By Joe Bast | December 6, 2023
A review of Is There Evidence for God? An economist searches for answers, by Robert Genetski (RGA/classicalprinciples, 2023).
Why would a distinguished economist write a book about religion? Who would even care what he thinks?
Robert Genetski, Ph.D., probably knew when he sat down to write this book that readers would ask these questions and so would hesitate to buy copies. I’m glad he didn’t let that deter him because I truly needed this book. It helped change my life. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Genetski came from the same place I do, a “cradle Catholic” who fell away from the faith when he went to college and then never seemed to find time to go back and revisit that decision. Having turned 80 years old recently, he says “I’ve lived a long, wonderful, fulfilling life.” He has only a few regrets, “the main one is my failure to search for God when I was much younger, when answers could have helped me deal far more effectively with the ongoing challenges in life.”
Shortly before she died, Genetski’s mother confided in him that she didn’t think God was real or that there is an after-life. “I was stunned!” he writes. “The incident may have been the spark I needed to begin taking a serious look into God and religion.”
Genetski says he began by studying the work of prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. He found “not only do they reject God: they seem to have an intense hatred for him. … It seems a bit odd for anyone passionately to hate something they don’t believe exists. It would be like hating Santa or the Easter Bunny. Who does that?”
Atheism, he says, is appealing because “it can empower us and feed our egos. When we reject God, we get to take his place. We become the highest existing lifeform, beholden and subservient to no one.” But the downside is that atheists are often miserable, living lives without meaning and fearing death.
Genetski’s take-down of atheism is masterful and succinct. He ends it by saying atheists are simply “not interested in evidence. Without an inclination to examine evidence, the atheist case for rejecting God rests entirely on their personal opinions and beliefs. Atheists assume their beliefs reflect reality. … Their initial bias against God’s existence was so great, they appeared blind to any evidence to the contrary.”
Genetski then examined the evidence for God himself, starting with evidence of life after death revealed by near-death experiences. Raymond Moody, M.D., in 1970 published accounts of more than a hundred incidents in his book, Life After Life. Sometimes there was corroborating evidence, as when the person knew things that they could not have known without an out-of-body experience. Moody’s work “opened the door to an outpouring of scientific analysis of what is now known as ‘near-death experiences.’”
In a chapter titled “It’s a Miracle!” Genetski writes: “A miracle is said to occur when God suspends the laws of nature to increase our faith and knowledge of him. Miracles assume God is real. Since atheists believe there is no such thing as God, they also believe there is no such thing as a miracle.” He recommends Charles Keener’s two-volume study titled Miracles, which I’ve bought and am reading. It’s very impressive.
Having concluded that God exists, Genetski proceeded to look for evidence of what He expects from humanity. Readers familiar with the work of Huston Smith and other famous historians of religion might anticipate lengthy treatises on “the great religions of the world,” but Genetski needs only a few pages to discuss their essential features and put them in context. Hinduism, Buddhism, and New Age Religions, he says, rely on introspection and meditation, which may be beneficial for their practitioners but “produce a lot of different answers. … [T]hey aren’t going to be much help in our search for evidence of God.”
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam “all claim their beliefs come from God. All three claim God’s revelations are described in sacred books…” He identifies what they have in common: accepting the Old Testament as the inspired work of God; one all-powerful, all-knowing God, who wants us to “worship him, recognize the temporary nature of the material world and material possessions, behave with honesty and integrity, help others who are less fortunate than us, and live peacefully with one another. These religions are almost unanimous in agreeing that each person has a soul whose eternal destiny depends on us doing God’s will.”
Given the central role of the Old Testament in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Genetski searched for evidence of its authenticity. He found it in archeology and Biblical scholarship. He cites Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman, who maintains the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch, were created by an ancient and unknown “redactor” who combined three original sources labeled P, J,and E, the first advancing ideas about God and his relationship to man that are “virtually the opposite” of the other two. The result is a “new dynamic between Yahweh’s justice and his mercy.” “Whatever its origin, whatever combination of authors and editors contributed to it, the end product turned out to be part of the most magnificent, most impactful book ever written.”
Genetski then tackled the New Testament and looked for evidence of Christ’s resurrection. “If it weren’t true, how could his followers believe it? How could more than 500 eyewitnesses believe it? How could millions of people over the past two millennia be so certain it’s true that they’re willing to devote their lives to spreading the word, and even die for their beliefs?”
He evaluated the evidence for Jesus as God starting with the Turin Shroud, citing a book by Mark Niyr titled The Turin Shroud and a website, shroud.com, which “lists thousands of books and articles offering expert opinions on this amazing relic.”
According to Genetski, the shroud reveals that it “once held the body of a well-proportioned man, almost 5’-11” tall, weighing 175 pounds. The man was fully naked when wrapped in the cloth. The marks, wounds, and body characteristics are anatomically correct. The person wrapped in this cloth was definitely a real person.” The shroud, he says, is compelling evidence of Christ’s resurrection.
Genetski then discusses Marian apparitions, the “dancing sun” in Fatima, Portugal (1917), reports of stigmata, bleeding Eucharists (citing a 1986 book on the subject by Joan Carol Cruz titled Eucharistic Miracles), and bleeding statues.
“God left evidence all over the place,” he concludes, “much as a child who plays in the mud and then wanders into his home. God left his footprints everywhere — in historical events, stories long forgotten, and places few might think to look.”
Genetski’s search for answers, starting from a place of skepticism and doubt and using tools acquired during a long career spent finding and analyzing evidence, ends with a declaration of faith. “The good news is — atheists are wrong. God not only exists, he loves each and every one of us.”
Genetski ends his book with these inspiring words:
My great hope is others will take a journey similar to mine. Search for God. Find Him. Then, experience the incredible love, peace and serenity only God can provide.
# # #
Joe Bast was president and CEO of The Heartland Institute for many years. He is now retired and lives in Appleton, Wisconsin.