Faith & Reason: The gulf between Radshop and Godshop

The tale of two neighbouring bookshops in Liverpool is a story of contrary cultures that make no sense on their own, and badly need knocking together, writes Chris Hardwick.

Hope Street links the two cathedrals in Liverpool. If you leave these Houses of God behind you and descend towards the Marketplace at the heart of the City you will go along Bold Street. There, within a few paces of each other, stand two bookshops.

Enter the first and purchase your copy of Gay Times, New Internationalist, or perhaps Troops Out magazine. As you rub shoulders at the counter with other customers sporting denim, braids, and the odd studded nostril, you can listen to the music of Joni Mitchell. Then enter the second. Stand at the counter waiting to pay for the Universe or the Tablet and listen to Gregorian Chant while noting the sculpted perms and autumnal knitwear of the customers flanking you.

But in reality you will visit either Radshop or Godshop rather than both. Though a book's throw from each other, they may as well be in separate cities for all the shared customers they will boast.

Yet neither makes sense on its own. The Word is in the world and must speak to the world. And since the world too has its wisdom, its reply must be listened to by the speakers of the Word. Word and world may quarrel but without contraries there is no progression. And without initial dialogue there is neither quarrel nor progression but only a silence which is sterile rather than pregnant.

The problem is that both Godshop and Radshop are too intent upon the business of converting the unbeliever to want to listen. They certainly don't want to listen to each other. But nor will they brook questioning from within. To question is to dissent. And dissent is treachery.

It was Jung who said that "the great sin of faith" is that it denies experience. Experience is a blessed irritant - the blip in the system, the fissure in the finished product. A faith which is blind ignores experience's instructive impediments. It pretends that its belief-system is all-encompassing, that one bookshop stores all the answers. This is the lie which takes us to Jonestown, Waco, and the Aum Shinrikyo. It converts Church to Cult by claiming a monopoly on truth. But truth is mobile and plural. There are more things under heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the most overarching philosophy. To deny this is to deny mystery. Yet philosophical and religious systems frequently tend towards this denial because, as Thomas Love Peacock observed:

All Philosophers who find

Some favourite system to their mind

In every point to make it fit

Will force all nature to submit.

Devotees of either shop will tend to think that, taken as a whole, the pages on their shelves offer a comprehensive User's Guide to Life. But they don't. Each Guide has whole chapters missing. Radshop has sections on "Gay Lives" and "Racism". Godshop has nothing on either. Yet it does have sections on "Death" and "Bereavement". And Radshop has nothing on either. But each shop is barred to the other. So neither can utilise the other's stock to plug the gaps. (I've only ever seen one title shared by both shops. That was a collection of Martin Luther King's speeches.) When it comes to Sexuality all hope of dialogue between Radshoppers and Godshoppers seems to disappear. No- go areas abound. Homosexuality is one, abortion another.

With Evangelium Vitae published, with the ink barely dry on Veritatis Splendor, Godshoppers need only collect their prescriptions on such matters. But in the sphere of sexuality Radshoppers sign up for compartmentalised dogmatics too. They are prone to sloganise and demonise. The blurb on a Radshop text tells me that the writer "exposes the misogyny at the heart of Christianity". But, though recurrent in Christianity, misogyny can be no more at its heart than any other abstraction since at its heart is Jesus.

Yet each camp could find in the other's perspective a useful corrective. Godshop could tell Radshop that its literature tends to de-spiritualise sex and divorce its personal context from any broader social one. And Radshop could tell Godshop that its literature tends to disembody sex and obfuscate honest consideration of its mechanics while laying down diktats and prohibitions.

What is to be done? How to break the sterile silence and quarrel and progress? Buy up the intervening properties between the two shops. Then knock the walls through. Then jumble the two stocks of books together. Let Kate Millett jostle beside Juliana of Norwich, and Hans Kung rub spines with Germaine Greer.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015