Book Review: The Godless Gospel

The Godless Gospel: Was Jesus a Great Moral Teacher? by Julian Baggini

Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer for referring this book to me. It is a great read and I would recommend it.

In The Godless Gospel, Julian Baggini challenges our assumptions about Jesus – and the Christian values he promotes – by focusing on his teachings in the Gospels. Stripping away the religious elements, Baggini asks how we should understand Jesus’s attitude to the renunciation of the self, to politics or to sexuality, as expressed in Jesus’s often-elusive words.

An atheist from a Catholic background, Baggini grapples with Jesus’s sometimes contradictory messages, and against his own scepticism, finds that Jesus’s words amount to a purposeful and powerful philosophy, which has much to teach us today.

Julian Baggini is a British philosopher and the author of several books about philosophy written for a general audience. He is the author of The Pig that Wants to be Eaten and 99 other thought experiments (2005) and is co-founder and editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine. He was awarded his Ph.D. in 1996 from University College London for a thesis on the philosophy of personal identity. In addition to his popular philosophy books, Baggini contributes to The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer, and the BBC. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time.

From the very beginning, Baggini identifies some realities:

  • Nearly a third of the global population identifies as Christian
  • In most advanced industrial countries the faith’s buildings are half empty
  • Fewer and fewer people accept the divinity of Jesus
  • Many clergy interpret his resuurection as ‘the son of God’ in metaphorical terms
  • One third of Church of England clergy doubt his physical resurrection
  • Belief in the moral teaching of Jesus seems to be as strong as ever
  • Some non-Christians think society needs the morality of the religion they reject
  • We can extract a secular moral philosophy from the religious teachings of the Gospels.

So Baggini goes on to extract a secular moral philosophy from the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel narratives. With all the obstacles and challenges of such a task his 304 page treatise is  very readible and interesting, practical, relevant and thought provoking from the manger to the crucifixion.

This book lends itself to a study group with its referencing and source links.

Paul Inglis 25th April 2023



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