John Gray

Wishful Thinking

In Defence of the Enlightenment


Atlantic Books 161pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

There is a sect of rationalists who never cease harping on the childishness of religion, and it has to be admitted that there is sometimes something to their complaint. One of the symptoms of a childish mentality – a condition that afflicts adults, not children – is the conviction that things must be either good or bad. Evil can never come from good, it is believed, for the essential nature of good is to be simple and pure. The essence of the Christian religion, for example, is love. In that case, how could Christianity have anything to do with religious warfare or persecution? Such blemishes can only be the result of a perversion of Christian teaching, which in its original purity contained nothing hateful. No doubt much that is odious has been done in its name, but Christianity – the essence or spirit of the religion – is innocent of all evil.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,
    • 'The Testaments is, first and foremost, a manual of resistance ... a type of resistance that is organised, articula… ,