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Godless Morality [Paperback]

Richard Holloway
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 July 2004

The use of God in any moral debate is so problematic as to be almost worthless. We can argue whether this or that alleged claim emanated from God, but surely it is better to leave God out of the argument altogether and find strong human reasons for supporting the systems we advocate.

Now published with a new afterword by the author, in Godless Morality, Richard Holloway offers a sensible and practical approach to keeping religion out of ethics. This is a refreshing, courageous and human-centred justification for contemporary morality.


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Godless Morality + Looking in the Distance: The Human Search for Meaning + Doubts and Loves: What is Left of Christianity
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd; New Ed edition (30 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841955787
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841955780
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A passionate, provocative and common sense challenge to easy cant. (The Observer)

Lucid, convincing and manifestly compassionate (Mary Warnock)

A book of morals for our brave new world, by a very wise man indeed. Inspiring. Fascinating. Full of hope (Fay Weldon)

This is a courageous book for a bishop to write, and everything it says about morality is right and true (Literary Review)

His conclusions are refreshing . . . a brave and scholarly book (Observer)

Book Description

A fascinating and thoughtful-provoking exploration of human morality from the Sunday Times bestselling author of Leaving Alexandria

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I had read perhaps about half way through this book before catching a glimpse of the inside of the back cover where it is revealed that the author is a bishop. This came as some surprise as the book appears to be a hugely convincing plea for secular humanism. The book covers a wide range of moral issues including sex and marriage, gay issues, ethical questions that arise from new technology, alcohol, tobacco and drug use and many others. The author covers these things with an immense amount of thought and wisdom, sometimes offering guidance and sometimes presenting the facts and letting the reader decide for him or herself. Altogether I find this to be a truly excellent book. Author Mary Warnock in her comments on the rear cover says "I enjoyed Godless Morality enormously and agreed with it almost totally." I don't think there is very much that I could add to that.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat misleading title 28 April 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It seems to me that at the core of the distinction between a religious and a non-religious person is the concept of `purpose' for the universe. This is the reason that Darwin's theory of natural selection faced such opposition. Churchmen could accept the idea of an evolving creation, but not of a universe that simply 'is what it is.' One hundred and fifty years on, an increasing number of people are facing up to the prospect of an existentialist cosmos. Many others cannot do so.

Richard Holloway does a neat side step at the beginning of book by apparently supporting the existentialists. He demonstrates that most, if not all the tenets of religion are either unnecessary or necessarily wrong. Most important among these is the impossibility of any absolute truth. He argues that the human condition is not a struggle between right and wrong, but between two mutually exclusive rights. Religion is at best misguided and at worst dangerously oppressive, he seems to say.

But it soon becomes obvious that he is unable to concede the basic principle of purpose. Where traditional religious teachings are inadequate or simply wrong, Richard Holloway offers the unchallengeable explanation that we have misunderstood the enduring purpose of God for us.

The book appears, by its title to suggest that ethical human life is possible without the a priori existence of God. Richard Holloway is an honest, reflective liberal thinker, but it is quite clear that he personally does not believe it is possible.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This quite simply changed my life 25 Feb 2002
Format:Paperback
This book, for me, resonated the sign of the times. It is a text for all of us to question our own meaning of morality in our Western world. We live in a mainstream society where we seem to question so little of what happens in our world. This book made me realise we all have a responsibility to effect positive change in our world. I also found myself questioning Western commercial imperialisation - where 'seemingly' we HAVE to stamp our breed of 'democracy' on the world when in fact this denigrates and insults the essence of other cultures and religions. This book serves to applaud diversity of 'religion' in a way which values human life and breeds respect for humanity.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightenment 2 Jan 2007
By FandRB
Format:Paperback
The very fact that this book is written by the Bishop of Edinburgh only reinvorces the lack of necessity for God in a moral system. To quote Holloway "We either admit that God is, to some extent at least, a human construct that is subject to criticism and evolution, or we weld religion to unsustainable prejudices that guarantee its rejection for the best, not the worst of reasons, so that to abandon it becomes a virtuous act of revolt against an oppressive force that imprisons rather than liberates humanity."

