Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense

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Francis Spufford's Unapologetic is a wonderfully pugnacious defense of Christianity. Refuting critics such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the "new atheist" crowd, Spufford, a former atheist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, argues that Christianity is recognizable, drawing on the deep and deeply ordinary vocabulary of human feeling, satisfying those who believe in it by offering a ruthlessly realistic account of the grown-up dignity of Christian experience.


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Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense

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Francis Spufford's Unapologetic is a wonderfully pugnacious defense of Christianity. Refuting critics such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the "new atheist" crowd, Spufford, a former atheist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, argues that Christianity is recognizable, drawing on the deep and deeply ordinary vocabulary of human feeling, satisfying those who believe in it by offering a ruthlessly realistic account of the grown-up dignity of Christian experience.

Fans of C. S. Lewis, N. T. Wright, Marilynne Robinson, Mary Karr, Diana Butler Bass, Rob Bell, and James Martin will appreciate Spufford's crisp, lively, and abashedly defiant thesis.

Unapologetic is a book for believers who are fed up with being patronized, for non-believers curious about how faith can possibly work in the twenty-first century, and for anyone who feels there is something indefinably wrong, literalistic, anti-imaginative and intolerant about the way the atheist case is now being made.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Unapologetic rhymes with splenetic, and that’s one aspect of British writer Spufford’s (Red Plenty) rhetorical tour de force, in which he not only takes on the new atheists but also the secularism of his own culture (6% of Britons regularly attend church, the author notes early on). Spufford stakes out ground for arguing the value of Christianity that is neither ontological, teleological, or any-ological. God, he asserts, is the ground of being, experienced emotionally, as one might experience Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. Having moved the boundaries of the argument, Spufford has at it, swearing, skewering, and bringing a sense of humor to bear on the question, “Why bother to be Christian?” A gifted writer, the author is closer to the American William James, who grasped the psychological payoff of religious belief, than he is to fellow Englishman and revered Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. The rhetorical pileup is wearing at times, as are so many contemporary arguments about religion. Spufford’s style is as bracing as a cup of real English breakfast tea—strong enough to satisfy believers. (Oct.)
Library Journal
★ 11/15/2013
Spufford (English & comparative literature, Goldsmith's Univ. of London; I May Be Some Time) is one of the most admired writers working today. This memoir, really his second after The Child That Books Built, may come as a surprise to his readers, since it is a profession of his Christian faith. Lest his secular readers fear that his faith requires a sacrifice of the complexity of his mind, Spufford here exhibits his trademark brilliance, humor, and acumen, demolishing the intellectual emptiness of the New Atheism along the way. VERDICT Richly rewarding to mind and heart, and a fine example of one of the era's best writers at full tilt, this book deserves a wide audience.
Kirkus Reviews
A highly personal--and unconventional--defense of belief in Christian doctrine. Well, not defense of doctrine, exactly, but defense (the root meaning of apologia) of Christian emotions and their "grown-up dignity." Besides, writes Spufford (Red Plenty, 2012, etc.), going on to the second meaning of the term, "I'm not sorry," even though as an Englishman writing about religion, "I'm fucking embarrassed." Spufford's language isn't exactly Aquinian or Augustinian, but it gets to the point--to several points, in fact. One, bouncing off the trope of the messages emblazoned on buses in Britain to the effect that since there probably isn't a God, we should all just try to be happy on our own, gets Spufford's dander up sufficiently to mount a crusade fought in naughty words: "New Atheists aren't claiming anything outrageous when they say there probably isn't a God. In fact they aren't claiming anything substantial at all, because really, how the fuck would they know?" Yes, and vice versa: What's the ontological proof? Spufford is short on arguments that would cause Christopher Hitchens to budge an inch from the position of nonbelief, but his cause seems more personal than all that: He's explaining his belief in the context of what he brightly calls "the human tendency, the human propensity to fuck things up"--that is, to lay waste to all the things that matter and then spend the rest of our lives either trying to patch them up or trying to pretend that it doesn't matter. "I don't care about heaven," he professes. "I want, I need, the promise of mending." C.S. Lewis might not approve of the language, but he'd surely approve of the sentiment. A thought-provoking entertainment.
“Spufford’s defense of Christianity is as unique as it is refreshing.…With unrelenting passion and honesty throughout, this book successfully accomplishes what it sets out to achieve—namely, making the case for the intelligibility and dignity of Christian faith.”
Chicago Tribune
“Catnip for atheists, agnostics, believers, disbelievers and people who like to think and wonder.”
Books & Culture
“Spufford is one of the most gifted English writers of his generation…Unapologetic captures the texture of today’s life of faith, faith always ever-so-slightly but also ever-so-constantly eaten away at by uncertainty, by the possibility of a truly disenchanted world, a wholly material life.”
Rowan Williams
“A unique book, cutting its way ruthlessly through thickets of both religious and anti-religious sentimentality; painfully funny at points, always impassioned and never glib.”
Stanley Hauerwas Duke University
“Compelling....Spufford’s argument occassions the much needed reevaluation of how integral emotions are to being human and why common sense ought not be dismissed. This is a compelling argument not only for its content but also because it has been written so beautifully.”
Dwight Garner
“Mr. Spufford is an amused and amusing observer of human beings, and it is a pleasure to be in his company.”
Nick Hornby
“Francis Spufford is one of the cleverest and most thoughtful nonfiction writers in England.…Unapologetic is exactly what those who’ve followed Spufford’s career might have suspected it would be: an incredibly smart, challenging, and beautiful book, humming with ideas and arguments.”
Sunday Times (London)
“A remarkable book, which is passionate, challenging, tumultuously articulate, and armed with anger to a degree unusual in works of Christian piety.”
The Guardian
“The man writes like a dream.”
The Observer
“A subtle, witty, clever writer.”
Evening Standard (London)
“This is a wonderful, effortlessly brilliant book.”
London Times Literary Supplement
“The point...is to show those on the fence that belief need not mean the abandonment of intelligence, wit, emotional honesty. In this, Francis Spufford succeeds to an exceptional degree.”
James Martin
“Fresh, lively, provocative, insightful, articulate, witty, scabrous, honest, shocking, profane, Christian.”
Diana Butler Bass
“Flat-out exhilarating.…Read this book and you will discover a faith that is brash, poignant, sensual, funny—but above all, profoundly, joyfully human.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062300454
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/15/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 175,732
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Francis Spufford, a former Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year (1997), has edited two acclaimed literary anthologies and a collection of essays about the history of technology. His first book, I May Be Some Time, won the Writers' Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of 1996, the Banff Mountain Book Prize, and a Somerset Maugham Award. His second, The Child That Books Built, gave Neil Gaiman "the peculiar feeling that there was now a book I didn't need to write." His third book, Backroom Boys, was called "as nearly perfect as makes no difference" by the Daily Telegraph, and Red Plenty was one of Dwight Garner's New York Times 10 Favorite Books of 2012. Spufford is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and teaches at Goldsmiths College in London.

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