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Between The Monster And The Saint: The Divided Spirit of Humanity: Reflections on the Human Condition Hardcover – 21 Aug 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; 1st Edition edition (21 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847672531
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847672537
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.1 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A conclusion to be devoutly welcomed in our turbulent times.' -- Salley Vickers, The Independent

'A conclusion to be devoutly welcomed in our turbulent times.' -- Sally Vickers The Independent

'His message deserves to be widely heard. It stands between us and chaos.' -- Daily Mail

'Holloway is able to offer a perspective on the intractably conflicted human animal that is consistently fresh and illuminating.' -- The Literary Review

'Illuminating and inspiring.' -- John Lloyd, Financial Times

'Richard Holloway brilliantly illuminates the divided spirit of man.' -- Observer

Review

'Richard Holloway brilliantly illuminates the divided spirit of man.'

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A few years ago, good friends of mine asked me to be the godfather to their eldest son. Being of no fixed religious abode, after much thought I declined: I don't believe in God, and it seemed somehow dishonest to swear to uphold his values. Ever since, while not resiling from my atheist beliefs at all, I have regretted letting dear friends down in this way, without ever having been able to rationalise why: my reasoning felt earnest, logical and therefore, I thought, impeccable. Nonetheless, deep down I couldn't shake the feeling it was absolutely wrong.

It was, and this wonderful little book by Richard Holloway has helped me understand why.

Holloway is, or was, formerly Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church. More significantly, for the purposes of persuading your sceptical old goat of a correspondent, he's a learned, widely read and elegant writer who firmly sets his stall in the pragmatic, liberal tradition. Holloway appeals from the same quarter as the late Richard Rorty, and his underlying message resonates with Rorty's vision, eludicated in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity of a diverse community characterised by its members' freedom to invoke whatever stories they feel suitable to provide meaning to their lives but bound by common assent that, such freedoms notwithstanding, as Judith Shklar put it, "cruelty is the worst thing we do".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, Eloquent and Erudite 15 Nov. 2008
By Olly Buxton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A few years ago, good friends of mine asked me to be the godfather to their eldest son. Being of no fixed religious abode, after much thought I declined: I don't believe in God, and it seemed somehow dishonest to swear to uphold his values. Ever since, while not resiling from my atheist beliefs at all, I have regretted letting good friends down in this way, without ever having been able to rationalise why: my reasoning felt earnest, logical and therefore, I thought, impeccable. Nonetheless, deep down I couldn't shake the feeling it was absolutely wrong.

It was, and this wonderful little book by Richard Holloway has helped me understand why.

Holloway is, or was, formerly Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church. More significantly, for the purposes of persuading this sceptical old goat of a correspondent, he's a learned, widely read and elegant writer who firmly sets his stall in the pragmatic, liberal tradition. Holloway appeals from the same quarter as the late Richard Rorty, and his underlying message resonates with Rorty's vision, eludicated in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity of a diverse community characterised by its members' freedom to invoke whatever stories they feel suitable to provide meaning to their lives but bound by common assent that, such freedoms notwithstanding, as Judith Shklar put it, "cruelty is the worst thing we do".

Holloway's disposition is to frame his moral worldview in terms of lessons that can be learned from literature, philosophy and myth of all kinds, sacred and profane (science, generally, not being much help in forming moral worldviews) and, as is typical of pragmatists, he's not bothered that complete and coherent reconciliation of all the works of literature he might cite is not possible (Holloway's range of references is as broad as it is eclectic, covering (among many others) Homer, Plato, the Bible, Descartes, Shakespeare, Shelley, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Dostoevsky, Tennessee Williams, Auden, Larkin, Rorty, Andrea Dworkin, Ridley Scott and Mike Newell - just try knitting that into a self-contained, consistent, coherent whole), provided that the parts he extracts, woven into the fabric of Holloway's philosophy, tell a meaningful story.

That is to say, provided our literature (however one might describe it) is deployed usefully in an instructive and metaphorical way, it doesn't matter that other aspects might suffer from internal logical inconsistencies or be at risk of factual falsification. To bother about such things is, to Richard Holloway, entirely to miss the point. And, while he (rightly) isn't mentioned even by name, anti-Christian aggravator-in-chief Richard Dawkins must surely be who Holloway has in mind when he alludes to the "particularly ugly debate" going on about this at the moment.

Instead, Holloway writes lyrically, elegantly, and forcefully about how we should be thinking about organising our lives, and his view is (quietly but convincingly) that pseudo-rationalists who seek societal Nirvana through squashing religions and other deemed irrationalities (another good example of this tendency is Francis Wheen) are missing the point and poisoning the well from which, pragmatically, we all (religious or not) need to draw the water to irrigate our collective relations.

It is in the nature of his endeavour that it's a somewhat meandering walk, rather like the sort of woodland ramble on which you can imagine Holloway embarking to ruminate on the topics covered in this book, but it's also a short and sweetly written one, hearty and refreshing, and for me at least it has had the restorative effect of just such a bracing excursion in a beautiful environment with a learned and thoughtful elder of the tribe.

I've made my apologies to my friends about the Christening, but I missed that boat. My loss. I won't do it again.

Olly Buxton
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where are all the positive reviews for this book? 28 Feb. 2010
By Shane Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The single other customer review for this book (at the time of writing) sums it up wonderfully, and I have little to add to it, except perhaps to express surprise at how this superb little book has not attracted wider praise. But I will add my little bit. Richard Holloway provides the most refreshingly wise, mature and common-sense accounts of the human condition I have ever come across. He draws from a wide variety of sources - religion, science, philosophy and art - without any need to denigrate or marginalize. Rather, he synthesizes all of these things in a beautifully balanced treatise on what it means to live. Erudite, poetic and easy to read, I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone remotely interested in the subject matter. Thank you Richard Holloway.
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