Tag Archive | Theology

Thanks and apologies to my readers

TypingAs you may have noticed, I tend to be a bit down on religion. Not entirely, and I hope not without good reason, but it’s largely due to the nature of my story. I’m still on a journey from my former conservative evangelical beliefs, with various stops along the way, and a lot of my thoughts are directed towards ideas I used to hold and am now questioning or rejecting.

I know that I have a number of followers who are religious in some form or another, generally with a sensible, progressive or liberal approach and an awareness of the various problems with the sort of beliefs I usually criticise. I respect them both for their beliefs (even if I disagree) and particularly for their interest in reading things that are often less than flattering about religion. They are a valuable addition here, and I’m grateful for that. Read More…

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Could liberal theology be a form of religious methadone?

Protesting BigotsIf you’re reading this, based on my typical readership, you probably agree that some conservative manifestations of religion are not just wrong, but dangerous, at least for certain values of “conservative” and “dangerous”. Extreme or hardline beliefs are easily criticised, but liberal positions cause a lot more disagreement.

Some people outside the church criticise liberal Christians for shoring up the bigots, or for denying the plain message of the religion they follow. Some are puzzled by their membership of a regressive organisation where they often seem to be unwelcome, but applaud them for being on the right side of the important issues. Some just react against the use of religious labels, whatever the underlying content.

What I’d like to suggest is a new, different way for atheists to relate to liberal religion of all stripes, which I believe would be both more realistic and more effective in reducing the harm that religion can cause. Why not support liberal churches, temples and synagogues? Read More…

Religion is no excuse for bigotry

Bible“I’m really sorry, I don’t hate you and I’m not a bigot, but I can’t deny what the Bible says.”

If you haven’t heard this sort of apology much in the past, get used to it now, because you’re going to hear it a lot in the next few years. With same-sex marriage on the final stretch towards full legal approval in the UK, there are plenty of people who will be making excuses for their refusal to accept this fact, and particularly their contortions to avoid using the word “marriage” to describe any relationship they don’t approve of.

I’ve been in a similar position myself, and tried to apologise for my views while continuing to promote them and marginalise people as a result. I understand the explanation, and it’s superficially appealing, but it doesn’t really stand up. Read More…

Ten Hundred Word Theology

xkcd386You may know about the Up-Goer Five. It’s a computer thing that makes you explain hard ideas using only the ten hundred most used words. It’s surprising how hard it is, as this man found. This gave me an idea.

I’m writing this now using Up-Goer Five, to say that I will soon be writing things where I try to explain ideas about God (or ‘theology’) using only these words. One of the words in the last bit wasn’t allowed, but it was fine with little talking marks around it. That’s nice, but it might be a bad thing to use them too much. Read More…

It’s about time Christians stopped playing at science

Planet SIf you take a stroll through the website for Answers in Genesis (and to be honest, I recommend that you don’t), you’ll find a huge number of articles that deal with scientific evidence. You’ll also find numerous arguments that proper scientists can be creationists, and a huge amount of devotion to notable scientists from the past who were Christians.

In AiG world, any scientist who believed in God is taken as evidence that science doesn’t disprove creationism. I used to think this was funny, if tiresome – the idea that Isaac Newton’s theological views have any bearing on the current scientific consensus on the age of the Earth or the origins of the universe is unintentionally hilarious – but it’s part of a trend that increasingly worries me. Read More…

What does increasing conservatism in the church actually mean?

Church Sign

A sign of a growing church?

It’s often said (by conservatives, admittedly) that conservatism is the answer for the church. The claim is either that most churches have conservative theology, or that conservative churches are the ones that are growing, or something similar. The typical conclusion from people who quote these stats is that liberalism and conformity to cultural norms are killing the church. But is that a justified conclusion?

There are obvious problems with these statistics, even if they’re accurate – if the proportion of churches that are conservative is rising, that may be an indication that liberals are deserting the church, quite likely because they’re sick of being associated with those conservative views. And if conservative churches are actually growing in numbers, that may well be down to demographic and ethnic changes, with African Christians (for example) proportionately more likely to be conservative.

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that these claims can be taken at face value as not only true but meaning that people are finding conservative churches more appealing, while being turned off by liberal belief. That would surely mean that those conservative beliefs are becoming more common in general, right? Well, maybe not. It might even mean that they’re becoming less common. Read More…

A Horseshoe Theory of Religion

Theological beliefs are very often understood as resting on a liberal-conservative axis. Over here [gestures] are the head-bangers who take everything literally as a strict rule for how we ought to behave, and believe in a personal God, eternal heaven and hell, miracles, and even Adam, Eve and a young Earth. Over there [waves] are the beard-strokers who embrace metaphor, reject supernatural claims, and regard the Bible as just an account of humanity’s attempts to understand the world we live in.

That more or less works, but there are other characteristics of theology that are relevant, one of the most visible being the divide between high and low church. Broadly, this is a distinction between an emphasis on process and ritual on one hand, and a rejection of ostentatious outward forms in favour of inward attitudes on the other. There are lots of different ways of modelling it, and the Church of England’s recent troubles made me wonder if I was looking at it the wrong way. Read More…

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