By Peter Stanford
A thought-provoking and entertaining twenty-first century look at what was once referred to as 'angelology', which searches out the origins of angels in religious thought, history, psychology and wider culture, and asks why, in an age of disbelief, they remain more compelling and comforting for many than God.
'In a 2016 poll, one in 10 Britons claimed to have experienced the presence of an angel, while one in three remain convinced that they have a guardian angel. These are huge numbers and mean that, on some counts, angels are doing better than God.'
In the secular, sceptical, scientific post-Christian world of the West, these statistics reveal that many of us still believe in angels. The same survey even reports that one in six atheists may rule out God but accept angels. But what are angels, and what is their basis, their history and their continuing role in the great faiths, and beyond their walls? Are they a symbol of God's concern, nothing more than a metaphor, part of the poetry of religion, created to illuminate a deeper truth about human existence and the universe? Or are they something more challenging - real, if not quite flesh and blood?
In Angels, his latest investigation into the history, theology and cultural significance of religious ideas, author, broadcaster and biographer Peter Stanford texplores these questions in an often very personal journey into the history and current cult of these familiar heavenly creatures. 'I grew up with guardian angels,' he begins. 'Mostly they inhabited the sleep-inducing cadences of my night-time prayers, repeated from under a candlewick bedspread in my Catholic home near Liverpool, while gazing up at the "holy picture" of Jesus on the wall with his copiously bleeding heart. "Angel of God, My guardian dear, To whom his love commits me here, Ever this day be at my side, To light and guard, To rule and guide. Amen". Today, if I was approached today by a pollster and asked if I believed in guardian angels, what would I say? Probably something mealy-mouthed such as, "what do you mean by believe?" Because this is inexact territory and an invisible world.'
Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include: What we Talk about when we Talk about Faith; Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident; Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle; The Devil - A Biography; Heaven - A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country; and The She-Pope, an investigation of the Pope Joan legend. His other books include biographies of Bronwen Astor, Lord Longford and the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis, plus the polemical Catholics and Sex that became an award-winning Channel 4 series in 1992. He is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, where he is a columnist. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.
- Other details
- Publication date:
07 Mar 2019
- Page count:
Hodder & Stoughton