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Atheist culture has recently become more mainstream, thanks in part to the success of Richard Dawkins' book, ''The God Delusion''. However, religion does still have a part to play, with Prince Charles urging the United Kingdom to be more tolerant towards faiths other than the Church of England he was raised as part of and even the Prime Minister talking about faith issues. Since 1888, the Gifford Lectures have been given to ''promote and diffuse...the knowledge of God''.
In Spring 2010, the Gifford Lectures were given by Roger Scruton and ''The Face of God'' is the transcript of those lectures. Scruton aims to show that there is still a place for God in modern society. He looks at the atheist view and how it removes God from the world, before looking at how the individual fits in and where the face of God appears in the lives of the individual and the life of the planet.
Although I am much closer to agreeing with Scruton's worldview than I am that of the likes of Dawkins, I did find ''The Face of God'' to be a struggle to read. Scruton is clearly highly educated and his arguments certainly seemed very sound, but I'm not particularly well educated in this area and I found the writing style very fussy and much of the arguments, particularly the philosophical ones early on, went way over my head. When he came to talk about God's place in the world, something I'm a little more familiar with, I found it easier to read, but still a bit of a struggle.
Even allowing for my lack of intelligence affecting how I found the book, the writing style was also a little fussy for my tastes. Even without the knowledge that this was a transcript of a lecture series, this becomes apparent very early on. The word usage feels far more suited to the spoken word than the written on and this proved to be a minor distraction to me. I continually felt as if I should be hearing the book rather than reading it myself.
This made for a very difficult reading experience, although this is the kind of book intended for study rather than as a pleasurable read. But even here, it falls short, as the limits of the arguments, possibly shortened by time constraints for the lecture series, don't really allow for detailed argument. It also seemed slightly lacking in that whilst Scruton argues for God, he seemingly does so without the faith in God that I personally have, which gave the whole book a detachment that didn't sit well with my own position on God. It seems that Scruton's belief in God is based on knowledge more so than faith and whilst the book explored this side of things very well, it didn't go any further than that and didn't coincide well with my personal faith.
The ''Face of God'' is a book really only suited to those who need it as a textbook to argue against an atheist worldview and even then, may not be the best resource available. For those looking to understand faith, it is limited and for someone looking for something to read rather than to study, it's of virtually no use. This isn't to say that the content is not first rate, but much of it didn't fit into my particular sphere of knowledge and given the availability of the original lecture series online in audio form, not something I could recommend. Especially as it's only available at textbook prices, which means you'll be paying £10.18 for a physical copy at the Amazon Marketplace of £11.97 for the Kindle version.
This is a slightly amended version of a review that originally appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk