Former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway, reviewing it for the Guardian, called it “an act of daring, a message from the frontline of an old and bruising war.” Rupert Shortt, religion editor of the TLS, praised Spufford’s courage in “putting his glimpse of the transcendent into words”, and media vicar Giles Fraser said, “It’s far and away the best book about Christianity I have read in years.”
Others, people like you, were not quite so taken with his arguments. When we published an article by Spufford in the September issue, which outlined his case and asked atheists to stop being so disparaging about religion, we were deluged with letters – the biggest response we’ve ever had to a single article – many of which raised serious and reasonable objections to his arguments (some, it should be admitted, were merely disparaging).
And there we could have left it. But one other review of his book, this time by Christopher Howse in the Telegraph, suggests why we did not. “Spufford has the great virtue of making you want to argue with him,” wrote Howse. “The reader is left wanting to hear more from Spufford, even while disagreeing with him.” I agree. So in the interests of hearing more from Spufford, even while disagreeing with him, and of putting New Humanist readers’ objections to him directly, I invited him to meet me for a chat.
I started by asking him what, exactly, he’s unapologetic about.
“I’m unapologetic about asserting that religion is a normal and legitimate part of human experience,” he began. “I’m unapologetic about wanting to disrupt the rather cosy recent cultural consensus that religion must be stupid; I’m unapologetic about not wanting to be patronised; and finally I’m unapologetic about saying that a lot of the contemporary atheist case being made now in Britain is getting religion wrong.”