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Devout Sceptics

Devout Sceptics, Conversations on Faith and Doubt with Bel Mooney, Hodder and Stoughton, 2004, 192 pp., $28. Reviewed by Lloyd Geering.

I had not heard of this book until someone gave it to me at Christmas. Bel Mooney is a journalist who presented an award-wining series on BBC in which she discussed questions of faith and doubt with a wide-ranging group of well-known people that included writers, scholars and politicians. Of the 34 original presentations she has selected 20 and slightly edited them for publication.

Here we learn interesting insights into the personal beliefs of people we mostly know about in other connections, such as Denis Healey, Isabel Allende, Joanna Trollope, Clare Short, and Amy Tan.

Collections of this kind are difficult to summarise, so I mention only one. I was particularly interested to learn that James Lovelock, author of The Gaia Theory was reared as a Quaker. Today he describes himself as an agnostic, partly because he wants to keep his mind open. He rejects humanism as ‘a self-limiting and self-destructive philosophy’, because it focuses too much attention on the human species and does not do full justice to the complex community of organisms that constitute planetary life.

SoF members will find themselves identifying with much that is said here and yet there is freshness about the material because of the great variety of backgrounds from which it has come.

Lloyd Geering