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4.4 out of 5 stars15
4.4 out of 5 stars
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A marvellous, wise and tolerant book. If I say that it is astonishing that it should have been written by a bishop, it is only because he examines and then discards so many teachings of the churches, from the idea that God has laid down the moral rules according to which we should live to the notion of life after death.
It has four chapters. The first deals with the questions that must torment every believer in the divine ordering of a world that is so full of impersonal and personal cruelty. If the universe is indifferent to us, that is no reason why we should not find a worthy purpose in our own lives. If we cannot believe that God is Love, we should continue to live as though He were present in love.
The fine second chapter deals with religious myths. A myth is not literally true, and it is stultifying and damaging if we believe that it is. But many myths tells us something about ourselves and often convey a wisdom about the human condition.
The third chapter addresses some of the dilemmas when we are faced by conflicting moral principles.
The most powerful and moving chapter is the fourth, which deals with the challenges of ageing and of death.
This bare summing up does not do justice to the book. The things he says are not, I think, particularly original, and I do not think he would claim that it is: one of the charms of the book is that he calls in aid philosophers, novelists and above all poets who have expressed in their own beautiful way what he is now telling us. As he says in his introduction, it is a very personal book, the book of a man who has thought deeply about what he has read and about what he has experienced himself in his own journey through life.
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on 31 August 2004
I heard this book being reviewed on the radio.
Moral philosophy is not a subject I would normally rush to amazon with an order. However, I would have no hesitation with this small, beautifully written book. His is the wide angle lens of an academic who seems to have left the church but was obviously a gifted preacher. He champions the millions of us who have profound doubts but still want a framework. If you are the sort of person who hears those who are certain that God Exists or Does Not Exist and you shudder but remain silent then this book is for you. He quotes poetry and holds this in prose that captures your attention because his writing is as fine as the poetry. He uses examples of modern dilemmas that are hot off the 2004 press. His last chapter on Leaving made me laugh out loud. This is a rare book that I now want to read again.
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on 30 January 2007
Richard Holloway's exploration of spirituality within an increasingly secular society is a book I would highly recommend to almost anyone with a philosophical bent. Holloway's style of writing is constantly engaging, and at no point becomes as pretentious or convoluted as so many similar texts on the subject. I would perhaps recommend this book most highly to agnostic readers as opposed to atheistic, as Holloway wisely avoids much debate as to the existence of God and instead focuses on how religion and spirituality can be a part of people's lives without the dogmatism of organised religion.
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on 28 February 2012
I do not recommend the Kindle version of this book.
The publishers have released an appalling product. This has not been properly formatted for the Kindle.
All the text is in italics. The spacing is non existent which means quoted text runs into the main text with no indication of where one ends and the other begins. I might expect this from a free book. But to charge good money for this sloppy product is disgraceful.
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on 20 June 2014
I bought and read this book some years ago and was impressed by the author's tolerant and wise approach to living and dying. I gave my copy to a friend. Now, 93 years old and with some health problems my awareness of our personal mortality is acute. I felt the need for a return to RichardHolloway's book. I am not disappointed. One can live and, I hope, die with a calmed attitude to the brevity of Life and what we do with it. Highly recommended.
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on 15 March 2012
Bishop Richard Holloway, now resigned and a common man, has a superb command of the English language and a, sometimes corruscating, commitment to the personal truth of his life and his view of existence. Like Bishop Spong, he has devoted a life to his church yet finally has concluded that he must leave it or cease to be true to himself. Both men, in different ways, are caught in a sad conflict, still loving the church they must leave, and yet knowing clearly why they must. Richard Holloway brings to his book a wealth from a liftime of poetic imagination and exploration of his version of the Christianity he has left, but that has not left him. A fascinating book in all its painful honesty and insight, personal and organisational. An analytical and emotional tour de force.
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on 16 February 2015
This is the second book I have read from this author. He provides good in-depth appreciation of how we are moulded
by man made perceptions of religion without taking a particular bias to any one. If anything he encourages one to think outside the box. As with his other works I have found it frees my thinking and removes a number of stigmas that have been created.
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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
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on 14 November 2005
For the most part, elegantly written and filled with telling quotations that lead you in search of their sources. The first two chapters offer much and offer the promise of real revelation. But his analysis of the universal questions is more compelling than his answers. I suspect the book will appeal most to those who, like the author, are questioning Christians tending towards scepticism, or sceptics with an interest in religions. And if the book helps some of those, fair enough. But his big conclusions are rather a let-down after the build-up. And is there perhaps a hint of self-justification in it all?
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on 29 December 2015
Richard Holloway has written an excellent book with integrity and honesty from his wide experience of human nature and human need and deals with questions concerning the meaning of life. I heartily recommend this book for the thoughtful reader.
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