Shaffett, John E. Rev. of Believing, by Eugene Kennedy. Catholic Library World Dec. 2013:110. Print.
By Eugene Kennedy, Orbis Books, 2013, 157 pp., ISBN 978-1-62698-017-4, $20.00 (paper).
Eugene Kennedy is professor emeritus of Loyola University, Chicago. He has written more than 50 books on psychology and religion and writes a regular column for The National Catholic Reporter.
The subject of belief has been a hot topic in the news the last few years because of the public debates of the New Atheists. People like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and others have voiced the idea that religious belief is unfounded. They have even called it evil. Is belief something evil? Do only religious believers exercise faith? Kennedy thinks “believing is a profoundly human characteristic” (1). He argues throughout Believing that we do not have a choice in believing. It is a part of our human make-up. It is what makes us human.
Believing is divided into two parts. The first part analyzes “the nature of believing in the lives of men and women” (2). People must be willing to examine their lives to discover what they really believe. Kennedy contends that “people are often reluctant to examine their belief systems too closely for fear that they will find that they no longer really believe the things they were taught . . .” (4). The author asserts that our faith is tested by everyday experience and that there is a close connection between the developing personality and the developing faith. Faith is not meant to be static. Kennedy notes, “Examining our faith, asking questions rather than thinking we have all the answers, is a necessary step in the maturation of faith” (3). In addition, Kennedy suggests that “faith is a function of the whole rather than part of the person” (3). In other words, faith is not something we just do in our head.
In the second part of Believing, Kennedy deals with doubt and unbelief. He thinks doubt is actually a good thing. Doubt allows us to ask questions and grow in our faith. He disagrees with those who see doubt as only destructive. Kennedy writes, “Doubt can be understood and valued as an integral part of our perennial search . . . for more adequate understanding of our existence and experience” (87-88). The author agrees with Paul Tillich’s view that doubt is a “natural part of faith.”
Kennedy effectively explains the different elements of faith and offers a helpful analysis of doubt. Believing is short enough to be read in a few hours; however, it will take many more days to process its thought provoking contents. Believing is recommended for all libraries.