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Episode 19 of 20
In a series of personal essays, Richard Holloway considers the tensions between faith and doubt over the last 3000 years. Author and former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway focuses on the Judeo-Christian tradition as he takes the listener from the birth of religious thinking, through the Old and New Testaments, to the developments in subsequent centuries and their influence on thinkers and writers, up to the present day.
In today's programme, Richard Holloway focuses on an enduring paradox in the story of doubt: that God can be experienced both as present and absent at the same time. He explores the idea with the help of three post-war poets - Philip Larkin, John Betjeman and RS Thomas.
He talks to Larkin's friend and literary executor, Sir Andrew Motion, about Larkin's complex attitude to religion and reads from Larkin's seminal poem 'Aubade'. Larkin himself introduces his poem, 'Churchgoing', which expresses the nostalgia of what we lose when we lose our faith.
John Betjeman's religious struggle is discussed with Betjeman's biographer AN Wilson. And for the Welsh priest poet RS Thomas, the theme of God's absence and presence is compared to finding a dead hare on the hillside - 'we find the place still warm with his presence, but he is absent'.
Producer: Olivia Landsberg
A Ladbroke Production for BBC Radio 4.
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