This introduction to the issues of religion and science, published by Hodder Education in its Access to Religion and Philosophy series, is designed for students taking papers in Religious Studies at AS and A2 level, and for anyone else wanting an overview of the subject.
It is currently out-of-print, but an e-book edition is now available either as a pdf format file or as a web page.
It's FREE! Just click on the cover to go to the page...
In my view, most of the arguments presented in the Philosophy of Religion do not get to grips with the nature of religion because they tend to identify it with a set of propositions to be believed, rather than an overall experience of life. Why has this happened? Click on the photo to download a pdf of my blog post on this.
My own books are shown on the right and my lecture notes for students are listed in the left-hand column.
The 'God' Blog
For about 12 months, until erlier this year, I was 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.
The material on the blog was gathered with a view to putting together a new book, attempting to give a balanced view of 'god language' and the place it has both within religion and for human self-understanding. I was brought up Christian and was, for some years, an ordained Anglican, yet I cannot recognise my beliefs of those days in the caricature of belief that is often presented in debate. I've also been involved with Buddhism and for a decade regularly practised meditation with a western Buddhist group - seeing what religion can be in a non-theistic context.
I now describe myself as an atheist, simply because that causes fewest confusions - and it is probably more accurate than any other wretched label we give one another. In practice, I agree with and have great sympathy for the beliefs of many who would describe themselves as liberal Christians. The level of reality to which some people give the name 'God', however, is too important to be left to those who call themselves believers!
Exactly how to work through this issue is something with which I'm struggling - both personally and intellectually - at the moment, inspired by many modern writers on God (Karen Armstrong springs to mind if you want something accessible) and despairing of others. In the near future, the 'God Blog' will appear as an extended section of this website, organised by subject matter, and eventually it may, just possibly, become a book.
So, to read my own views on 'God', and see what is a very early work-in-progress, visit the blog, by clicking here.
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.
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.
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.
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.