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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternatively subtitled 'Hoping for Utopia' ?, 30 Sept. 2007
This review is from: In God We Doubt: Confessions of a Failed Atheist (Hardcover)
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.

For me the use of 'militant' is inappropriate - perhaps 'radical' might have been a better word. To my knowledge these atheists have so far not taken to military or guerilla tactics to make their point. Humphrys attitude towards his 'militant athiests' hints at a deeper motive that eventually comes to light as he paces through the final chapters and details his conclusions.

His discussion on conciousness is interesting but stops short of seriously considering how a biologically evolved organism such as the human brain could produce conciousness and the need for belief in god. He instead surmises it must all be down to 'transcendental love'.

Pros: John Humphrys makes some great points in understanding belief, religions and the seeming unquenchable need for humans to have a god. The strength of this book is in his clear, informing detail of key subjects from various angles.

Cons: The case for reasoning a human need for god from a biological standpoint, despite a cursory nod towards evolution and discussing consciousness, is completely left untouched. Neither does he contextualise how 'god' should be considered within his narrative - clever alien? supernatural force? The author 'Sam Harris' is repeatedly referred to in the text as Sam Smith. I can only assume Humphrys is making a point I don't understand or the copy editor wasn't paying attention.

Summary: An informative and thoughtful read from an intelligent man that has seen the world and mankind for what it really is. He does not have much time for modern religions, nor it would seem the radical element of the evolutionary 'church'. As with many people he seems hopeful that there must be a god though, or at least 'something else'.

Highly recommended for anyone starting out on this whole 'does god exist' debate or looking to get a good account of the key topics and both sides of the argument.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jun 2013 14:52:16 BDT
Good review, but I could not disagree more with it. I find the book poorly written and unclear, both in direction and content. Plus, he quotes from an author and actually gets the guy's name WRONG, which is very poor research.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Jun 2013 15:28:08 BDT
J. Potter says:
Hello Matthew, I do think the book serves as a good beginners guide. And I disagree with you only on the point of writing, although he doesn't fully explain the thought process. Always good to get feedback on a comment.
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Location: Berkshire, England

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