No One Sees God
The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers
Surveying the contemporary religious landscape, the division between atheist and believer seems stark. However, having long struggled to understand the purpose of life and the meaning of suffering, Michael Novak finds the reality of spiritual life far different from the rhetorical war presented by bestselling atheists and the defenders of the faith who oppose them.
In No One Sees God, Novak brilliantly recasts the tired debate pitting faith against reason. Both the atheist and the believer experience the same “dark night” in which God’s presence seems absent, he argues, and the conflict between faith and doubt stems not from objective differences, but from divergent attitudes toward the unknown. Drawing from his lifelong passion for philosophy and his personal struggles with belief, he shows that, far from being irrational, the spiritual perspective actually provides the most satisfying answers to the eternal questions of meaning. Faith is a challenge at times, but it nonetheless offers the only fully coherent response to the human experience.
Ultimately, No One Sees God offers believers and unbelievers the opportunity to find common ground by acknowledging the complicated reality of the human struggle with doubt. Novak provides a stirring defense of the Christian worldview, while sidestepping the shrill tone that so often characterizes the discussion of faith, and given the challenges faced in the present age, all who value liberty will find hope in his new way of conversing.
Published: August 5, 2008
“This is a beautiful and deeply enlightening book.”
Department of Computer Science, Yale University
“The word ‘dialogical’ might have been invented to describe Michael Novak. With great patience and lucidity he engages believers, unbelievers, and those who don’t know what they believe in a conversation about the things that matter most.”
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
Editor-in-chief of First Things
“One does not have to agree with Michael Novak to find this book well worth reading. In his critique of atheism, he rightly says that no one has enough proof that there is no God. But isn’t the same true of those who believe that there is a God? That goes a long way toward explaining why I am an agnostic. Moreover, Novak would agree that ethical behavior–living by the Golden Rule–doesn’t depend on a belief in God. But I nonetheless found the force and eloquence of his argument a most helpful test for my own beliefs.”
Director of the Cultural Change Institute at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, and Author of The Central Liberal Truth.
“This book is one of the most lyrical and moving reflections on God I have encountered. It is also remarkably generous, both to believers and non-believers. Most helpfully it is about how to pray, and how to suffer through the dark night in which answers, and communication, seem absent. A remarkable book by a remarkable man.”
Wall Street Journal columnist and author of John Paul the Great
“I found the book to be on the whole EXCELLENT. In many passages wonderful, lyrical, brilliant, deep.”
Professor Stephen Barr
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Delaware
“No One Sees God is a lightning flash of illumination about our post-secular age-proving, as everything that Michael Novak writes does, that faith and reason can work together. Engaging on the highest level (and with intellectual charity) with today’s “new atheist” writers, and showing what they’ve missed or misunderstood about religion, Novak has written a book for the ages that anyone interested in the big questions, believer or unbeliever, will profit from.”
Brian C. Anderson
Editor, City Journal
“Michael Novak, a firm theist, takes on a formidable host of clever atheists in one absorbing encounter after another. Novak holds his ground throughout without a trace of contentiousness—and with a depth of learning that should move believers, doubters, and unbelievers alike. The arguments are fascinating. The company is delightful. I have never seen the subject treated with such sympathy, urbanity, and generosity of spirit.”
Christina Hoff Sommers
Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
“Some have tried to defeat the new atheists with an equally dogmatic new fundamentalism. There is neither truth nor kindness in this approach. Finally, Michael Novak has written from his mind and his heart a rejoinder to the materialists among us. He succeeds where others have failed by honestly appreciating their critique of simple minded faith, while also clearly demonstrating their insufficient response to the mystery of God. Only Michael Novak could have written this book because of the scope of his intellect, the depth of his faith, and his deep humility that is his greatest gift to us all.”
Rabbi Marc Gellman, Ph.D.
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Tora, Melville, NY
“American Presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln knew a lot about ‘the darkness’ in which God dwells, and the trust that is necessary when one’s eyes cannot see Him. This new book by Michael Novak is one of the most fascinating reflections on the God known through reason that I have ever encountered, the God whom we trust in shadow and in light, in defeat as well as in victory. Many, many readers will recognize in these pages elements of their own experience.”
Former Speaker of the House, and author of "Rediscovering God in America"
“Intensely personal and yet intellectually wide-ranging, this book shows Michael Novak at his best. No One Sees God conveys a depth, erudition, generosity of spirit, and wisdom that simply transcend anything that the new atheists have to offer.”