This is a refreshing and well written book and in no sense is it a sermon, quite the opposite.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facing Ethics Bravely 26 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback
The key to understanding Holloway's approach can be summed up by saying: the book is a rational and humane attempt to get away from the "and God said" kind of morality (divine command model). Holloway sets the scene for this by asking, "Do we have to be religious to be moral? Do we have to believe in God to be good?" Of course, the answer to both these questions is "no". But how he addresses them is the interesting part.
His thesis is that there are many contemporary moral dilemmas, which are not about right or wrong; but rather they bear witness to the existence of competing values or rival value systems. Subsequently, he argues for a "middle way". Above all else, Holloway has confidence in "the dynamic nature of humanity" to address these dilemmas. As the worldview, which previously underlined divine command models of ethical decision making, has little authority for people outside the church (as well as many others inside it). The divine command models were more concerned about sin and obedience, than resolving complex moral issues. He recognizes that all this contributes to "ethical confusion". To address these dilemmas constructively, a new kind of wisdom is required. This wisdom is the basis of a "non-religious ethic". This is a good book, which tackles bravely conventional approaches to ethical issues.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Godless Morality 23 Mar 2013
By drh
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this short-ish book 'on spec' as a 0.99 Kindle 'Daily Deal'. I found it to be a good read, pleasantly written, very human, informative, with many good points made - a nice blend of personal anecdote and deeper musing. It contains much criticism of religions & churches, but also much sympathy to their current predicaments. The author, although personally seeped in the Christian religion, is definitely not blind to the many errors & falterings of the institutions & groups surrounding that religion (& others), whilst exhibiting a sincere Christian love for the individuals trying their best within those institutions. However, he is very aware that religious faith is diminishing (at least, in the West), & (whatever his own personal views) he needs to find a non-religious way of justifying moral positions to all those faith-ily-challenged others.

So, his main topic is to ask : how can morality be built without some form of supreme authority ? This clearly reflects the Bishop Emeritus's upbringing in a religious school & his subsequent devotion to the Christian church. He seems to think in terms of needing an absolute end-point (presumably outlined by God), which then feeds-back into the detail & progress of morality. To an atheist (agnostic?) such as myself, such an approach is invalid from the start, & it is anyway incomprehensible to the faith-diminished majority of the population. [ A more acceptable method might be to think in terms of simply making things better, rather than aiming for some infinite perfection. In short, rather than trying to find moral codes which might please *God*, let's just try to get some that please *us* somewhat more than the ones we've currently got.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping God out of morality
I agree with the author and found the book very interesting.As humans we put our values on God and want him to agree with us. Read more
Published 12 months ago by mrs. c.r. brown
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read
I have high regard for Richard Holloway as a man of great personal integrity but there was little on offer here other than a display of hurt feelings. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ed Kingsley
4.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing book for a Bishop to write
This book is a rational humanist's delight in it's moderation and sophistication. It seems to have been written in the aftermath of a serious personal crisis when his church... Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2012 by R. Iain F. Brown
2.0 out of 5 stars Pathetically narrow
The usual Christian obsession with sexual morality, and with the serious, but in many of the cases discussed, marginal questions of the beginning and ending of individual lives. Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2009 by P. S. Braterman
3.0 out of 5 stars Well intentioned
It's nice to see someone tackling this difficult subject so clearly and accessibly. Whatever your personal take on religion, I think this book is a good way to start exploring... Read more
Published on 27 Jan 2007 by E. Sanders
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful distinction between morality and religion
At last we have an intelluctually stimulating book which shows WHY for centuries people have confused ethical imperatives with the demands of a set of beliefs. Read more
Published on 20 Sep 1999 by C. M. Mcintosh
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