David Boulton (ed.) Godless for God’s Sake
(Dales Historical Monographs [Dent] 2006)
A review by Peter Bore.
If you have not read David Boulton, you should – but do not start with this one. I read The Trouble With God and Real Like The Daisies and enjoyed them immensely. However Godless for God’s Sake is not for me. The book is a collection of contributions edited by David. It comprises ten essays and nineteen shorter ’testimonies.’ These are all by Quakers who have agreed, in many cases for want of a better name, to be known as ’non-theists’.
In Chapter I David discusses why he is a non-theist. It is followed by other Quakers recounting broadly similar views and experiences. My feeling was that David’s exposition suffices and the rest are repetitious. Thus I could easily have dismissed this book if I had not recently seen the television program ’Operatunity Oz’. The task confronting the opera experts was not to identify those who could sing opera but to identify those who had the potential to sing opera. I have spent many years in tertiary education where we had a lot of data about student’s performance (examination results and tutor’s evaluations) but little time or resources to use this information to explore a student’s potential or to find out how and why they may be failing to achieve that potential. This was something I always regretted. Thus, after seeing ’Operatunity Oz’ my thoughts turned from “Is this book useful?” to “Who might find this book useful?”
Quakers appear to the outside world as an open, tolerant religion stripped of all unnecessary trimmings and with no obligatory creed, yet many of the non-theist contributors have had some difficulties with the Quaker establishment. It is not surprising that many others who belong to more controlling churches will often be out of step, or feel that they are out of step, with their institution. Many, perhaps most, of those who come to SoF do so with experiences of that kind also, and with some trepidation. The fact that ordinary and unheard-of people (not just the Cupitts and Boultons) have gone before them may give them courage and resolve to continue thinking for themselves. That the writers in Godless for God’s Sake belonged to one of the more open and tolerant churches, yet still had difficulties, and that most eventually remained within a church which accepted them, may be additionally helpful.
CS Lewis is said to have expressed the view that we read to know that we are not alone. If the above describes your brand of loneliness then this is the book for you.
I read this book several months ago whilst I was in the UK and jotted down some notes about it. Having written this review I noticed some writing on the back of my notepaper from earlier this year. These latter notes were a brief explanation of why I am a non-theist and I then remembered that what this book did do was stimulate me to clarify my own reasons for this. The irony that I found others telling their stories repetitious, but then could not resist the temptation to write down my own story, does not escape me.