AC Grayling with his dog Misty. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi
In the unholy trinity of professional atheists, AC Grayling has always tended to be regarded as the good cop. Less coldly clinical in tone than Richard Dawkins, less aggressively combative than Christopher Hitchens, Grayling approaches the God debate with a gently teasing charm that could almost – but should never – be mistaken for conciliation. “Yes, I’m the velvet version,” he chuckles.
So he insists that his new book does not belong in the same canon as Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Hitchens’s God Is Not Great. “No, because it’s not against religion. There’s not one occurrence of the word God, or afterlife, or anything like that. It doesn’t attack religion, it’s a positive book, there’s nothing negative in it. People may think it’s against religion – but it isn’t.” But then he says, with a mischievous twinkle: “Of course, what would really help the book a lot in America is if somebody tries to shoot me.”