Top positive review
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A marvellous compendium of information and reflection on contemporary ideas and knowledge - highly recommended!
on 1 May 2009
A.C. Grayling is an unfailingly compelling writer. Reasonable, clear, concise, elegant are only a few of the words that can be justly used to describe his writing and thought. This book is no exception. A collection of short, pithy, and always enlightening reflections on, as the title puts it, ideas that matter, organised so as to help the reader pursue particular interests in depth, Ideas that Matter: A Personal Guide for the 21st Century, is an invaluable source book for understanding the jumble of claims and counter-claims that swirl around us everyday.
The ideas are arranged in alphabetical order, and each entry refers to further entries that lead the reader more deeply into associated ideas. At the end of the book an appendix groups the various entries under general headings such as religion, science, politics and society, etc. For those who wish to pursue ideas at even greater depth Grayling provides an 'indicative' bibliography, pointing the reader to further sources of information on the ideas concerned, which, in turn, no doubt, will lead to futher reading and depth of understanding.
Grayling is not impartial, if by impartial be meant a desire not to offend religious believers by calling religious beliefs into question. He is, however, courteous in his dissent, no matter how strongly expressed; but, more importantly, he gives reasons for believing as he does, and rightly chides religion for its continuing failure to provide reasons why we should take religions as seriously as they take themselves. Grayling repudiates, with some justice, the title 'atheist' - this being a term of abuse used by the religious to describe those who do not believe - preferring more positive ways of describing his point of view, such as 'humanist' and 'naturalist'.