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H Mackay Beyond Belief

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This is a major work of non-fiction by one of Australia's most respected authors. Hugh Mackay takes on one of the biggest topics of our time: the declining role of religion in our society. In this he follows writers such as Dawkins and Hitchens, but his arguments are more conciliatory. Like them, he grasps the absurdity of certain religious concepts and their relevance to contemporary life, but he also argues that for the sake of our humanity we need to believe in something bigger than ourselves. Mackay looks at the many paradoxes of belief. He questions why 61 per cent of us say we believe in God, but only 8 per cent of us go to church. He looks at the various ways we try to find other forms of transcendence in our stridently materialistic lives. And he warns of what may be lost with the wholesale casting out of spirituality. He admits that the Christian ideal of the good life - a life lived for others - is what would should aspire to, but argues that one can take a non-Christian path to the same place. Mackay's book cannot but incite debate. He exposes the deep vein of ambivalence that runs through our society: we may not actively worship, but we use 'our' church to marry and commemorate our dead. He points out some uncomfortable truths, such as our tendency to only call on God in a crisis, and unpacks our endearing, enduring human need to believe, to make sense of a universe that is well beyond the understanding of science or reason.