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Is God Necessary?: Preface

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Is God Necessary?  NO! and YES!

By Herbert F. Vetter

When I was Director of Student Work at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago in 1950, I organized at the University of Chicago a series of William Ellery Channing Lectures on “Attack and Counterattack in Modern Religion. The opening lecture was by David Riesman, Professor of Sociology and author ofthe Lonely Crowd . The topic was “Freud: Religion as Neurosis.”

The crowd was too large for the assigned lecture hall at the Oriental Institute. We tried to move to the university’s largest lecture space, Mandel Hall, but an orchestra was playing. When we discovered that the huge Kent Hall science room was available, our guests rushed in and filled all the seats. Then Riesman exclaimed, “Tell them to come back tomorrow night, and I’ll speak again.” They came and once again filled Kent Hall.

Other lectures in this series critical of religion in the modern world included:

“Marx: Religion in Capitalist Culture”
by James Luther Adams

“Nietzsche: God is Dead”
by Arnold Bergstraesser

“Albert Schweitzer: Opponent of Orthodoxy”
by Leslie Pennington

“Erich Fromm: Humanistic Religion vs. Authoritarian Religion”
by Leslie Pennington

Today there is a new movement critical of religion, “the new atheism” fostered by Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris. Harris says faith in god or gods is the most dangerous element of mod ern life, citing Islamic terrorism as well as Judeo-Christianity’s growing weapons of mass destruction. Dawkins says the biblical Yahweh is “psychotic,” and religion is not only nonsense but a divisive and oppressive force. Dennett describes “the God Delusion” and hopes that practitioners of religion will shrink its maleficent role in civilization.

The question addressed in this book, Is God Necessary? , is not new but is of perennial importance. What is new is that a great new discovery answers this question decisively in the twenty-first century as Darwin’s theory of evolution did in the nineteenth century.

Herbert F. Vetter
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2007