Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4

In “Honest Doubt: The History Of An Epic Struggle”, Richard Holloway considers some of the universal questions about our existence and the meaning of life, and how some of humanity’s best thinkers and most creative writers have approached these ‘literally life and death questions’. In exploring the relationship between faith and doubt over the last 3000 years, he looks at its impact from the birth of religious thinking, through the Old and New Testaments, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Victorian period, the horrors of World War II, right up to today.

“Richard Holloway and his collaborators impress me greatly not only with their humility towards the mystery of existence but also with their sincere respect towards a reader/listener. They communicate thoughts in a clear yet poetic language, without a shade of patronising or hubris. In their hands, doubt is not only honest, it is also superbly modest.” – Amazon Review

First broadcast as a series of twenty 15-minute episodes between 28 May and 22 June 2012, rebroadcast as four 1-hour omnibus editions on Friday evenings throughout June 2012. The series was written and presented by writer and former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway, and produced by Olivia Landsberg at Ladbroke Productions.

“This is wonderful stuff – Richard Dawkins without the frantic bombast and with a great deal more hinterland, embracing many points of view other than the purely scientific.” – Amazon Review


N.B. Some music & extracts have been edited from the original broadcast version due to copyright restrictions

The transcript of the series are also available, via Amazon – CLICK HERE




1/ Prologue

Richard Holloway explores the tensions between doubt and faith over the last 3,000 years.

2/ In The Beginning

Richard asks when the religious mind was born and looks at one of the earliest doubters.

3/ Casting out Idols

Richard looks at idolatry. He reflects on the story of the Golden Calf from Exodus.

4/ Revelation and Its Limits

Richard asks how it can be decided that it is really God at the other end of a revelation.

5/ Mysteries Not Problems

Richard looks at the meaning of the word mystery and the work of three medieval mystics.

6/ Breaking Up

Richard explores the role of doubt as a means of challenging prevailing religious thought.

7/ The Agony and the Ecstasy

Richard focuses on three writers who wrote about their personal spiritual struggles.

8/ Vacating Heaven

How new scientific understanding influenced thinking on the relationship of mankind to God

9/ Paying the Price

Richard Holloway discusses how religion dealt with those who paraded their doubts.

10/ Caught In The Middle

Richard Holloway discusses what is meant by free will.

11/ Embracing Uncertainty

Richard Holloway discusses the work of the poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

12/ Believer’s Doubt

Richard Holloway looks at how four Victorian believers struggled with doubt.

13/ A Post-Mortem

Richard Holloway focuses on ‘the forensics of doubt’.

14/ God’s Funeral

Richard Holloway focuses on writer Thomas Hardy and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

15/ Godless Morality

Richard Holloway discusses the possibility of morality in a godless world.

16/ On The Edge

In exploring the riddle of existence, Richard draws on the work of poet Emily Dickinson.

17/ Saving Doubt

Richard Holloway explores the theme of doubt and disloyalty.

18/ Darkness Made Visible

How can the idea of God can be reconciled, when there is so much suffering in the world?

19/ On Presence and Absence

Exploring the paradox that God can be experienced as present and absent at the same time.

20/ Tears In The Rain

In the concluding episode, Richard Holloway sums up the journey he has undertaken.


Richard Holloway


Olivia Landsberg/Neil Gardner


Olivia Landsberg




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