Review: God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke

God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke book cover
God Collar (2011) is the accompanying book to Marcus Brigstocke’s comedy tour of the same name, in which he grapples with the meaning and relevance of religion in an increasingly science-driven world, on both a personal and societal level. As one would expect the book is lighter in tone than some popular atheist literature, but contains some intelligent and sensitive ideas expressed in an easy-to-follow way, whilst allowing Brigstocke to explore amusing tangents and metaphors.

Although Marcus professes to be an atheist he attempts to consider the arguments he sets out from a variety of angles. In defining the scope of God Collar he limits its main critique to the three Abrahamic religions, maintaining that he will consider them as a whole, rather than attacking the ‘easy targets’ of the old testament period. Sadly, in this he fails, focusing mainly on the Christian church and citing Old Testament law and teachings for the most part. Equally, the religious view is nearly always considered from a fundamentalist viewpoint and not that of an average member, or modern thinker. It might be less amusing to address a more rational religious response to the question of God, but doing so would have given God Collar an added impact. That said there are plenty of good observations about the structure of religious organisations and the misuse of religious texts.

Despite a good deal of meandering waffle Marcus’s writing is affable, honest, and lacking in the sneering condescension that blights some atheist works. Indeed, Marcus describes his very personal feelings about God in a way that many people will relate to, and with humour, warmth, and some pointed perceptions. Although the structure is weak and much of the discourse peripheral, fans of Brigstocke’s brand of comedy will find plenty to enjoy.

However, as much as one might enjoy Brigstocke’s rambling exploration of a difficult subject, there is a very real problem that reveals itself as the book progresses; research, or the apparent lack of it. The limited scope of the observations and lack of evidence to support key points is disappointing but the real issue is the errors. A small amount of research suggests that some of the points Marcus presents as facts are in fact urban myths or misconceptions, worse still are the inaccurate relayings of biblical stories (not in interpretation, but in narrative detail). Marcus has already acknowledged and apologised for one such error, but for those who are inexpert in the subject the awareness of such mistakes undermine the polemic as a whole. As a light and entertaining read about the personal doubts of a middle class liberal man God Collar is fun, amusing, and full of waffly goodness, as anything else it is seriously inadequate.

Although I enjoyed God Collar and laughed a lot, I found Marcus’s failure to fully engage with reasoned religious argument a little disappointing and the errors in the text completely undermined it as a whole for me.

Useful Links
Reviews of God Collar on Amazon (UK)

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bibliofreak said...

As a note on this review, I feel it is important for some people to know the background and viewpoint of the reviewer when they discuss material like this.

I come from a loosely Christian background, and have honestly given religion a good try. However, I, like Marcus, find the evidence against more compelling than the evidence for at this particular time in my life. But I'd never rule out any particular path. I believe everyone has the right to believe what they like, and I actively defend that right even if I don't agree with their point of view.

So there you are, I'm an open-minded, undecided, evidence-driven, soppy, would-be relgious, slightly confused, and totally unbiased reviewer.

Anonymous said...

Nice note. I rode home from the Fringe Festival two years ago with Marcus talking over my shoulder for most of the journey.

I must confess after listening to him for three (plus) hours I am more than surprised he tackled the subject at all.

Another well thought through opinion on another book from you however.

Keep it up...

bibliofreak said...

Fantastic, did you see his show at the Fringe? He's always struck me a very likeable, and witty fellow. I've enjoyed a lot of his comedy programmes, particularly the radio ones, but it is a terribly big subject for a comedian to tackle. Good on him for attempting it though, thoughtful discussion on at all levels can only be appreciated and supported.

Lola X said...

Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

Lola x

bibliofreak said...

Thanks so much Lola, glad you enjoy the reviews. Look forward to seeing you about the literasphere. :)

Anonymous said...

He's still touring and talking...

Matthew (The Bibliofreak) said...

Bloody hell - he's unstoppable! Good spot.

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