The Air We Breathe

How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality

from 14 reviews

Discover the Christian roots of the values we prize in western society.

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Is Christianity history? Or is Christian history the deepest explanation of the modern world?

Today in the west, many consider the church to be dead or dying. Christianity is seen as outdated, bigoted and responsible for many of society’s problems. This leaves many believers embarrassed about their faith and many outsiders wary of religion. But what if the Christian message is not the enemy of our modern Western values, but the very thing that makes sense of them?

In this fascinating book, Glen Scrivener takes readers on a journey to discover how the teachings of Jesus not only turned the ancient world upside down, but continue to underpin the way we think of life, worth, and meaning. Far from being a relic from the past, the distinctive ideas of Christianity, such as freedom, kindness, progress and equality, are a crucial part of the air that we breathe. As author Glen Scrivener says in his introduction: “The extraordinary impact of Christianity is seen in the fact that we don’t notice it".

This is a book for both believers and sceptics—giving Christians confidence to be open about their faith and showing non-Christians the ways in which the message of Jesus makes sense of their most cherished beliefs. Whoever you are, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the values you hold dear as you discover the power and profundity of Jesus and his revolution.

TGC and Christianity Today 2022 Book Award Winner in Evangelism & Apologetics.

Glen Scrivener is an ordained minister and the Director of Speak Life, an organisation that exists to share the love of Jesus through creative communication. He has also authored several books, including The Gift, 321, The Story of God, the World and You and Long Story Short: The Bible in 12 Phrases

Product details


  • Introduction
    1. Things were different back then
    2. Equality
    3. Compassion
    4. Consent
    5. Enlightenment
    6. Science
    7. Freedom
    8. Progress
    9. The Victory of the Victim
    10. Choose Your Miracle
    Final words

Free extras


Contributors Glen Scrivener
ISBN 9781784987497
Format Paperback
First published June 2022
Dimensions 135mm x 216mm x 16mm
Weight 0.30 kg
Language English
Pages 240
Publisher The Good Book Company

Sam Chan

City Bible Forum, Australia

We long for justice, freedom, and equality. We believe that each and every human being—no matter how rich or poor, powerful or weak—deserves fairness, dignity and respect. But where does this vision come from? Why are we so zealous for it? What if our values aren’t as self-evident as we think they are? This is why Glen Scrivener’s The Air We Breathe is a must-read for anyone who benefits from being WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic). This book will give us the basis for our shared vision. It will give us the story behind our values. By reading this book, we will humbly acknowledge the Composer from whose songsheet we’re singing.

John Dickson

Professor of Biblical Studies and Public Christianity, Wheaton College; author, Is Jesus History? and Bullies and Saints

Glen Scrivener has done us a great favour. He has taken lengthy, scholarly (and sometimes boring) history tomes and transposed their ideas into something exciting, crystal clear, and almost impossible to put down. His central thesis is that our contemporary “secular” beliefs about equality, compassion, sexual consent and even progress all ultimately derive from the Christian faith. This thesis is not so controversial in learned circles, but with a few more books like it may soon become common knowledge. I hope this book is very widely read.

Rebecca McLaughlin

Author, Confronting Christianity

The Air We Breathe is a pithy, energetic and compelling exploration of how Christianity has formed our moral thinking—whether we realize it or not—and why the truth or falsehood of Christianity matters for all of us today. Whatever your current beliefs, I highly recommend you give Glen Scrivener a hearing!

Customer reviews

5 Jan 2024

“A must read for serious evangelism”

Glen Scrivener's The Air We Breathe provides believers and non-believers alike with a timely reminder that in an increasingly hostile and uninformed environment our faith is strongly evidence-based.

Rather than attacking the self-refuting contradictions of postmodernism, the premise is simple and positive: as fish are forgetful of water, our western world is forgetful, even ignorant, of its Judeo-Christian heritage. He builds a sure, cumulative case for the Christian origins for the values which underpin a now unconscious foundation not simply of the historical West, but even of the excesses of identity politics, itself

This book is readable, accessible, even entertaining, despite its critically important and weighty thesis. It's evident from the outset, in its careful construction, that the author knows exactly where he's taking the reader, the route he's taking and exactly what the reader will find.

By the eighth chapter, the vast cultural impact of the Christian gospel on Western values is drawn inexorably together into a truly powerful statement - not simply a cultural statement, but a truly coherent faith statement.

This is certainly good apologetics. In a disarming and generous way it destroys the public stereotypes, caricatures and ignorance which has always muddied the waters of sincere discussion.

This can never be a work wherein (in absurdist postmodern terms), the reader determines its meaning. Rather, it points us in a winsome, appealing and sure-footed way to 'the Author and Perfecter of our faith.'

4 Jan 2024

“Best read of 2023”

For me, this was my favourite book of 2023. It proves that western society has been indelibly influenced by Christianity and how values such as equality, compassion, consent, enlightenment, science, and freedom stem from 2000 years of Christian influence and how, ironically, a post-Christian western society resists faith on the basis of such values. It’s both an encouragement to the believer and a soundly formed provocation to the sceptic.

13 Nov 2023

“Must read”

(Review written for 'The Air We Breathe (audiobook)')

Glen Scrivener has a fresh and inspiring way of using words. The Air We Breathe is a book that begins by informing the reader of the many different cultural standards and expectations of ancient civilisations and cultures. The first chapter covers the very earliest records and historians up until the appearance of Jesus and is necessary to understand the rest of the book. Seven chapters follow, each focusing on a particular value of today’s western culture, i.e. equality, compassion, consent, enlightenment, science, freedom and progress. In each chapter, today’s value is compared and explained against the standard experienced in those ancient societies. Again, this is done with fresh and engaging wording.

