Honest Doubt - The History Of An Epic Struggle - Omnibus

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01In The Beginning20120601

Richard Holloway, the writer and the former Bishop of Edinburgh, begins a series of 20 personal essays in which he explores the relationship between faith and doubt over the last 3000 years. He takes the listener from the birth of religious thinking, through the Old and New Testaments, to the developments in subsequent centuries and their influence on thinkers and writers, up to the present-day.

As the former head of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Richard Holloway's main focus is on the history of doubt in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But as he says, he is 'first and foremost a human being' and so he also addresses some of the universal questions about our existence and the meaning of life, considering how some of humanity's best thinkers and most creative writers have approached these 'literally life and death questions'.

In today's programme he takes the painting by Paul Gauguin which poses the questions 'Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?' as his starting point, and quotes the writer George Steiner, and poets Robert Browning, Walter de la Mare, as well as Tennyson, from whose poem "In Memoriam" comes "Honest Doubt", the title of the series.

Holloway describes the tension between faith and doubt as two sides of the same coin or, as he says, 'Another way into the tension is to think of a piece of music. If faith is the melody, doubt is the descant. Each adds texture and depth to the other and, if we're lucky, a sense of harmony.'

Producer: Olivia Landsberg

A Ladbroke Production for BBC Radio 4.

022012060820120608 (R4)

In a series of personal essays, Richard Holloway considers the tensions between faith and doubt over the last 3000 years. Author and former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway focuses on the Judeo-Christian tradition as he takes the listener from the birth of religious thinking, through the Old and New Testaments, to the developments in subsequent centuries and their influence on thinkers and writers, up to the present day.

In today's omnibus edition, Richard Holloway shows how doubt challenged prevailing religious thought, particularly in the person of the 16th century German monk and priest Martin Luther. Luther's radical ideas launched the Reformation and, as Holloway argues "lit the fuse that blew Christendom apart". As a result, the late 16th and early 17th century saw a proliferation of sects and non conformists in Europe, many of whom were seeking a more personal and less mediated relationship with God. Holloway looks at the internal struggles of two such believers - English poet John Donne and writer John Bunyan.

Meanwhile, early Enlightenment thinkers were grappling with the philosophical nature of God as Holloway's journey takes him to 17th century France in the figures of Descartes and Pascal. Holloway discusses the ideas of Spinoza whose radical idea that God and Nature were essentially the same thing threatened the religious establishment. He was excommunicated at just 23 years old, though his view of free will would go on to influence a wide variety of thinkers including the 20th century pioneer of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.

Producer: Olivia Landsberg

A Ladbroke Production for BBC Radio 4.

032012061520120615 (R4)

In a series of personal essays, Richard Holloway considers the tensions between faith and doubt over the last 3000 years. Author and former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway focuses on the Judeo-Christian tradition as he takes the listener from the birth of religious thinking, through the Old and New Testaments, to the developments in subsequent centuries and their influence on thinkers and writers, up to the present-day.

In this omnibus edition, Richard Holloway moves into the 19th century, as he looks at the work of some of the Romantic poets like John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose beliefs were a reaction to the cold rationalism of Enlightenment thinkers. He discusses the struggles of some of the 'believer' poets like Robert Browning and Arthur Hugh Clough, with contributions from Clough's biographer Sir Anthony Kenny.

As well as 'the poetics' of doubt, Richard looks at 'the forensics' as he explores the impact of Charles Darwin's discoveries on the creation story, and the emerging tradition of 'biblical criticism'. These factors contributed to the Victorian crisis of faith, and poets like Matthew Arnold and Thomas Hardy expressed the sense of mourning and nostalgia of the time.

Meanwhile, European thinkers were considering the possibility that 'maybe there wasn't anything on the other side of the window-pane - no God, just a gradually fading projection of our own longing'. He looks at the characters of Friedrich Nietzsche and Fyodor Dostoevsky along with some of the nineteenth century philosophers.

With contributions from philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, Chris Janaway from Southampton University, author AN Wilson and former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion.

Producer: Olivia Landsberg

A Ladbroke production for BBC Radio 4.

04 LAST20120622

Author and former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway concludes his series in which he considers the tensions between faith and doubt over the last 3000 years. In the final omnibus edition, he focuses on writers and thinkers of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

He talks to Sir Anthony Kenny, literary executor and biographer of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, about Wittgenstein's view that 'even when all possible scientific questions are answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all'. In response, Kenny offers a rare poem by Wittgenstein, and Holloway charts the debate to the present day citing the ideas of Richard Dawkins and Roger Scruton.

He explores the work of three inter-war writers - James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene and their contrasting views on the role of doubt and disloyalty before moving on to the literature of the Holocaust which aims to 'say the unsayable' and throw light on one of the biggest questions in the story of doubt: how can we reconcile the idea of God when there's so much suffering in the world?

Holloway tackles the paradox that God can be experienced as both a presence and an absence, discussing the work of three post-war poets - Philip Larkin, John Betjeman and RS Thomas - with the help of Larkin's friend and literary executor, Sir Andrew Motion, Betjeman's biographer AN Wilson and an archive recording of R S Thomas himself. Holloway concludes that we 'can reach neither negative nor positive conclusions about the mystery that besets us.'

With further contributions from theologian and author Professor Don Cupitt, author and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and Revd. Professor David Jasper from Glasgow University.

Producer: Olivia Landsberg

A Ladbroke Production for BBC Radio 4.