The Air We Breathe by Glen Scrivener.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, there were only three of us who met via Zoom to discuss this book. However we also had the thoughts of Trevor Jones and David Neville (see below), which they had sent in earlier. These showed two different responses to the book and Peter Green, Ken Harris and I were somewhere between the 2 views. David found it an impressive book – an eye-opener, very well written and accessible, well-researched. There were one or two chapters he was unsure about, finding the Church-Science conflict portrayed as a clear divide, while he saw a more muddled picture. Trevor thought it was well written but was frustrated by what he saw as the assertions and assumptions made in it and so thought it was heavily flawed.
Ken agreed with the book's thesis about the unseen roots of our current values, but thought he gave no credit to the input from Judaism e.g. Moses and the prophets. None of this was explored nor, for example, was the life and teaching of a Hindu like Gandhi. Nevertheless, Ken agreed that we owed a tremendous amount to Christianity.
I felt it was not a history book but a book of theology that dealt with historical aspects. At times it became apologetics or even polemical in its support of Christianity. As Peter said, it was "too big a sales job". However, we all agreed it was one of the most thought-provoking books we had read as a group and we liked his style and humour.
Trevor Jones wrote:
I found this book to be well written but incredibly frustrating. In almost all of the chapters I could see and understand the arguments but found myself almost shouting at the assertions and assumptions made.
In chapter 1 there was ONLY room for Christianity as if nothing came before and no other religion since has influenced our world, our morals or our thinking.Chapter 5 – Enlightenment asserts that we got everything right with industrialisation but we all know that even today our moral values are changing, developing and hopefully improving but whilst we continue to have war and conflict around the world we still have people denied their equal place in the world. See how the civil rights protest in Qatar are being suppressed by the Developed Countries.
I am not sure that I could recommend this book as I feel it is so heavily flawed and is so biased to the view that Christianity is and has been our only influencer and that it has got it right in so many ways.I do believe that the way of Christ is a path we should all attempt to follow but all religions have made massive mistakes from which we should all continue to learn and change how we behave so that everyone is held in respect and given the support they need to have a happy and healthy life
David Neville wrote:
What a fascinating book. Not at all what I was expecting. It is really a history book, but a history, mainly of the Western World told from a very Christian viewpoint!
It was fascinating to read how all our most universal moral standards today were ridiculed by other civilisations as being completely anti our status as humans, but have now become very widely accepted in the world.
The chapter on 'Consent' was to me surprisingly about the sexual attitudes of humans over the centuries and culminating with the very dramatic changes over the last decades. I was particularly taken with the chapter on 'Enlightenment' where he describes how the medieval period (or dark ages) was actually very productive and forward in its progress, all under the influence and encouragement of the Christian church. So the claim in later centuries that science and religion were fundamentally at war completely ignores the evidence.
He doesn't underestimate the bumps in the Christian Road when it definitely forgot the fundamental teachings of Jesus, but I was struck by his idea that we know what is wrong because we have seen what is right (in Jesus). Or as he puts it 'we know what is a crooked line, because we have seen the straight line'.
I agreed strongly with his assertion that in today's secular environment we, as a society, have taken the Christian values of his chapter titles and approved of them, but have taken the person of Christ out of the story and so have made rules where all are intent on judging others for failures, but there is no sense of forgiveness or salvation. Very like the Jewish religion in Jesus' time! It was interesting that the fundamental values are for 'humanity' rather than from God.
He acknowledges that the tide of Christianity as an acknowledged foundation for all our history has ebbed but feels that the tide will turn – we pray this is true.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to those who have not read it.