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Posted May 5, 2013

Author: Eugene Kennedy
Orbis Books. New York. 2013. Pp.157

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

This is a book of commonplace thoughts, the kind we all have from time to time, about what, whom, and at time, whether we believe at all. Believing is a traditional concern for anyone interested in religion or in life; indeed, believing is a profoundly human characteristic, a note by which men and women are defined and distinguished from other species. We do not have a choice about believing any more than we do about breathing, and each is equally important for our survival. What and how we believe prompt other questions that, as we know from history and psychology, we continue to answer in a wide variety of ways.

. . . .This book is essentially two parts. In the first half, I reflect on the nature of believing in the lives of men and women. Although I reviewed the literature of psychological research in preparation of this task, I have placed the fruits of this search into the context of the conviction about the need to believe, which have grown in me.

. . . .In the second part of the book, I briefly attempt to integrate what I have learned while writing it and to share some of the things in which I truly believe. Having finished this book, I realize how much more there is to write on the subject; this is, then, a beginning, at best, but one that I hope will help others to look at and understand their own beliefs more fully.

An Excerpt from the Book: “I believe in America.” So begins what has become a powerful American myth. The suppliant, wax-mustached undertaker professes this as he presents his request for a favor to the godfather. He is a true believer in the classic and familiar mold, the patient and hopeful man who had come to a golden America, the fair land where things got better for immigrants from countries where things kept getting worse, the place in which one could invest belief because hard work and patience were ultimately rewarded. It is a worldly wise kind of belief, of course, one that is untroubled by its acceptance of evil in the nature of things. The little man believes in exchanged indebtedness, of pacts as ancient as the land he came from. He believes, most of all, in the godfather.

“I’d like to say I believe,” intones the anguished celebrant in the Mass Leonard Bernstein composed in the same era in which Francis Ford Coppola created The Godfather. Bernstein gives us the plaintive intonation of a troubled and sensitive man, well educated but torn in his own conscience about the problem of believing. He is uncomfortable with the evil he cannot explain or do away with, and he cannot resolve the conflict that will not remain asleep within him. He is far removed from the confident immigrant who puts his faith in the Mafia don.

He is more typical of modern people caught up in the profound anguish of wanting and needing to believe but uncertain of how to express or experience it. You can feel something dying in them as something else struggles for life, a search for that bridge that will bear them across the troubled waters of life.

Table of Contents:

1. Believing

2. Believe it or not: the language of believing

3. Inside belief

4. Incarnational faith

5. Doubting

6. The faces of fidelity

7. Faith and life

8. Creative faith

9. What do I believe in?