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In God We Doubt: Confessions of a Failed Atheist [Paperback]

John Humphrys
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2008

Throughout the ages believers have been persecuted - usually for believing in the "wrong" God. So have non-believers who have denied the existence of God as superstitious rubbish.

Today it is the agnostics who are given a hard time. They are scorned by believers for their failure to find faith and by atheists for being hopelessly wishy-washy and weak-minded. But John Humphrys is proud to count himself among their ranks. In this book he takes us along the spiritual road he himself has travelled. He was brought up a Christian and prayed every day of his life until his growing doubts finally began to overwhelm his faith.

As one of the nation's most popular and respected broadcasters, he had the rare opportunity in 2006 of challenging leaders of our three main religions to prove to him that God does exist. The Radio Four interviews - Humphrys In Search of God - provoked the biggest response to anything he has done in half a century of journalism. The interviews and the massive reaction from listeners had a profound effect on him - but not in the way he expected.

Doubt is not the easy option. But for the millions who can find no easy answers to the most profound questions it is the only possible one.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; First Ediion edition (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340951273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340951279
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Humphrys has reported from all over the world for the BBC and presented its frontline news programmes on both radio and television, in a broadcasting career spanning forty years. He has won a string of national awards and been described as a 'national treasure'. He owned a dairy farm for ten years and has homes in Greece and London.

Product Description


There is all the erudition and pithy wit you would expect from Humphrys, but there is also a charming, genuine enquiry that shines through. (Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

Bestselling author, radio presenter and national treasure John Humphrys tackles the big question through his own personal journey and argues that doubt is the only credible belief.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternatively subtitled 'Hoping for Utopia' ? 30 Sep 2007
The agnostic stance of this books author, detailed on the book jacket as reformed from atheist, initially put me off this. What could someone who cannot possibly make up their mind about the existence of god bring to a discussion on God? But as it turns out John Humphrys has a lot to say and most of it is very worth your time reading.

Many people in this modern age, especially those brought up within a culture historically shaped by the Christian Church, grow up with a profound capability for faith in a god but a firm belief that modern religions are not representative of this faith. Which of course leaves us with a few questions.

In this book John Humphrys clearly defines all the key questions and arguments from both sides of the God debate. He then details his interviews with prominent religious figures, looks at the emotional response to these interviews he got from the general public and then tries to look at what God might actually be. Fortunately you do not have to be a philosophy undergraduate to come to terms with the subjects detailed here, everything is presented in clear, concise English. Which makes for digesting information and coming to conclusions a relatively pain free process - given the subject.

As any debate on the existence of god must, Humphrys eventually gets to discussing evolution and importantly - the role of consciousness in our need for a god.

Humphrys accepts evolution as providing a roadmap to human life but paints a very disparaging picture of evolutionary thinkers, pretty much lumping them under the banner of 'militant atheists'. Of course much of his scorn and there seems to be plenty of it, is directed towards one Mr R. Dawkins.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars at last no ranting 14 Nov 2007
This is an important book. Written in the even-handed manner that serves so well on the Today program, Humphreys analyses his own beliefs and holds them up in comparison for our edification. He looks at the lack of impartiality when discussing the subject in society, and presents the views of the leaders of the three major monotheistic faith clearly and fairly.

John Humphreys has the job that he has because he knows what questions the informed public would want him to ask. More importantly he has the rare ability to discard his own personal views when trying to find the truth. 'God' is a subject that almost by definition is impossible to be dispassionate about and this is the real strength of this admirable work. We see time and again how intelligent and high-achieving individuals seem to lose the plot when discussing God, and this is perhaps a reflection of its importance to our world view as well as our place in that world.

Throughout 'In God We Doubt', you will likely recognise many of the problems and comforts of religion that have occurred to you during your lifetime and it is a comforting and illuminating to have them raised and considered by Humphreys. It doesn't matter if you believe or don't: buy this book.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd mixture, but very careless. 10 Sep 2007
The first thing to note is that this book does not deserve to be judged as a thesis or a manifesto. Humphrys is a self-professed agnostic, but that does not mean he argues in favour of that position.

Humphrys career as a famous public broadcaster gives him some interesting material for this book: unique interview material from his BBC Radio 4's series "Humphrys in Search of God" with leading religious figures, and a host of letters responding to the broadcasts of these interviews.

