peteg's blog - noise - books - 2014 11 02 Spufford Unapologetic

Francis Spufford: Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense.

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Just because I believe don't mean I don't think as well
Don't have to question everything in heaven or hell
David Bowie — Word on a Wing

I regretted not taking notes while reading his earlier Red Plenty, so this time I did. Unfortunately things fall away rather quickly after the incendiary introduction to the point where it is not worth dissecting in any detail.

Here Spufford attempts to defend his return to the warm comforts of Anglican Christianity after a couple of decades of atheism. I was interested mostly in how he would argue and how he experiences spirituality. Well, it's a far cry from the reasoned clarity of Raymond Smullyan (e.g., The Tao is Silent), as I guess it must be; Spufford's God is logically incoherent and totally impractical, and while the author has a sense of humour, it seems equally clear that the Author does not. No whimsical dialogues here! — though he is (of course) scholar enough to know that many tropes in the Christ story are not original.

I guess I was hoping for a more robust counterpoint to the New Atheists; their attacks on organised religion always seemed misguided to me, if only because belonging to such is more of a tribal than ontological commitment. (We see that here with Spufford's return to the religion of his childhood, in contrast to Leonard Cohen's lifelong spiritual searching. The former gives the latter's Anthem an appreciative going over.)

Spufford is fine in the small but very shaky on the larger philosophical points. Here he is, defending his defence.