For me, this book both educated and liberated me by connecting so many dots. Our since-Jesus expectations of behaviour and standards compared against pre-Jesus times became mind blowingly obvious once it was brought to life through this book. The basis of western society’s values and expectations are based on the radical ideas presented and was condemned. However, his followers continued on with these radically different ideas and today they form the foundation of the ideas on which we expect all humanity to live. I’m so very grateful to have read this book.

20 Jul 2023

“How to change 'animal human' to empathic human”

(Review written for 'The Air We Breathe (audiobook)')

It is hard to disagree with many of the comments already made about this book by Glen Scrivener. I was fascinated by his approach, in particular how human beings were at the time, and for some centuries after Christ, and how they are now. He is of course quite right to say the belief that humans should show compassion empathy and love to their fellow kind is not natural and was brought about by Jesus. I suspect that most people who feel that this is natural, humanitarians for instance, have completely missed how much Christianity has changed the Western world in particular. We can still see typical human behaviour in Russia, China, North Korea and a number of other states in the world. This book is a must read for all who really want to know what Christianity is about. In summary Glenn has pointed out that Christ brought about the change of animal human to truly human.

31 Mar 2023

“Fantastic book”

Absolutely fascinating, eye opening book not only explaining how Jesus has shaped western culture but also putting forward the argument that his death and resurrection are something we should all put our faith in. Great book for believers and non believers alike.

14 Dec 2022

“Offensive Apologetics!”

Though it shouldn’t be judged by its cover, it is well worth getting the physical copy for the cover is a great work of design making it immediately appealing. Thankfully the contents of the book live up to the high expectations that the cover sets.

If the best form of defence is a good offense, that’s where this book steps in. The many defensive apologetic books are so helpful, but this one puts what we believe on the front foot. Glen Scrivener shows how the values western society champions today, such as equality, compassion, freedom and progress, all arise out of the Christian faith. He does so by merging biblical teaching with historical recounting and myth busting.

Glen writes with three audiences in mind: those who have no faith, those who are giving up on the Christian faith and the already convinced believer. He writes in his usual creative yet compelling way that draws the reader in. Read it to be encouraged and buy a copy to give to an unbelieving friend.

16 Aug 2022

“An excellent, helpful and faith-affirming book.”

(Review written for 'The Air We Breathe (audiobook)')

This is an excellent book which thoroughly debunks the myth that Christianity has not had a profound and transformative influence for good on how we see the world. It certainly has and continues to do so in so many of the attitudes and assumtions that we take for granted today. This is a very readable, accessible, helpful and faith-affirming book and I loved it.

6 Jul 2022

“A great book to give to an unbeliever!”

In the pages of this excellent book, Glen Scrivener opens up two thousand years of history: from the current day pandemic and social justice wars through to the very beginning in the Book of Genesis, there is a strong biblical narrative that weaves its way like a watermark throughout all of human history. From the world of ancient Greek mythology, to the brutality of the Roman empire, the Medieval period and the Reformation of the Church in the Sixteenth Century, through to the great evil of Nazi Germany and the civil rights movement of the 1960s and into modern times, there is the inescapable fact that humanity has a deeper value and this points to the God who created us and sent His Son to die for us.

The author also helpfully takes us on a brief tour of the Enlightenment period, science, philosophy and atheism through to the political issues of the modern day and explores all the different attempts to suppress Christian faith throughout the centuries. But the Christian Gospel cannot be eliminated, because all of the values and morals that society needs to hold onto point to something deeper:

“The Kingdom without the King is not a place of liberation so much as a place of judgement. But in this democratic republic, we are all the judges, and we are all the judged. We desperately need a person above and beyond the values - a person who does not simply expect our best but who forgives our worst.” (p201)

In closing, not only was this such an enjoyable and educational read, but I often find it a challenge to find a suitable modern book to give to an unbeliever - but I would not hesitate to present “The Air We Breathe” to someone who is wanting to explore the Christian faith.

Disclaimer: The Good Book Company provided me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

6 Jul 2022

“A fascinating and thought-provoking read”

Having previously not heard of Glen Scrivener, I was really intrigued by the title and description of this book, especially without not having come across a book on the topics he has written about, whilst diving into history to enable the reader to take a closer look at the values they hold dear to them in the modern Western World, whether they are a Christian, new to faith, or don’t have any beliefs at all, but are interested in making sense of life.

It’s one that I feel needs to be read in order to fully understand what the author has written, and each individual needs to experience those thought-provoking moments it offers. This book has indeed helped me to think more closely about the values I hold close to me, and to learn more about the history of the influence that Christianity has had on the world in the past, and in the present day.

26 Jun 2022

“Excellent Summary of The Impact of Christianity on our Culture”

Something I should clarify - Glen Scrivener is one of my favourite speakers and also an author I love to read! His book 3,2,1 was brilliant and this is also excellent. He explores the idea that we often assume that our current culture is "neutral", fighting over whether it is the Christian worldview or non-Christian worldview that will have more influence. The reality according to Scrivener is that our history has been radically shaped by the gospel, by the hope and the morality that comes from a faith in Jesus. Not only do we get a tour of history, however, as Scrivener also shows us that our world continues to use the Christian worldview to make sense of much of life and this actually helps us to understand the values we trust in. It's a book that not only encourages a Christian but might also be a challenging read for someone exploring faith who might be interested to see how much of their thinking has been shaped by the Christian faith and to question whether putting their faith in Jesus might not be illogical after all. It might actually help them to understand the world better than ever before!

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