Attraction to Infinity
Crossroad Publishing, $19.95, 192 pp.
Steps along the Way
A Spiritual Autobiography
Church Publishing Incorporated, $13.95, 134 pp.
Father Mychal Judge
An Authentic American Hero
Paulist Press, $19.95, 176 pp.
In most books," Cardinal Newman warned, "Christian conduct is made grand, elevated, and splendid; so that anyone who only knows of true religion from books, and not from actual endeavors to be religious, is sure to be offended at religion when he actually comes upon it." This skepticism makes Newman’s prose all the more enjoyable and makes his Apologia all the more compelling. But ever since Newman-O.K., and since Chesterton-most of the enterprise of apologetics, in which theologians and philosophers attempt to make religious belief intelligible to nonbelievers, has seemed an arcane, sentimental, and low-yield intellectual pursuit. A little like reenacting Civil War battles.
For one thing, there aren’t many nonbelievers around anymore. Just considering our own corner of the globe, George Gallup’s statisticians say that 82 percent of Americans declare themselves Christians, 10 percent profess some other faith, and only 8 percent think of themselves as atheists or agnostics. Charity may oblige us to concern ourselves with what people in that last category think, but curiosity really shouldn’t.
Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, an evidently charitable man who served as consultant for a recent PBS television program about Pope John Paul II, reports encounters with some unusually articulate agnostics among television critics who had gathered for preseason program viewing at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena....