Book Review: ‘There is No God and he is Always With You’ by Brad Warner

2013 June 21
by Tanya McGinnity

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Many of you know Brad Warner’s writing via his books and articles relating to Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, but with his latest book There is no God and he is Always With You, Brad ventures into the territory of Christianity and the interplay with Buddhist philosophy and perspectives on God, Life, Death, Existence.. you know… all the big topics.

The book itself if very much a koan as it truly is ‘a search for God in odd places’ given that it is a recount of Warner’s travels to locations all around the globe – from Jerusalem, Detroit, Japan, Tassajara, Finland, Ohio, Mexico, Northern Ireland among others stamped onto his passport. It is not limited to zen centers but rather recounts journeys to speaking gigs, family trips and all varieties of stops the author has made in his life.

Within the book, Warner cites numerous authors and texts from philosophers, theologians, writers, scientists, atheists and believers among others. He relies heavily upon the Bible as well as the works of Dogen and overlays the two to see how they work with each of their respective frameworks.

Warner isn’t afraid to tangle with philosophical matters and gets into the deep stuff but he does so with a quirky freshness and humourous tone. As contentious that a Buddhist’s examination of God might be, the book doesn’t fall into overt debate or denigration, but rather offers up other ways of viewing both Christianity and Buddhism. the book doesn’t try show one tradition as superior the other, but rather demonstrates the of the similarities that can be found within.  The two traditions share the same flavour of mystery and resting in unknowing as well as defining something that is knowable yet undefinable, which is the very nature of how it is difficult to see and define both God and enlightenment.

The book covers a lot of ground – Heaven, Hell, God, the universe, creation, religious division, fundamentalism, existence, emptiness, life, death, karma, enlightenment, faith, reincarnation, morality, miracles and so very much more. Yes. There’s a lot packed within this book and rest assured you will be left with more questions than answers but that’s a good thing. Warner’s examination and exploration of God and self is one that any seeker needs to dip a toe into and this book is the perfect demonstration of one man’s journey to deeper meaning.

Hold on though and don’t start to fear that the book is dry and joyless. Brad’s notoriously enjoyable pop culture references are sprinkled throughout and it is a highly enjoyable read in typical Warner-fashion. It is very much a book featuring his opinions and how he came to his beliefs or is still working with it all. If you are a fan of his previous books and writing, then this adventure into the realms of Christianity will interest you as well.

I tweeted that the last chapter of the book alone was worth the cover price and I stand by my 140 character assertion. It is a display of the unity of wisdom and compassion and I’m sure that both God and Buddha would approve.

In my opinion after reading There is no God and he is Always With You, a more refined and scholastic Brad Warner has emerged. It is almost ‘thesis-like’ in tone and I believe has a dollop more of an intellectual tone to it than previous writing, however this is balanced nicely with the personal anecdotes and tales that his fans know and love.

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