The Case for Religion
THE CASE FOR RELIGION
Keith WardThis is a book which will be worth reading many times, either in its entirety or for the particular topics it covers -and it covers a great deal in its 237 pages.
Those who know Professor Ward's other books will know that he has the gift of presenting complex ideas lucidly and with very little need for technical language, yet without trivialising the subject matter. He pulls no punches. The argument is that religion is fundamental to human consciousness and has shaped civilisation for good and for ill for as long as humans have been able to communicate. His survey looks at the way in which religions have developed from their desire to express the sense of transcendence, through the 'axial period' in which the world religions formed their orthodox beliefs to critical reformulation in the light of rationalism and scientific evidentialism. The challenge now is globalisation and the ability of religions to adapt, not so much to scientific reductionism (which has had its day), but to the truth claims of other religions.
The early chapters will give Readers a battery of arguments with which to defend religion against the often bunkered views of the great anthropologists for example James Frazer, hardnosed 'evangelical' materialist scientists, sociologists like Durkheim, Weber and Marx. The middle chapters are less punchy but the survey is brilliant in its analysis of the origins and development of the Western and Eastern religious traditions. The final section considers the relationship between revelation and religious experience. Ward neatly argues that there is a place both for traditionalist propositional revelation and the 'liberal' experiential revelation so that religions can continue to develop as they always have. Although Ward quite clearly dislikes the label liberal (it means so many different things), his own 'liberal' view is that our challenge is not to claim that Christianity or any other religion has an exclusive monopoly of truth, but that the quest for the Transcendent is a global necessity for all religions. This may not be everyone's conclusion but this is a book which every Reader ought to read and consider well because the case for religion needs more robust apologists such as Keith Ward.
Reviewed by Michael Wilcockson