Humphrys describes himself as a "failed" atheist, but successfully manages to persuade the reader from early on that he has a keen eye for spurious religious arguments (including those offered by such illustrious people as Rowan Williams, Jonathan Sacks or Tariq Ramadan). The first part of the book is a romp through the case for belief in God, and goes pretty well. The light, almost conversational style serve well - the book is actually a fairly quick read (I read it in one day).

Where he thinks it is appropriate Humphrys shows his dislike of "militant" atheism, and singles out Richard Dawkins for it. Actually, his criticism is well made and deserved. Though Humphrys does not make a meal out of this.

The second part of the book (roughly) deals with belief in god, what it is, how atheists explain it (though Humphrys prefers to consider only naturalistic explanations from evolution, rather than anything from, say, psychology - which is a disappointing limitation to discover).

Finally, although he recognises the dangers of religion in its institutionalised and radical forms, and even though he denies such things as the divinity of Jesus or the authority of scripture, Humphrys does assert three key things that prevent the triumph of atheism:

1. Ethics.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A believer pretending to be agnostic 13 Jan 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is well-written in that it is well laid out, easy to read and flows nicely. It's not too heavy.
However the language used to describe people on each side of the argument (theist and atheist) is entirely lop-sided. Early on atheists are referred to as 'militant' and personally attacked for their views. Prominent atheists are made out to be evil-doers out to cause harm to those poor people who take comfort from religion. Humphrys fails to attack their argument and this is the main downfall of the book.

Theists are portrayed as possibly misguided but ultimately decent people.
I think this was inevitable having invited 3 religious leaders into his studio but no atheist. I think he wants to believe but can't logically accept it. Someone pulling him the other way was always going to get the door slammed in their face.

So this book is not about religion and atheism and who's got the best argument. It's about John Humphyrs and his personal journey towards religion. He's almost there - just one bridge to go - he just can't bring himself to cross it. Better do it soon John; there's a militia of spear throwing atheists chasing you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking read
A rare book, a sensible discussion of many of the unresolvable issues about life and how various religions regard it.
Published 17 days ago by mecanopsis
5.0 out of 5 stars Qin John Humphrys we trust
The author expressed very much my own thoughts and perplexities. His rejection of unthinking atheism supports the views held by many, including myself. Read more
Published 4 months ago by John Cornah
2.0 out of 5 stars In Humphrys We Doubt ... Shoddy, Whittering Rubbish.
I bought this book based on what I have heard of John Humprey's on the radio, he has always seemed to me an established and respected, hard-hitting journalist who pulls no punches. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Matthew Finch
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting views
I bought this book in error thinking it was writen by John Humphreys the naturist but thought I might as well read it anyway.And I realy enjoyed it with it's interesting views.
Published 12 months ago by Doug 41a
5.0 out of 5 stars Very grounded.
Humphrys does an excellent job of cutting through the religious gorse thicket. Concise and clear. A brilliant and engaging read.
Published 13 months ago by Mr Aidan Sheldrick
4.0 out of 5 stars A non-believer pretending to be agnostic
One reviewer believes the author to be "A believer pretending to be agnostic".

I've read the book several times and have drawn a quite different conclusion: he's an... Read more
Published 17 months ago by ferrocene
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for God
As a big, big fan of John Humphrys from his work on the radio I looked forward to reading his views on religion.

I was not disappointed! Read more
Published on 17 Nov 2011 by David Priest
1.0 out of 5 stars Total disappointment
[Groan] I enjoy Humphrys' radio interviews, so I had expected to enjoy this book too. Couldn't have been more wrong, and here's why:

1 - Humphrys' understanding of the... Read more
Published on 5 Sep 2011 by Nom de Plume
1.0 out of 5 stars John H's Baby Talk
I heard John Humphreys series on Radio 4 when he interviewed a few high ranking "leaders" of various faith groups. Read more
Published on 27 Jun 2011 by Miriam
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and thought-provoking
John Humhrys' book is simply outstanding and is written for 'believers' and 'non-believers' alike. If this book doesn't make you think then either your brain has gone to sleep or... Read more
Published on 14 Mar 2011 by Prof J. Maxon
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