Critics' Picks review - God Is Good for You
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God is Good for You, by political journalist Greg Sheridan, examines the state of Christianity in the West. He explores the decline in religious belief and the impact of societies identifying as increasingly agnostic and atheist.
In the 2016 Census 52 per cent of Australians identified as Christian down from 86 per cent in 1971. The 2017 Social Attitudes Survey in Britain found 53% identified as having no religious belief. Part 1 of the book addresses the question "What Christians believe," examining the Apostle’s Creed, the clearest statement of orthodox Christian belief. The author explores Christianity as an intellectually and ethically solid belief system establishing the author’s contention that Christianity is good for you.
Sheridan’s arguments about the role of Christianity in shaping Western civilisation is at the core of the book, summarised in the chapter title "What did we ever get from Christianity – apart from the idea of the individual, human rights, feminism, liberalism, modernity, social justice and secular politics." Sheridan argues that the idea of the individual, human dignity and human rights can be traced to the statement that God created humankind in his own image. Christianity, says Sheridan, is built on this foundation with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the early church, most notably in the apostle Paul’s statement: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.
In Part 2, Sheridan interviews Australia’s most prominent politicians, including former Prime Ministers and State Premiers across the political spectrum about their religious beliefs. Several interviewees observe the reticence in Australian culture to talk openly about religion. “That’s a function of our history and of the greater personal reticence Australians exhibit,” says former Prime Minister John Howard. “It’s also partly a function of Australians’ deeply held Celtic scepticism”. Senator Kristina Keneally agrees: “When I moved to Australia, I was struck by the absence of religion in public conversation, the lack even of people to talk to about these things”.
A common thread Sheridan discusses is what it means to live in a post-Christian, postmodern world: “We have arrived in a postmodern age where objective truth is no longer accessible by any epistemology,” says former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. “That all things are subjective. That all things are therefore relative. That my opinion is as valuable as your opinion, irrespective of whether these opinions can be supported by what we once quaintly called facts.” Peter Costello agrees: “Even in politics the idea of an objective fact is under real challenge. A postmodern believes reality is what I make it.”
As one of the nation’s better-known journalists working in the area of foreign affairs for over 40 years, the author has built up a career’s worth of contacts and the book will appeal to a wide audience.
Reviewer: David Berry, Librarian, Information & Access
“This is very much a journalist's book…highly accessible, engagingly told, intelligent, with a fine journalist's ability to set the scene by way of anecdotes and illustrations.” – Sydney Morning Herald
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Greg Sheridan is Foreign Editor of the Australian and a highly regarded journalist. He is active across radio and television, as well as print.