Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Reading List Just Got Longer

I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I read this book review in the Toronto Star. James Grainger has high praise for David Adams Richard's book, "God Is. My Search for Faith in a Secular World." I hadn't heard of this author before, but he's being compared with some pretty heavy hitters.
Author David Adams Richards is regarded as a rare voice of moral and spiritual certainty in the Canadian literary scene, rejecting the postmodern ambiguities of most of his fellow novelists and earning comparisons to Hardy, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Richards' best fiction dramatizes the struggle of those rare heroic individuals who try to live by faith, and the almost equally heroic individuals whose struggles with sin and temptation often drive them to destruction.
The book appears to tell a personal story of God's active involvement his life as well as targeting a deeply entrenched bias against religion in Canada:

Richards was raised as a Catholic, and though he fell away from the church as a young man and still quarrels with many of its teachings, he has found his way back to the faith again and again. In God Is., Richards shares his personal and theological enquiry into the nature of faith, broadly defined as the belief in a fundamental meaning and order to life, one created and sustained in the individual believer by periodic glimpses of God's love and guiding presence.

That Richards' novels of sin and faith have attracted a largely non-religious (and certainly non-Catholic) readership is proof of his talent and vision. But to make an argument, in non-fiction form, that our struggles with faith and sin define us as human beings is a pretty bold move.

As Richards argues in the book's first section, a bias against religion, especially the Christian religion, is practically de rigueur for even mildly progressive types these days. (No less an authority than Brad Pitt recently stated that he understood why gay couples would want to marry but he couldn't understand why people still needed religion.)

That bias, Richards claims, is particularly strong in the Canadian literary community, where the denigration of religious belief is a "kind of swaggering doctrine that in its own way is as rigid in its essential belief as the evangelical or Catholic dogma it mocks."

Richards is not the first to make the point that atheism or secularism requires just as much 'faith' in unprovable assertions, nor is he the first to show how decidely illiberal 'liberal' thinkers can be. However, anti-Christian bias seems particularly strong in Canada, and I wish Mr. Richard every success in battling against it.

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