Visit... The 'God' Blog
I've been blogging on issues in the Philosophy of Religion, particularly on the idea of 'God' and whether a religion for atheists is a viable possibility within Western culture. So, to read my own views and contribute your own, visit the blog, by clicking here.
My own books are shown on the right and my lecture notes for students are listed in the left-hand column.
The God of Philosophy
by Roy Jackson
This second edition of his book offers an up-to-date consideration of the key topics in the Philosophy of Religion, particularly the arguments about the existence of God.
Roy is Course Leader in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics at the University of Gloucestershire.
'Agenda for Faith' by Stephen Mitchell
This book, originally published in 1997, explores the need for the Church to change those beliefs that are, for many people, simply incredible, and to seek other ways of expressing religious truth. It is now available as a FREE download from the Sea of Faith website.
To be honest, I agree with almost everything here, and yet feel the sad frustration that so little has changed outwardly in the way in which the beliefs of the Christian religion are presented. To get your free copy, click here.
For a fascinating dialogue between a secular Buddhist (Stepen Batchelor) and a secular Christian (Don Cupitt), held in August 2012, visit Secular Buddhism.org.
For those interested in a radical approach to Christianity, Don Cupitt's introduction, available here, is particularly valuable, and for more about Don Cupitt and his work, visit his website at doncupitt.com
Don Cupitt's ideas are a great stimulus for reflection, whatever one's own views on religion and life. Click here for what, I believe, amounts to a manifesto which any sensitive agnostic or atheist can subscribe, but which I regard as expressing the essence of what is best in religion.
The Naked Monk - for an open-minded Buddhist perspective
Stephen Shettini has a great website if you're into an open-minded spiritual or philosophical quest with a Buddhist flavour. And the site is not just for those interested in Buddhism, his comments have significance for all religions, particularly in his rejection (in true Buddhist fashion) of fixed views. Just try www.thenakedmonk.com
Useful notes for students...
For A Level students taking papers in the Philosophy of Religion there are some useful notes and comments on relevant topics on Matthew Livermore's site at http://mrlivermore.wordpress.com/ Matthew teaches Religious Studies, Philosophy and Theory of Knowledge.
This is a blog on the Philosophy of Religion, covering a whole range of topics. Just click here.
Mark Vernon's 'How to be an Agnostic'
I've published some comments on Mark's book on 'The God Blog', to see them, just click on The 'God' Blog
I think this is a really useful book for all those who want to retain the sense of mystery that underpins the religious quest, but cannot accept the doctrines and supernatural beliefs that goes with traditional belief.
For more information, just follow the Amazon link, where you can 'look inside' the book to see contents and sample material.
The book is a revised version of his After Atheism, published in 2008. Here is a comment on that earlier book:
'Encouraging us to widen our imagination and to open our lives to a sense of wonder, Mark Vernon is convinced, in the tradition of Socrates, that we achieve this by avoiding the certainties of faith and the rigidities of atheism. Believers and non-believers will find this a richly rewarding read.' John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford.
And if you enjoy this book, why not take a look at his website and blog: www.philosophyoffriendship.com
Alain de Botton's talk on TED is really worth watching. I don't agree with everything he has to say, but he touches on fundamentally important points about the relationship between religion and modern society.
by Dave Webster
For a serious examination of contemporary spirituality and the human condition, with very definite views, forcefully expressed visit http://dispirited.org/about-the-book/
The challenge... and my personal view
In the introduction to his book A History of Modern Britain, 2007, Andrew Marr, political commentator and shrewd observer of the modern mores, comments on the experience of living in Britain since the Second World War:
‘In the period covered by this book, the dominant experience has been acceleration. We have lived faster. We have seen, heard, communicated, changed and travelled more. We have experienced a material profusion and perhaps a philosophical and religious emptiness that marks us off from earlier times.’ p. xxxi
If his comment is right – and I believe it is, minus the 'perhaps' – then there is no more important challenge today than to get to grips with the Philosophy of Religion. Philosophy should not be an obscure or exclusively academic subject. At its best, it is simply the willingness to think carefully about what it is we know and what it is we value. It is the process of bringing reason and evidence to bear on the assumptions of everyday life.
So the challenge of studying the Philosophy of Religion is to apply reason to religious beliefs and values, and to do so in a way that is rigorous (not being afraid to ask difficult questions) and also sensitive, recognising the key importance that religion has in the lives of very many people.
Sadly, there are plenty of religious people who do not seem willing or able to use their reason to examine what religion is about, preferring fundamentalist acceptance of dogma. Equally, there are a good number of really intelligent people (including top scientists and philosophers) who seem particularly obtuse when confronted with religious ideas, preferring to caricature and dismiss them, rather than examine why people choose to follow them.
Hopefully, a grounding in the Philosophy of Religion will be a useful antidote to both of these narrow views.
Dealing with God
Discussion about what ‘God’ means, or whether God exists is clearly central to the Philosophy of Religion. Frustratingly, much recent debate (especially between religious and scientific fundamentalists) is superficial on the question of God. It is therefo re refreshing to find a book which takes, almost as an obvious starting point, that God certainly does not ‘exist’ in the literal way that things in the universe exist, and therefore that – if we are going to appreciate the word ‘God’ and what it refers to – we need to probe something of its history. Karen Armstrong’s The Case for Godis a particularly valuable book in that it provides a clear overview of the whole set of issues surrounding God.
But I have also found it useful to look at two books – one presenting the position of philosophers who do not accept belief in God (Philosophers without Gods, 2007) and an answering volume Philosophers and God, 2009. Apart from one or two rather sad lapses into polemic in the first of these volumes, both present what belief in God means with clarity and sensitivity.
We can set aside the crude, supernatural notion that God exists as an external object within (or beyond) the world – that would be idolatrous for a monotheist. But how does one square religious practice and language with the conviction that God is a human construct; an image used to probe the meaning of human life within the universe? There is still a mismatch between what theologians and philosophers say and what popular religion appears to proclaim - and while that mismatch continues, religious beliefs of all sorts will be rightly vulnerable to the less-than-sensitive criticisms of a newly vocal but rather superficial form of atheism.
An apology for imbalance on the religion and science issue...
Some books are readable yet utterly frustrating. God: the failed hypothesis by Victor Stenger wants to show that science has now advanced to a point at which it can show that God does not exist. Sadly, however good his science, Stenger's argument and logic is rather crude when it comes to philosophy and religious beliefs. In effect he has a 'no-gap-left-for-God' argument. I'm rather torn, because I find myself in agreement with many of his conclusions, and yet frustrated by the glib and faulty logic or some of his arguments. Richard Dawkins proclaims on the cover that he 'learned an enormous amount' from the book, which is rather sad.