David J Wolpe asked a simple question but a complicated question to answer. The questioned, why does faith matter. He devoted an entire book to answer this question. This question is important because many people struggle with the answer, whether they are explaining it to someone else or even questioning their own faith. Similar to Harold Kushner, David Wolpe is also a Rabbi. Although he is Jewish his texts are perfect for anyone seeking clarity in this question. If you are not seeking clarity you will find that Wolpe does a tremendous job at defending the faith against atheism. He does an amazing job of expressing this through kindness and by shining a light on the relationship between religion and violence.

A popular quote from this book is, “Faith is where we stand in the universe, not an idea that is checked off in the truth or illusion column. Losing one’s faith is stepping off the planet to find oneself spinning in a new orbit.” This quote is important as it speaks volumes for the book. There is a notion that faith is not valuable, especially from the atheist point of view but this quote explains the biggest overarching theme of faith. That without faith we lose where we fit in this universe.

David Wolpe lost his faith at a young age and was upset with God because he felt as though he was absent. Wolpe was confused as to how there is a God, but the world has so much suffering, that good people suffer, people use religion to be divisive, and to promote war. This was sparked by the Holocaust, but he counters his lack of faith by talking about all of the times faith has helped him endure the traumas of his life. Wolpe faced health issues with his mother, his wife, and even with himself. He discusses this throughout the book how his faith has helped him tackle the toughest questions about life and even in death. This makes Wolpe the perfect person to face this question, as he has been the person who lost and questioned his faith.

Overall, there are two main questions posed by those who reject the idea of faith; does religion cause violence, and does science disprove religion. Although the other questions such as where does religion come from, what does religion really teach, and is religion good for you, these two questions are geared towards the atheists. To me, none of the questions addressed seem like easy questions to answer but for Wolpe, he believes that faith makes them easy to answer.

Wolpe approaches the first question “Does Religion Cause Violence?” I was surprised by Wolpe addressing this head-on by stating terrible things have happened in the name of God. I was not expecting him to say that as most religious people would spin it, rather than admit that it is true. His argument was a much better argument than I have heard or even imagined he would conjure. There were two parts to his answer to this question. One, that despite all of the bad done in the name of God, there has been so much more good done in the name of God. Second, inherently there will not simply be more peace if faith does not exist. “Those who believe that religion causes war, apart from the historical shakiness of such, seem to believe that without religion human beings would lead peaceful lives. This utopian wish rests on a naïve view of who we are at our core. Hostility toward the ‘other’ bedevils humanity, not the reality of God.”

Wolpe approached the second question “Does Science Disprove Religion?” This question has been debated at all levels from friends and family, to politicians, to religious leaders, and will continue to be debated. This is the constant battle between science and religion. Here Wolpe critiques people who think that God is just a science question that needs to be solved. Because God is not a science question, therefore approach God as such will not produce you a scientific answer, let alone an answer. Yet, Wolpe focuses his answer on the notion that there is some compatibility in science and religion which works together to highlight the other.

Additionally, Wolpe talks about a number of other topics as he explains why faith matters. Overall, Wolpe explains this answer based on his own faith rooted in losing faith to regain it. His views and approach are unlike any other religious person that I have encountered through literature and tv. Typically, I write a bit more in my conclusion, but I think Wolpe did a great job in his explanation. I wanted to end this with two quotes from him. Wolpe says, “Only faith that understands human frailty and human nobility, that believes holiness is not separate from compassion, offers the possibility of a path out of the wilderness.” And the last quote…

But while there are many things that can doom us, only one thing can save us. Faith. Not blind or bigoted faith, but faith that pushes us to be better, to give more of ourselves, to see glimmers of transcendence scattered throughout our lives. Such faith is both an achievement and a gift: It is an achievement of seeking, questioning, yearning, reasoning, hoping, and it is a gift of God, who fashioned this world, whose goodness sustains it and whose teachings could save it if only we—believers and deniers both—would listen, would love.
— David J. Wolpe


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