Why Faithful Christians Do Not Believe

Why Faithful Christians Do Not Believe

Robert M Ellis outlining why absolute belief is a problem .

Robert M Ellis has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Cambridge BA in Oriental Studies and Theology writes in PCN (USA):

Despite a Christian family background, I have never managed to be a Christian in the way defined by most churches. I am not a ‘believer’, and could recite no creed without a sense of hypocrisy and conflict. But after many years of engagement with other traditions – Buddhist, philosophical and psychological – it has become increasingly clear to me that ‘belief’ is not what Christianity is most importantly about. It is quite possible to drink deeply of what Christianity has to offer, indeed to be ‘Christian’ in all the ways that matter – morally, spiritually and intellectually – without ‘believing’ such absolute propositions as that God exists, or that Jesus is the Son of God, or that Jesus saves believers from sin. Indeed, I will go further. Such beliefs have no positive practical effects on the lives of Christians, beyond being shortcuts to group conformity which may also have many negative effects.

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Any Thought for the Day?

Any Thought for the Day?

Humanists ask BBC to open up Radio 4’s Thought for the Day to non-religious voices.

Harriet Sherwood, religion correspondent of The Guardian tweeted about a letter sent to the newspaper from prominent humanists who are making a fresh appeal to the BBC to open up Radio 4’s Thought for the Day to non-religious voices.

Amongst the signatories is the philosopher Julian Baggini, a guest of PCN at our conference in London next June, the comedian Ed Byrne, the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, the Labour MP Nick Brown and the Bake Off celebrity Sandi Toksvig.

They are among 33 patrons of the charity Humanists UK who have signed a letter calling on Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, calling for the ban on humanists presenting Thought for the Day to be lifted.

The letter says: “Over half the British population do not belong to any religion and around a quarter have a humanist worldview. By barring humanists from Thought for the Day, the BBC is blatantly failing in its remit to reflect the diversity of beliefs of its audience and wider population, and its legal duty to treat non-religious and religious beliefs equally.” It adds: “To many, the exclusion of humanists from Thought for the Day sends a very clear message that humanists do not have as much to contribute as religious people to one of the BBC’s most high-profile ethical slots.”

Humanists UK has campaigned for 16 years to open Thought for the Day up to non-religious voices.  Andrew Copson, the chief executive of Humanists UK, said the BBC had “blatant disregard” for non-religious people who wanted to contribute reflections but were barred from doing so.

“It is deeply concerning and frankly undemocratic that, despite decades of humanist and secular campaigning to reform Thought for the Day, the BBC still will not budge and instead continues to shut out our voices time and time again.” The majority of contributors to Thought for the Day are Christian, although there are regular Muslim and Jewish contributors and occasional Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

A flurry of correspondence ensued, including this letter from Adrian, chair of PCN:

“Of course Thought for the Day (letters 13 Nov) should be open to humanists for their contribution to the stream of voices, religious and non-religious, commenting on the important ethical issues of our time. No religion or ideology has a monopoly on truth, no matter how loud the voices, how certain the viewpoints. Surely we should be looking beyond the divisions in an increasingly tribalistic world and see what is good and life affirming in all faith and non-faith traditions? Bring it on! Lets have some thoughts for each day which lift up our spirits to face whatever that day brings! “

What do PCN members think? Lets have your views!

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Cathedral Gin – not such a tonic?

Cathedral Gin – not such a tonic?

Blackburn Cathedral launches own brand gin as 51,507 die from alcohol-specific deaths.

The Church Times reported that the Dean of Blackburn Cathedral, Very Revd Peter Howell, has persuaded the cathedral authorities to spend £18,000 on marketing a gin, called ‘Cathedra’, which will cost around £45 per bottle. The cathedral see this as a fund raising venture and an opportunity, says the Dean, ‘to engage with all aspects of society’…..Indeed click on the cathedral website and the first item which faces you is a bottle of gin!

Is this really what cathedrals should be doing? In 2016 there were 51,507 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK and over 300,000 alcohol -caused hospital admissions. No doubt the cathedral parishioners who can afford to spend £45 on this gin will not be visiting our town and city centres on Saturday night, blighted by the drunken revelry which necessitates the need for stretched police and ambulance services to be on hand. What next does the Dean of Blackburn intend to do? Special cathedral brand cigarettes? Maybe fruit machines in the transept?

If the cathedral truly wants to 'engage with different groups of people' why not try talking to them about a different kind of Spirit? Maybe the way to engage with people under the age of 40 who might well be drinking gin on a night out, is not to offer them a different brand of gin but a fresh look at what Christian faith might look like today? 

What do PCN readers think about this?

Adrian Alker

Falling congregations - a reflection

Falling congregations - a reflection

Pointers from a study of university students identifying as Christians

Challenging ‘Belief’ and the Evangelical Bias: Student Christianity in English Universities by Mathew Guest, Sonya Sharma, Kristin Aune and Rob Warner provides interesting food for thought for any who think liberal Christianity has no future and that the answer lies in firm Evangelicalism. The study shows a significant number of students who self identify as Christians but whose faith is expressed in fluid terms. One reviewer thought the study to show Christian traditions transforming into "wells" rathe than "fenced off" enclosures. 

Such a view seems to me a serious challenge to a current train of thought in the CofE which sees the future in fenced off enclosures of  Christians committed to a particular theological rationale. Certainly of the Christian students in the study only a small minority identified with the usual Christian Union line and that should be a warning against the too easy move to a one size fits all approach. 

The full study report can be found here: Challenging ‘Belief’ and the Evangelical Bias: Student Christianity in English Universities by Mathew Guest, Sonya Sharma, Kristin Aune and Rob Warner

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