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C. Stephen Evans

Rediscoveries: Can We Be Good Without God?

In this new regular feature on the Web, we will be drawing attention to books and writers worthy of rediscovery. Some will be classics that are gathering dust on the shelf, others will be contemporary books that got lost in the shuffle (the novels of Charles Portis after True Grit, for example), still others will be quirky, one-of-a-kind gems.

Our first selection is Soren Kierkegaard's Works of Love. While several of Kierkegaard's books show up routinely on reading lists, Works of Love does not. Steve Evans, a distinguished Kierkegaard scholar and a member of B&C's editorial board, explains why this book belongs on your shelf.

July 7, 2000

Works of Love
by Soren Kierkegaard
translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong
Princeton Univ. Press 576 pp.; $26.95, paper

Modern secular thinkers find the idea that God is necessary as the foundation of morality amusing if not absurd. Many atheistic philosophers, and even some thinkers who call themselves theologians, complacently assume that some kind of purely humanistic ethic is possible, even though there is little consensus as to what such an ethic demands of us and how it is to be developed. Yet lonely voices, both from Christians and non-Christians, have occasionally sounded disturbing notes that disrupt this complacency. Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov announces that "without God, everything is permitted." Jean-Paul Sartre announces his opposition to "a kind of secular ethics which would like to abolish God with the least possible expense."1 Even Friedrich Nietzsche, while prophesying the birth of a new morality that may arise out of the death of God, claims that modern secular thinkers are oblivious to the devastating consequences for traditional morality that the demise of religious faith will entail.

Soren Kierkegaard is another of these lonely voices that disrupts the complacency of the secular mind. Kierkegaard is of course a controversial and enigmatic writer. His most- read and discussed books, such as Fear and ...

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