At a time when religious conservatives claim a mandate and the best-selling Left Behind novels gleefully contemplate the destruction of all but a small remnant of humanity, the works of the Cambridge Platonists speak with particular resonance. These 17th-century rational theologians also lived in a remarkably fractious age.
Robert Shaw’s father was a second-generation evangelical minister with the Disciples of Christ, and Shaw said that his mother “was the best singer of gospel songs and spirituals I ever heard.” Although he intended to become a minister and served for a time in his father’s pulpit, Shaw (1916-1999) spent most of his life behind a conductor’s podium as the mo
Toward the end of Zadie Smith’s shrewd and entertaining novel, Kiki Simmonds gets into an argument with her husband, Howard Belsey: “All you ever do is rip into everybody else,” she tells him. “You don’t have any beliefs—that’s why you’re scared of people with beliefs.”