Author of "What’s So Great About Christianity"
“We live in a world where, for many, God is the embodiment of a ferocious monster. In whose name fanatics claim absolute power, kill randomly, confine women, and brainwash children. The concept of God that Michael Novak offers us in this book is certainly more attractive. Michael’s God combines reason, compassion, and faith. The present debate on faith and reason is presented as a conflict between atheists and believers. Michael Novak shifts that debate to one between those who share his concept of god, and those whose who define their God as an enemy of humanity. This book definitely offers a welcome perspective.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute and Best-selling author of "Infidel"
“Michael Novak boldly—yet winsomely—invites believers and the radical atheists of our day to sit down at table for an honest dialogue, one that will, no doubt, challenge the atheists’ blind faith in No-God; and one that will compel believers to re-examine their unexamined views of the Almighty. While some of Novak’s views (about the Fall of man, for example) differ from my own and even from those held by many evangelicals and Catholics, Novak’s book will inspire a lively debate from which we will all profit.”
Founder, Prison Fellowship Ministries
“With learning and humor, Michael Novak calls for respectful dialogue between believers and skeptics. This book could not have come at a better time.”
Glenn Harlan Reynolds
Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tennessee and Creator of Instapundit.com
“Over the years, Michael Novak has explored with great insight the relationship between religion, society, and the individual. Here he engages with the recent intellectual challenges to religion and provides the perspective of a profound believer who knows what it is like to wrestle with doubt.”
CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of "Einstein: His Life and Universe"
“Why should you read Michael Novak? Let me illustrate with a personal example. Novak is a devout and faithful Catholic–and reading one of his earlier books helped put me on the path to embracing Protestant Christianity. This is the sort of thing that happens when you read a writer of Novak’s brilliance and intellectual honesty–you find yourself asking better questions, and you end up in unexpected places. His new book is especially helpful, coming as it does in a time when shallow triumphalisms dominate religious discourse–in the puerile vilifications of religion by the “New Atheists,” as well as the tired, chest-thumping apologetics of too many who write in the name of Christianity. No One Sees God is the work of a man of faith and a genuine humanist, who calls us all to discuss these ultimate questions in a manner truly worthy of our nature as human persons.”
Literary Editor, National Review
“To rebut the flood of atheist propaganda pouring out of major publishing houses, Michael Novak has crafted a response that is at once a masterpiece of theological reasoning and a declaration of faith. It is a blessing not only for believers but also for doubters and for non-believers, who are now shown the way.”
Robert D. Novak
Syndicated columnist, Chicago Sun-Times
“Even those of us who believe and trust in God know the difficulties and questions through which the Lord takes us. In No One Sees God, Michael Novak expresses the thoughts of both believers and atheists in a non-judgmental and most helpful manner.”
Board Member, Prison Fellowship Ministries
“A deeply insightful book that is destined to become a classic! Michael Novak addresses the spiritual questions that human beings have asked through the ages…The answers he provides…may forever change your view about God’s role in the cosmos and man’s place in it. One thing is for certain: the dialogue will be reverberating in your mind long after you have put the book down.”
American Enterprise Institute, Formerly U.S. Census Bureau
“Michael Novak’s new book counts as both significant and moving. He deploys logic and love, emotion and erudition, to address the most enduring questions of our existence.”
Nationally Syndicated Talk Radio Host, Author of "Right Turns"
“‘Why is human weakness slow to believe that men will one day live with God?’ once asked St. Augustine. Why is this? In this deeply personal book, Michael Novak ponders this question, sustaining throughout a sympathetic dialog with the so-called “new atheism” of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens. Along the way Novak advances many reasons to believe, with Augustine, that in the end our darkness yields only to the blazing light of the promise of divine friendship: ‘our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.’”
J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P.
Undersecretary, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican City
“No One Sees God is an outstanding theological discussion that bravely responds to the recent challenges of those who wish to deny God’s existence. Michael Novak wrestles with theology in a serious and inspiring way. Whereas recent pro-Atheist literature can often be characterized as immature, intellectually dishonest, and blatantly ignorant, Novak’s brings an open-minded, sophisticated, and highly educated voice to the discussion. The Mishnah teaches that one must know “how to respond to a heretic.” Novak’s wisdom will surely serve as a strong defense to many who seek a scholar to help them wrestle with the 13% of the people in the world who still deny God.”
Rabbi, Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue
“No One Sees God, the latest contribution of Michael Novak to secular theology is, as all his previous works, a very persuasive book. All believers in freedom, whether Catholics or non-believers, have an enormous debt of gratitude to Michael. He has shed light on very important and complex issues and has done so from the perspective of those who consider liberty as the fundamental organizing principle of an open society.”
Member of the Italian Parliament and former Italian Minister of Defense (2001 to 2006). In January 2005, the U.S. Secretary of Defense awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Public Service, an honor seldom granted to non-Americans.