NOW AVAILABLE. My new book, 'The Apostate's Creed: Rethinking Christianity for the C21st'. All theologies have a context. MIne is the C21st. A humanist-focused reworking of statements from the Apostles' Creed and a series of reflections inspired mainly by Luke's gospel.
Order from www.ypdbooks.com 170 pp. £10 + p/p.
'Honest and clear'. 'Really interesting'. 'Most enjoyable. Many thanks'
I don't offer an academic approach that ties us up in speculative knots. You don't need to be familiar with the Bible, or even go to church. I'm just asking 'Is there anything we can believe in if you take a God away'? 'What might it all still mean for how we live today'? But my writing is for anyone who is interested, not for just 'religious' people.
I have a postgraduate degree in theology so I know something about the Church, its history and how the doctrines came about. But I would no longer call myself a Christian; just a caring human person. I do think it's worth keeping the memory of Jesus alive, so I haven't walked away entirely. Not yet!
Most other people have already given it up. In the British Social Attitudes survey of 2018, over two thirds of people said they didn't identify with Christianity or ever attend a Christian service apart from weddings etc. Only about 6% 'regularly' attend any church. Just 1% of under 25s and 4% of under 45s say they belong to the Church of England. Belief in a God hasn't entirely disappeared - yet. But much of it is just a residual superstition and it's rapidly on its inevitable way out as younger people not already allied to any other religion replace their parents and grandparents in the increasingly atheist/agnostic C21st. That's where we are. It's not a moral failing to be criticised. It's just a rational fact.
It may well be that many of those who do still attend a church, or even many clergy, would agree that Christian beliefs cannot be taken literally, but they're usually afraid to say so. It might actually bring some people back if they did! Much religious language is metaphor, myth or poetry. We each have to determine whether it still means anything. Like seeing the earth from space, not only outwards, we need to change the angle from which we look at it all. From where we are now. Not from where they were then.
So let's at least talk about it like grown-ups. Conversation, not conversion is what we need. Read the book and let me know what you think.
I'm not attacking Christianity, or Christians, (well, not all of them!) I just want them to recognise that the usual required beliefs no longer speak my language. I am not saying there is no room in my life for any kind of 'spirituality'. I would like to show a 'spirit of holiness'; to live out humanity in all its fulness. But we created our religions, so we can change them. Perhaps the story about Jesus, as a real person who died unjustly, not as a God in disguise, can still help us to decide how we should live today.
We need fresh truths to live by, not the ones created centuries ago, to reflect what we have discovered since. It's not a C4th 'Christianity' as usually defined that we need, but something that addresses us in our modern context. They thought a God controlled everything that happened. They were wrong. They saw the need for a life after death as essential to their personal meaning. We don't. There is no Devil, heaven or hell to worry about. But perhaps Jesus can be seen as a more universal human example than solely the property of those who believe he was also 'God' offering us 'salvation'.
My approach is not new at all. People have been arguing since at least the middle of the C18th that the supernatural or 'revealed' basis to Christianity, the Trinity and the Divinity of Jesus are all unbelievable. Did you know that George Eliot (author of Middlemarch and aka Marian Evans) was a leading advocate of an atheist interpretation of religious history? All religions are made up of human ideas. The Church, officially at least, seems to have taken little or no notice of the intellectual and moral questions raised, then or now, but has still been apparently surprised by its constant decline. It is inevitable that this will continue without a rethink. People just don't believe it anymore. That doesn't make us 'sinners'.
The poet Virgil asked this question over 2000 years ago:
'‘Is it the gods who put this desire into our minds, or does every person’s irresistible passion become their god’?
Now ask yourself some questions:
Did human minds create all our religious beliefs or were they 'revealed' from elsewhere? Did actual people write the Bible and the Creeds or were they dictated by a 'God'? Is there any evidence that a God intervenes when we ask 'Him' to? Or is all religious 'experience' just our interpretation of what happens anyway?
The answers are obvious when you think about them or read any Church history. Every 'religious' insight is a human activity like any other. It cannot be anything else. We create our religions to express our own hopes and values. They are not given to us from somewhere or Someone else. They're ours. We decide what 'God' is like and what values we live by. They don't come from on high.
'And a young child shall lead them' said the prophet Isaiah. Not the same context of course, but I recently visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The centrepiece is a massive circular war memorial with two group sculptures. Each of them shows muddied and frightened figures gently bearing away a dead and naked man from the battlefield. A school party was there and one of the children asked her teacher, 'Is that Jesus'? The answer, of course, is 'Yes'. The same could be said of the 'Shot at Dawn' field of upright posts - remembering the hundreds of frightened and shell-shocked young men and boys summarily executed for 'cowardice'. That's how Jesus still lives, as we find that his human story echoes our own. That's the Way of life I try to follow. You are invited to join me on the journey.
Invitations to talk about all this together will always be welcome.
Until the summer term I still offer a one day school attendance and absence Workshop on request. See above for more details. CONTACT ME to discuss.
A practical and interactive day on attendance law, registration, policy issues and making effective responses, working with the relevant LA and Ofsted expectations.
But as I approach retirement during 2020 my website now reflects only my other main continuing interest. Can Christianity and its central figure mean anything to those who are not convinced that conventional ideas of 'God' and religion take us where we need to go as modern, thoughtful human beings?
WHITTER is back with my occasional thoughts on life, the Church and Christianity. Currently: 'On Not Being a Christian''.
On the HONEST TO GOD page you will find a set of free discussion Notes on this classic book from the 1960s. Have we actually heard what it has to say yet?
WALKING WITHOUT GOD is where it all restarted for me. My first book from 2011: a series of short humanist reflections on selected Psalms, now a free download.
Friendly FEEDBACK is always very welcome. Please let me know if you have found my ideas interesting and helpful.
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