Defender of unfaith

<strong>What I Believe</strong>

Anthony Kenny <em>Continuum, 192pp, £14.99</em>

ISBN 0826489710

"All proofs or disproofs that we tender/Of His existence are returned/Unopened to the sender." So runs the W H Auden epigraph to this priest-turned-professor's book - an apt choice for the agnostic philosophising of excommunicated Anthony Kenny.

This is no prodigal's murmur of recantation. "I am a mortal, rational animal," says Kenny, whose own spiritual story is presented in small, themed chapters that prove complete and satisfying. It is an aperitif to the Oxbridge heavyweight's greater body of work.

The arguments are easily digestible, crafted with simplicity and economy to accommodate us lay philosophers. It is easy to suspect the don of sitting on the fence - he perches between the puritan and libertine, atheist and theist. More controversially, Kenny argues that chastity is "the maintenance of the link, not between sex and procreation, but between sex and love", arguing that gay sex can morally trump married sex.

Kenny's exile from his former faith sharpens his concluding musings. He reveals he is troubled by the prospect of eternity, choosing annihilation over both damnation and "appalling", "painless perpetuity", leaving the suggestion of a happy eternity strangely unaccounted for.