Honest Doubt: The History of an Epic Struggle


1 May 2013 sees the long-awaited release of Richard Holloway's acclaimed BBC Radio 4 series "Honest Doubt: The History of an Epic Struggle". It is a series of 20 personal essays charting 3000 years of religious and existential doubt through creative writers and thinkers.   

It is now available both as mp3 audio download from AudioGo and as written transcripts from Amazon.

Feel free to forward, tweet and review!

MP3 Download – AudioGo


Written Transcripts – Amazon


Original series review quotes

"A rich gift and definitely one worth sharing" – Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph
"One of the most superlative treatments I have come across in a long time" – Bruce Lynn

 "Made me stop in my tracks" – Thinking Liberal Review  

"Thought provoking, enlightening, educational, moving, humbling. Too good to miss " – Daily Strength 

Editorial Notes

  1. The series is written and presented by Richard Holloway
  2. The series producer is Olivia Landsberg through Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd.
  3. This is not in CD format but "commercial audio download" only (sadly!)  The written transcripts to accompany the series are available as an eBook from Amazon.
  4. The series was originally broadcast in May/June 2012.
  5. Many listeners were upset that it was only on BBC iplayer for 7 days, hence this release.
  6. The series is an extension of some of the themes Richard explored in his touching memoirs "Leaving Alexandria", but is a completely separate offering.


In "Honest Doubt: The History of an Epic Struggle", the author and former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway considers some of the universal questions about our existence and the meaning of life, and how some of humanity's best thinkers and most creative writers have approached these 'literally life and death questions'.  In exploring the relationship between faith and doubt over the last 3000 years, he looks at its impact from the birth of religious thinking, through the Old and New Testaments, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Victorian period, the horrors of World War II, right up to today. Joining him on his journey are: Karen Armstrong, Richard Dawkins, Sir Anthony Kenny, Sir Andrew Motion, AN Wilson and many others.  

Series Breakdown
1     Prologue – sets out scope and context for the series
2     In the Beginning – looks at the birth of religious thinking and one of religion's earliest   doubters
3     Casting Out Idols – looks at one of the recurring themes in Judeo-Christianity – idolatry.
4     Revelation and its Limits – looks at one of the recurring issues in the story of doubt – God's invisibility
5     Mysteries not Problems – reflects on the work of the mediaeval mystics.
6     Breaking Up – looks at the role of doubt during the Reformation in the 16th Century
7     The Agony and the Ecstasy – looks at the doubts of John Donne, John Bunyan and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
8     Vacating Heaven – explores the influence of the Scientific Revolution
9     Paying the Price – looks at how religion dealt with those who paraded their doubts, through censorship and excommunication

10 Caught in the Middle – explores the theme of Free Will.
11  Embracing Uncertainty – looks at John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley
12  Believer's Doubt – the doubts of 4 Victorian poets: Cardinal Newman, Arthur Hugh Clough, Matthew Arnold and Robert Browning
13 A Post Mortem – impact of Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell and the C19th fashion for historical criticism of the Bible
14 God's Funeral – brings together the 19th century English writer Thomas Hardy and the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who represented for many the culmination of the Victorian crisis of faith.
15 Godless Morality – uses Dostoevsky and Nietzsche to explore the future of morality without God.
16 On the Edge – uses the American poet Emily Dickinson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Richard Dawkins and philosopher Roger Scruton to explore the mystery of existence.
17 Saving Doubt – explores doubt and disloyalty with the help of three great 20th century writers – James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene
18 Darkness Made Visible – uses C18th Scotsman David Hume and Holocaust literature of Paul Celan and Andre Schwarz-Bart to explore: how can we reconcile the idea of God when there's so much suffering in the world?   
19 Presence and Absence – explores the idea with the help of three post-war poets; Philip Larkin, John Betjeman and RS Thomas. 
20 Tears in the Rain – concludes that there are no conclusions but that kindly action is more powerful than thought


About Richard Holloway

Richard Holloway is a writer, broadcaster and author of more than twenty books, including Doubts and Loves (Canongate 2001), On Forgiveness (Canongate 2002), Godless Morality (Canongate 2009) and his memoirs Leaving Alexandria (Canongate 2012).  He has written for many newspapers, including The Times, The Guardian, Sunday Herald and The Scotsman.  He was Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church until 2000, and Gresham Professor of Divinity until 2001.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He continues to present BBC Radio Scotland's Sunday Morning with Richard Holloway and in 2003, presented The Sword and The Cross, a history series on BBC 2.


Further information:  Olivia Landsberg   olivia@landsbergcoaching.com   07950 269 273

Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd, 17 Leicester Rd, East Croydon, Surrey.

CR0 6EB www.ladbrokeradio.com  T: 020 7736 9674

Registered address: 7 Bourne Court, Southend Road, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 8HD

Company ~ – 01210876    VAT # – 942 4391 21

Written By: Richard Holloway
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  1. The lectures cost 7 pounds. The site does not tell you the forms of payment it accepts. It does not tell you the eBook formats you can choose from. The site does not work properly with the Opera browser. I have reported the problems. By default you need Applet iTunes plus the Java JRE so I presume the default is some Apple eBook format. I have written an essay on how to install the JRE. Email me if you have trouble.

  2. In reply to #3 by headswapboy:

    I doubt I shall bother with this.

    Sounds suspiciously like twaddle to me, also. Wonder how/why RD got involved?

  3. In reply to #1 by rod-the-farmer:

    Hmmmm. Did not address islam. Hmmmm.

    A bridge too far for the genteel Christian believers?

  4. Is this an advertisement? Links lead to pay sites.

    But I see it says:

    Feel free to forward, tweet and review!

    So, where’s the link to the free download? I’d maybe spend the time to listen, but I’m not buying.

    Or, what’s RDFRS doing carrying adverts pretending to be news articles. Infomercials? Hey, Moderators, wouldn’t it be simpler – and less deceptive – to carry ads from Google?

  5. PDF might be easier to read.

    Episode 16 – “The debate between “believers” and “unbelievers” continues into our age as Holloway cites the ideas of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins”

  6. In reply to #9 by bluebird:

    In reply to #4 by Nodhimmi:

    Wonder how/why RD got involved?

    Episode 16 – “…the debate between unbelievers and believers continues into our age as Holloway cites the ideas of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins…”

    Richard Holloway, who resigned as Bishop of Edinburgh in 2000, has written a candid and deeply moving account of his growing disillusionment with religion

    Now it makes more sense…

  7. The series of topics looks interesting, but as one would expect from a career clergyman, it does not carry its doubt far enough. Holloway is struggling to extricate himself from the world of religion, a world for which he still has deep emotional attachment, despite the promptings of his better, sensible self. I would listen to these essays if they were broadcast on the radio, but I won’t rush out to buy them when I am pretty sure that they will still be harking back to the old ways instead of suggesting fresh ideas about living together in a god-free world.

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