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Photo of the front cover of Unapologetic by Francis Spufford

Posted: 20 January 2013

A book arguing for the emotional intelligence of Christianity comes out in paperback at the beginning of March. Unapologetic, by the writer Francis Spufford, recommends the Christian faith not for its logical coherence or because the existence of God can be proven, but because it is true to life as we experience it.

Traditionally, the battle between believers and unbelievers has been fought on logical grounds, so Spufford’s book is an unusual attempt to convince people of the value of faith. Its approach is reflected in the book’s subtitle: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense.

Says Spufford: ‘Emotions can certainly be misleading: they can fool you into believing stuff that is definitely, demonstrably untrue. Yet emotions are also our indispensable tool for navigating, for feeling our way through, the much larger domain of stuff that isn’t susceptible to proof or disproof, that isn’t checkable against the physical universe. We dream, hope, wonder, sorrow, rage, grieve, delight, surmise, joke, detest; we form such unprovable conjectures as novels or clarinet concertos; we imagine. And religion is just a part of that, in one sense. It’s just one form of imagining, absolutely functional, absolutely human-normal.’

The book has divided opinion among readers. Reviewers on Amazon have mostly given the book positive reviews, including these comments by reader Michael Cook:

‘If you’re tired of the dryness of much theology and the gentility of much Christian spirituality, then this is for you. A real breath of fresh air in the God debate, something that doesn’t seem possible I know, but Spufford has done it. It is, first and foremost, a truly passionate book about Spufford’s religious life and convictions. He offers no easy solutions to the basic theological riddles Christians have to live with.’

But comment was predictably hostile on the New Humanist website, where Spufford wrote about his book in a feature entitled ‘Dear atheists…’ which began, ‘Allow me to annoy you with the prospect of mutual respect between believers and atheists…’

To read an introduction to the book which gives a good idea of its flavour and approach, read this piece by Francis Spufford in the Guardian.

Another reader on Amazon comments on the book’s colourful language: ‘This is by far the sweariest “Christian” book ever published and as such should prove an interesting challenge to church goers as it does to non-believers!’

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Photos at the top of this column by:
Taro Taylor and Jon Sullivan