Ex-bishop preaches a kinder atheism
By THESTAR.COM (CANADA)
Added: Wed, 28 Oct 2009 00:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Richard P. for the link.
For all the Braveheart bluster of the stereotype, the Scots are actually pretty good at the art of compromise.
Gordon Brown was the brains behind the third-way politics on which Tony Blair made his reputation. And now, just when Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are looking like the only intelligent opposition to anti-evolutionary lunacy, it's a Scot named Richard Holloway who reminds us that the certainty of neo-atheism has a lot in common with the certainty of religion.
As far as Holloway is concerned, religion is a "great fiction," but he places equal emphasis on both the adjective and noun. It deserves more respect than the neo-atheists pay it, he figures, and less obedience than religionists generally insist on.
Though little known in these parts, the 75-year-old Holloway – in town today as part of the Scottish focus of this year's International Festival of Authors – is a star back home. He's the smart voice of a position that many, religionists or not, feel in their gut is probably the right one. As he speaks on the phone from his home in Edinburgh, it's clear why he's gathered such a following. In a debate characterized by accusations and shrill rhetoric, Holloway speaks in calm paragraphs laced with appreciative references to church history, theology, novels from three or four cultures. And poetry, too, which he recites in English and annotates with the occasional phrase in the original French or German. His articulacy and clarity ensure he doesn't. But that's not the only reason he commands so much attention in Britain, where most of his 23 books sell well and where one of them, Godless Morality, has been a bestseller for a decade. This self-described "expectant agnostic," who does not believe in god or heaven but has no desire to convince you that you shouldn't, was until nine years ago the Bishop of Edinburgh and titular head of the Scottish church.
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