WITH OR WITHOUT GOD by Gretta Vosper


Why the Way We Live Is More Important than What We Believe
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A mildly phrased though decidedly controversial manifesto from Toronto-based pastor Vosper, calling for new practices “to keep the church alive.”

This is probably not the book to give your born-again cousin, unless that cousin is politically liberal and friendly to Canadian ideas of comity. Vosper observes that the organized church is becoming less meaningful, especially to the young, as many people are more inclined to own up to having feelings of spirituality while distancing themselves from conventional religion, which is, to them, a haven of intolerance and ignorance. Vosper courts fundamentalist ire by examining what it is that makes people seek spiritual solutions, including religion, to life’s problems—security in the face of fear and soul-gnawing anxiety being high on the list—and hinting that God is a construct of an earlier, more primitive mind: “When God was still big within the Christian world, it was the church—not any single church, but the worldwide Christian Church—that became its agent.” The author strongly advocates an inclusivity that goes beyond mere gender neutrality, writing provocatively that it “seems almost impossible to be inclusive until we get beneath the naming of whatever it is we are talking about to exactly what it is we are talking about.” Though the church that Vosper envisions may seem to be a little thin on, say, God, and though her approach can seem a little oversimplified at times, her intentions seem well-placed. Without a strongly liberal church, she writes, religion risks being abandoned to fundamentalism, further alienating the middle. For all that, her argument can sometimes seem a little Norman Peale–ish, with its talk of “up-to-date management theories,” “packaging that attracts different user and age group[s]” and “contemporary market devices.”

A best-seller in Canada, where it was published in 2008, and doubtless destined to produce both heat and light on this more orthodox side of the border.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-229485-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins 360
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2014


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