How to Believe
by John Cottingham

Bloomsbury, 2015
HB: 978-1-4729-0744-8
ePDF: 978-1-4729-0746-2
ePub: 978-1-4729-0745-5


Many people feel a powerful interest in religious and spiritual questions but have serious doubts about whether belief in God is rationally defensible in the modern age. In How to Believe , John Cottingham charts a course towards belief by arguing that adopting a religious outlook involves undergoing a process of transformation that enables us to see true meaning and value in our human existence.

'A beautifully written and nuanced defence of religious belief as a transformative practice rather than a set of intellectual doctrines. Written by one of Britain's leading philosophers, this is a careful and sensitive exploration of the deep nature of religious understanding’
Keith Ward
‘A lucid and often moving account of the nature of religious belief, of the habits involved in acquiring it, and of its place in the life of the believer. Written by a highly cultivated philosopher in language that comes from the heart, this book defines a place in the psyche that can still be defended against the scepticism, cynicism and scientism of our times’
Roger Scruton

‘John Cottingham’s How to Believe is a clear and insightful contribution to [the] vital effort to unfold the contours of a rigorous, open-minded and open-hearted rationality – a return to a full-bodied “love of wisdom” – that is scientifically, aesthetically, morally and spiritually rich … The more philosophy one knows the more one will appreciate the subtlety of his argument.’

‘[Aims] to lay out a practical groundwork for atheists to become believers, facilitating a certain conceptual framework that binds perception, ethics, human purpose and the widespread desire to find transcendence … into a coherent picture… [The book goes] some way to way to demonstrating that it is possible to interpret experience through a religious lens.’
Times Literary Supplement


One: Contrasting Visions
1. The onset of Autumn
2. An ambiguous world
3. Belief and comportment
4. Transformation and truth

Two: The World ‘Beyond’
1. The closing of the windows
2. Dimensions of reality
3. Science, scientism and subjectivity
4. Transcendence and presence

Three: Adopting A Worldview
1. Outlooks, pictures, frameworks, lenses
2. The double helix
3. The dimension of praxis
4. Vision and enactment

Four: Religion as a Live Option
1. A secular age
2. Religion and pervasiveness
3. Uniqueness and particularity
4. Funnels of significance

Five: The Disclosure of the Sacred
1. Religion and art
2. Crossing the threshold
3. The sacred secularized?
4. The fires of arrogance

Six: Something of Great Constancy
1. From fancy to reality
2. The costs of belief
3. Embodied engagement
4. What are days for?

This book is a sequel, or companion volume, to John Cottingham’s acclaimed earlier study, Why Believe? (2009).