We each have truths, values or ideals that we believe in, so I also write and speak on the relationship between humanism and religion; (see also ABOUT ME to read more about my journey to here). Our Universe is wonderfully complex, incredibly old and we are just a tiny part of it. So what does it all mean?
The 'Lion Man' (above) is thought to be the oldest known ritual object in the world at 40,000 years. It was created, like all religious ideas by us, or by people much like us. All religions, their scriptures and their gods, are human attempts to help us to understand ourselves, individually and together. We have devised them to meet our needs as we have gone along, and then revised our understandings in the light of new knowledge.
Religions are just another form of creative human activity like music, art and literature. Indeed, as Neil MacGregor's brilliant series on Radio 4 'Living with the Gods', and the accompanying exhibition at the British Museum clearly demonstrated, religions are an obvious example of those same aesthetic activities; used to express our own hopes, feelings and beliefs. Religion is a product of our sociology and psychology; these then determine our theology.
Saying that religion is a human creation does not mean I think that (most) believers are entirely deluded. We all have to work out our own path to follow through life. Many good and caring people find a meaning within faiths of all kinds. But their beliefs all come from particular times and places. That cannot be ignored. Claiming some ultimate authority from 'above' simply doesn't fit the facts.
So perhaps we each need to take a step back from what we may have always believed to be true and ask whether our religion is actually built on very flimsy foundations. There may be a greater truth, humanity and integrity to be discovered within, or even without, it. I admit I do have little time for a rigid fundamentalism; just saying something in a loud and confident voice does not make it right! 'It must be true because the Bible says so' no longer cuts it with most of us.
I can only talk about the Christian tradition into which I was born and which I have studied to postgraduate level and thought about for over 40 years. The Bible was clearly written by human beings, but that doesn't necessarily make it worthless. LIke all voices from the past, it can still tell us important things about ourselves, as long as we don't give it an authority it doesn't even claim to have. The Church is a human institution like any other. It gets some things right and makes a terrible mess of others. It can offer a real sense of community, though not if it becomes exclusive and judgemental. But neither the Bible nor the Church can have the last word on everything.
I don't personally now believe there is any 'God' out there but the same questions about life still have to be answered. If there is an unknowable mystery outside of ourselves then, by definition, we cannot know it. So let's concentrate on the here and now and leave the rest as mere speculation. Above all I am trying to stimulate a dialogue and a spirit of creative enquiry. Is there any value in Christianity, and particularly in the man Jesus of Nazareth, if you strip away all the doctrinal baggage and outdated supernatural assumptions about the way the world is? Is there anything left in the Christian story if you approach it in a different way? Maybe; maybe not. You decide.
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The two books below are my original thoughts on a humanist spirituality from a few years back. They are brief essays or mini sermons on two themes: The Psalms and the Parables. These parts of the Bible take us into human individual feelings and our community life together so they still have plenty to say, even for those for whom there is no God.
For me 'spirituality' is more about the journey than the destination; it's more about how we think about life and give it a rational meaning than about anything necessarily 'religious'. It's a deeper dimension to our humanity, not a wish to escape from it. Conventional faith may sometimes help - I can't entirely forget my Christian heritage - but it may also get in the way. The map is different now and there are new places to go.
Feedback or invitations to engage in further friendly discussion always welcome or email me with your address if you'd like a paperback copy of 'Updating the Map: A Humanist Journey Through the Bible'.
MY CHOSEN CHARITY
Make a loan. Change a life.
My website has had a makeover. You'll still find everything you need for my professional offer as an Independent Education Welfare Consultant and Trainer on the 'work' page.
I am committed to a welfare-based approach to attendance and absence rather than a focus on fines and enforcement. I may not always tell you exactly what you think you want to hear or repeat what you always thought was true. But I will offer you an informed and independent voice that gives you real practical help in carrying out your statutory duties and seeks to promote creative solutions for those children and young people who most need them. I don't do twitter but I do 'whitter' about education welfare issues.
But there is more to life than work so you'll also find more about my humanist approach to spirituality and a new page called 'life' in which I write about all the other things that interest me, from books and the arts to history, culture and anything else I want to share that might interest you too.
Feedback and comment are always very welcome.
ALL INFORMATION AND ADVICE PROVIDED ON THIS WEBSITE, AND IN RELATED RESOURCES AND EVENTS, IS GIVEN IN GOOD FAITH AND IS TRUE AND ACCURATE TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF. HOWEVER NO LIABILTY IS ACCEPTED FOR ANY ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES ARISING THEREFROM OR FOR ANY IMPLICATIONS OF UNINTENDED ERRORS. I HAVE BOTH PUBLIC LIABILITY AND PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY INSURANCE.