- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (2 Mar. 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0349112657
- ISBN-13: 978-0349112657
- Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 3.6 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 560,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
God's Funeral Paperback – 2 Mar 2000
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More About the Author
It is extraordinary that in the century that witnessed the greatest period of church-building in human history, the mass revivals of the Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics and the founding of missionary societies to convert the heathen should also have been the period when atheism went from being an esoteric and secretive persuasion to being the religion of the suburbs. By the end of the 19th century the great mass of thinking men and women had come to abandon the religion which, for at least a millennium, had dominated the British Isles.
A.N. Wilson follows up his sensational biographies of Jesus and Paul with this fascinating account of the lives and ideas of those prominent men and women who, to differing degrees and for many different reasons, felt that they could not number themselves among the Christian faithful. Starting with the works of Hume and Gibbon, Wilson introduces us to the eccentric utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham, the agonising doubts of Carlyle, the revolutionary atheism of Marx and the militant defence of unbelief by Huxley. Lyell, Darwin, Freud, George Eliot, Hardy--the list covers what seems like most of the great minds of the century.
Wilson's wit, warmth and erudition make God's Funeral enthralling throughout and this reviewer would strongly recommend it to people of all shades of belief. --Douglas Pretsell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Wilson's rare combination of extraordinary scholarship with an almost pathological sense of mischief makes him the most entertaining writer we have (MAIL ON SUNDAY)
Excellent...Wilson has so clear a grasp of opposing principles and personalities that he is able effortlessly to make them live again (Peter Ackroyd The Times)
Wilson's extraordinary arc of knowledge and astonishing range of reading enables him to work highly effectively...his narrative is a model of scholarship and restraint (Anthony Howard Suday Times)
An illuminating analysis of Victorian religious doubt (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
An impressive sweep...Wilson asks us virtually to relive the ebbing of faith as it afflicted our ancestors (John Casey Evening Standard)
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Top Customer Reviews
Could this be the forerunner of more recent and popular books on related themes such as The God Delusion of Richard Dawkins, or God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens? Yes, but this book is not as hostile to religion as the famous atheists. Wilson retains a whimsical love of Christianity despite realising that none of its central dogmas can possibly be true. So, from the common Anglican perspective of solemn disbelief in orthodox dogma, Wilson enjoys exploring how thinkers, and especially 19th C literary ones, started to question Christianity.
Wilson is especially fond of Hardy and Tennyson but pours scorn on the third rate poetasting of Matthew Arnold. This is perhaps a good thing as Arnold's 'Dover Beach', somehow still a favourite in anthologies, has probably been taken too seriously in recent times. For instance, while telling us that love in a determined and material universe is without meaning and is clearly an illusion, Arnold also apostrophises it:
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light.
And, as Wilson reminds us albeit in a somewhat heavy-handed manner, Arnold's 'tide of faith' is an unhappy trope.Read more ›
The figure of Kant looms surprisingly large. Surprising to me, anyway - but our ignorance in this country about 'the greatest metaphysician of modern times' is matched only, it seems, 'even or especially in intellectual circles up to and including our own day' by our ignorance of science. One would like to feel the situation has improved somewhat - but then we intellectuals are such busy, self-important and - be it said - easily distracted people! The stricture would not have applied to 'scrambling provincial' and self-educated polymath Herbert Spencer.Read more ›
This more or less is the theme from which A. N. Wilson weaves a fabric from many individual Victorian intellectual lives. It is a theme, or some variant thereof, with which many of us in the 21st century can readily identify with. Indeed the surprising thing is how little things have moved on.
The material from which this fabric is woven is diverse, colourful and enlightening. I most readily identify with those such as William Kingdon Clifford and 'his sense that it [Christianity] was not merely mistaken but wicked, evil,....'. But the real joy in the book is the variety - such as the Catholic Modernists, Thomas Hardy or Thomas Carlyle. I was particularly struck by the tragedy of Herbert Spencer who epitomized an optimistic Victorian style of atheism, yet whose life and philosophy at the end was shown to be vacuous. I was personally struck by how Karl Marx was carousing in the Manchester on the profits off the backs of its slum dwellers - a generation or two before my ancestors were dying off from pthysis in those same slums.
This is a broad and rich book - one I shall certainly be rereading once I am a little better read than I am now.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
is prefaced by Hardy's poem God's Funeral, printed in full at the start of the book.
This device, and the further quoting of it many times in the text, is a successful focus... Read more