From the Revd Professor David Martin
Sir, - Responding to a friendly review by Canon Michael
Bourdeaux of my Religion and Power (Books, 2 January) seems
ungrateful, but my book is very specifically not sociology for
sociologists, who won't read it anyway. It integrates sociology and
theology, treated as related subjects within the humanities, and it
sets religion and politics in a unified conceptual frame, rejecting
the notion that religion is irrational while politics is rational,
in order to establish a mythic structure undergirding both.
It does not criticise the New Atheists because they "debunk"
religion, but because their identification of religion with
violence resolutely refuses to understand a very complex issue from
a social-scientific viewpoint. I sometimes suspect that theologians
are complicit in this refusal because it requires a major revision
of theological practice and assumptions.
As for Canon Bourdeaux's complaint that the displacement of
large amateur choirs by small professional ones occurred a decade
later than the 1960s, and his citation of the Philharmonia Choir as
counter-evidence, that whole shift goes back to the 1890s, gaining
its initial momentum in the mid-20th century. The astonishing
change in Handel's reception reflects the change. In any case, the
Philharmonia Choir is a large body bolstered by professionals and
students. The Monteverdi Choir dates from 1964. The Schütz Choir
dates from 1962: that is the decade when I first heard it.
Cripplegate Cottage, 174 St John's Road, Woking, Surrey