Conversation about Faith in God

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This book is written in a mode that might appeal to people from diverse faith backgrounds (and agnostics and atheists too!).

Title: God, Faith And The Purpose Of Life
Author: Sebastian Athappilly (in conversation with Roshan)
Publisher: Dharmaram Publications, Bangalore
Year: 2019
Number of pages: 127
Price: Rs. 150
Email ID of Publisher: [email protected]

Reviewed by Haris F. Farooqui

Two people have a conversation about faith in God (and the lack of it), the ultimate purpose of human life and other such existential issues. The conversation is no longer confined between them though, but is shared with others in the form of a book: God, Faith And The Purpose Of Human Life.
This book is a sort of discussion, in Q&A form, between two inter-religious friends. One of them, Fr. Sebastian Athapilly, is a Catholic priest and a noted Indian Christian theologian. His friend Roshan does not identify exclusively with any one particular religious tradition or community and is interested in promoting understanding and friendship between people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. Roshan has plenty of existential questions to ask, and Fr. Sebastian responds to them with great finesse and clarity.
One of the major issues that the two friends discuss is arguments for and against belief in the existence of God. Fr. Sebastian ably presents a number of arguments against theoretical and practical atheism. Along with this, he underscores the importance of faith in God in leading a truly meaningful life.
There are several basic questions about life which each individual ought to ask themselves (it is another matter that not many people may give these questions the attention that they deserve). This includes the origin of human beings, their purpose in coming to Planet Earth, the way to lead a meaningful life and what happens after they die. Other such questions include: How did the universe come into being? Was it made by God? Is God real? If God is real, what proof is there of God? This book discusses several of these questions, and in a manner easily fathomable for a general reader who has no in-depth knowledge of theology or philosophy.
Existential questions are something that people often shy away from asking, fearing that they might get uncomfortable answers, which may demand them to change completely their outlook on life, and their own lives as well. Often, people do not want to know about the unknown because they are afraid of the answers that they may receive. There are certain questions which some people sometimes even refuse to think about. This book talks about some such questions.
One issue that the book discusses in quite some detail is death. Many people are scared to talk about death. According to atheists, death puts an end to all the hopes, joys, ambitions, dreams, and desires of the individual and they are considered to have become extinct. But Fr. Sebastian argues very logically that if there is a life before death, then definitely there is a life after death. Death is not the end of human existence. Rather, life continues (in some other realm, as all God-centred religions teach).
Is material success the only success? Can materialism be enough for a person’s spiritual and emotional wellbeing? If there is a God, then why is there so much suffering, stress, and negativity around us? Why does evil exist? If God is, how can we reach God? Do we need to follow any dogmas or any particular religion? How should religious leaders respond when people act cruelly in the name of God and religion? If you sometimes reflect on these sorts of questions, you might find this book inspiring.
This book is written in a mode that might appeal to people from diverse faith backgrounds (and agnostics and atheists too!). Believers in God can benefit from many of the issues the book highlights. It might help refine their understanding of religion. It might also make them more appreciate of the need and usefulness of friendly interfaith interactions, one example of which is this inspiring book.