Looking in the Distance: The human search for meaning by Richard Holloway, Canongate, Edinburgh, 2004, 228 ff.
Morality without God
If you have ever wondered whether we would have a system of morality were it not for the western image of God, this book tells you how we can live in love and compassion for one another on the basis of strictly humanist ideals. It is a deeply felt meditation on the principles of human existence.
To describe a book as `humanist' tends to provoke a feeling in many that the writing is atheistic. This would be so only in the context of the western view of God - a deity outside humankind, judgemental and demanding obedience and supplication. But there is another view of God - as an overarching spirituality that embraces all of humankind, Christian, Jew, and Muslim, adherent of the western God or of the Infinite Mind of the East.
The sacred or numinous is a facet of life for all of us. It may take the form of organised religion; it may arise from the music we listen to or from the poetry we read. We may find this sense of spiritual uplift during a walk in bluebell-carpeted woodland or listening to the waves rattling the shingle on the shore. Whether we are Looking, Speaking or Listening, spirit is always with us, as described by the author in the sections of his book.
There is a certain sense of melancholy about the book, written by a former Bishop of Edinburgh, and this is most apparent in the fourth and final section, Leaving. Still, in all aspects of our life, and death, an awareness of spirit gives purpose and meaning to all that we do. In an age when formal religion is in decline, here is a reason to love our fellow travellers along the journey of mortal existence, a theme of hope for today and tomorrow.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books (John Hunt Publishing) of Winchester, UK