intelligent, insightful and moving anthology.

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