Genesis, concrete churches, and is God a he?

God has been in the news maybe a bit more frequently than normal over the past few weeks, so we’ve picked out five stories that are worth reading.

Marilynne Robinson reads Genesis – several writers have been impressed by a new book by the novelist Marilynne Robinson, best known for her novel Gilead. The book, Reading Genesis, gives us a novelist’s take on the first book of the Bible, famous for its stories of Adam and Eve, the Tower of Babel and Noah’s flood – to name just a few highlights. Robinson’s book helps modern readers understand the strangeness, beauty and power of the book. Read a review by Rowan Williams.

Tom Holland shares a prayer – the historian and podcaster Tom Holland recently took part in a live event where he spoke about the impact of a cancer diagnosis he received in 2021. ‘Reeling from the news, Holland attended midnight mass at St Bartholomew the Great, where he prayed a desperate prayer. Within a couple of weeks it appeared his prayer had been answered.’ Read more here – plus listen to a podcast or read an interview on how Tom Holland changed his mind about Christianity.

Nick Cave answers a question – since 2018, the musician and writer Nick Cave has been answering an incredible variety of questions from fans in his newsletter, the Red Hand files. He recently considered the question: ‘Why are you so convinced God is a He?’ Among other things, he said: ‘The Bible is a book I love dearly, and read regularly – an ancient book of astonishing beauty and deep instruction.’ Read his response to the question here, and also to a question about atheism and prayer.

The weight of glory – the photographer Jamie McGregor Smith has spent years visiting churches across Europe that were built in 20th century brutalist style. Several of his pictures (see above) are shared in a photo feature and reveal the often beautiful spaces that have been created out of the material that launched a million multi-storey car parks – concrete. See the photographs here.

Chatbots offer spiritual counselBuddhabot, QuranGPT and Bible.Ai are just a few of the AI tools that are being trained in religious texts and are said to offer online visitors answers to their spiritual questions. ‘The creators of these chatbots think that the bots can theoretically synthesize spiritual insights in a matter of seconds, saving users both time and energy.’ That’s the wildly optimistic view, but read the other views here.

Photograph: Jamie McGregor Smith