Tuesday, September 16 2014

BBC Beyond Belief - agnosticism

Agnosticism was the subject for this week's Beyond Belief, on BBC Radio 4.

I was trying to make the case for an agnostic spirit that is not just an option for some but actually part and parcel of the human condition and crucial for theists who want to undo their inevitable idols.

You can pursue the issue at book length too!

Monday, August 4 2014

God-shaped hole, discussion at Things Unseen

Is there a God-shaped hole at the heart of our post-Christian world?

Does it matter? Is it all potential gain, with freedom of expression and liberation from oppression at last possible? Or are there unforeseen losses, too? Has the decline in religious practice and ritual opened up a void now all too easily filled with consumerism, the social media, and a preoccupation with therapy and self-help? Indeed, with ‘oneself’?

Mark Dowd chairs a discussion on this controversial issue with Peter Stanford, Mark Vernon and Julian Baggini.

Thursday, July 31 2014

Civilisation in peril - three online recommendations

1. Richard Chartres, the bishop of London, talked to Jules Evans, producing a really very remarkable interview.

Our spiritual culture at the moment is so impoverished and primitive. People find it extraordinarily difficult to be serious about angels or discarnate energies.

It’s a very modern tragedy that religion has become ideas in the mind. That’s why western religion is so feeble.

But alas we do not have many places where one can go today to learn and practice contemplation – we are very needy.

We don’t seek illumination from the whole but from bits and pieces. This is one of the reasons why this civilization is in grave peril.

The real trouble with the Church is not that it has retrograde social attitudes, or hasn’t embraced the emancipation of women – it’s that it’s spiritual incredible. It’s just as shallow as the rest of us.

2. If you feel C.S. Lewis is a little too vanilla, try Malcolm Guite's exposition. Never again. He also understands Tolkein, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams like no other.

3. Roger Scruton talked at Theos last month, as usual making a number of penetrating remarks and comments. I particularly liked his distinction between sound and tone: science understands sound, but it has no purchase on tone - though the rise and fall, mood and intensity of a musical phrase is the very stuff of life for us.

Or his distinction between causes and reasons. Again, science understands causes but it has no purchase on reasons as a prompt to action, and yet most of the meaning we find in life is linked to this aspect of our agency. We lose touch with this dimension at our peril. And perhaps we are in peril...

Saturday, June 21 2014

The Spiritual Senses

We've published the latest in the discussions between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. It's available as a podcast or on iTunes.

We discuss the idea that alongside five empirical senses, we have a range of spiritual senses that respond to pattern, wholeness, the implicit, the good. They tend now to be collapsed into a vague 'intuition', though medieval and ancient thinkers explored how they could be used to investigate the world much as the empirical senses are relied on today.

Thursday, May 29 2014

God and Mindfulness - some more thoughts

We've published the latest in the discussions between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. It's available as a podcast or on iTunes.

We discuss the mindfulness phenomenon, which although partly a therapeutic movement seems akin to a spiritual revival as well. So what does the interest in mindfulness say about our times, how does it relate to past movements such as transcendental meditation, what can Christians and other theists make of mindfulness, and might it be a sign of a renewal in the quest for God - or even, God's quest for us?

Friday, May 2 2014

Transparent minds?

We've published the latest in the discussions between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. It's available as a podcast or on iTunes.

Are our minds transparent to others minds, as most cultures for most of human history seemed to have assumed, or is that a delusion and our minds exist solipsistically, receiving empirical data through an absolute barrier that prevents direct exchange or communication?

Thursday, April 10 2014

What is Spirituality?

We've published the latest in the discussions between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. It's available as a podcast or on iTunes.

Spirituality is a word that whilst many people feel uncomfortable with, is one that nonetheless seems hard to put down. So what is spirituality, how can we talk about it, and what does it mean for what it is to be human?

Thursday, January 30 2014

The Hidden God of Atheism

We've published the latest in the discussions between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. It's available as a podcast or on iTunes.

Atheism is often taken as the default position with theism requiring additional beliefs or proof. So we talk about whether science actually rests on theistic assumptions, if with God removed from the equation. I 'play' atheist - trying to put the perspectives of the three greatest atheists in the modern world, Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche - and Rupert argues that science with its working hypotheses of intelligibility, law-like predictability, and so on actually, at least, draw on theism...

Saturday, January 4 2014

What does Christianity get right?

We've published the latest in the discussions between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. It's available as a podcast or on iTunes.

Our starting point this time is that militant atheism is falling out of favour, and a new atheism seems to be emerging, looking for forms of spirituality. But still, many find Christianity not a viable option. So we seek to ask where Christianity is compelling in its view of life and how to live, and where it is challenging, and perhaps in trouble.

Wednesday, November 20 2013

Lord Williams of Oystermouth: ‘Making representations: religious faith and the habits of language.'

I can recommend Rowan Williams' Gifford lectures of the last couple of weeks. Chewy but rewarding!

His main point seems quite straightforward, for all the subtle and complex ways he develops it. He is pointing out that if you reflect on language, you quickly see that it has to operate on many different levels or registers, not just the rational and empirical. In fact, the metaphorical seems far more basic to language than any supposed correspondence theory would grant. Apart from anything else, this is for the reason that language occupies that space in between the material and immaterial: it's an embodied activity - being sound and physical movement - that engages us symbolically.

What this has to do with God is what it says about the nature of reality, our embedded experience that gives rise, probably first, to music and then languages. The excessive nature of language, the way that it does way more than merely communicate sounds, does not prove God, as modern natural theology has been inclined to feel is its main task, but rather suggests that in language, we are every day grappling with a reality that can be interpreted as intelligible, giving and even compassionate - multi-meaningful, in the way a piece of music is meaningful.

That is commensurate with belief in God. Or to put it another way, a cosmos sustained by a creator such as the Judeo-Christian tradition conceives it, would be one in which you might expect people to speak in the many ways we do.

Tuesday, July 16 2013

Sheldrake on the evolution of consciousness

Rupert Sheldrake and I discuss the evolution of consciousness in this latest of our exchanges, available as a podcast or iTunes.

(Image: Oliver Spalt)

Wednesday, February 20 2013

Rupert Sheldrake on atheism

Here (iTunes) and here (jellycast) are the third of my conversations with Rupert Sheldrake, stemming from his book The Science Delusion, this one on whether being a materialist - meaning believing that there is matter and energy in the natural world and no occult or spiritual forces - necessitates being an atheist...

Friday, January 18 2013

Love All That Matters - an introduction

I've recorded a podcast introduction to my new book, Love All That Matters, which is out next week. Do have a listen! (Click on play button below or download via iTunes.)

Wednesday, January 16 2013

Rupert Sheldrake on free choice

Here (iTunes) and here (jellycast) are the second of my conversations with Rupert Sheldrake, stemming from his book The Science Delusion, this one on materialism and free choice...

Wednesday, December 19 2012

Rupert Sheldrake on materialism

I've done a series of conversations with Rupert Sheldrake, following on from his book The Science Delusion, exploring materialism. The first has just gone up...

Wednesday, June 29 2011

Reality check

The School of Life has produced a first set of podcasts, including some possibly familiar voices. Would be interested to know what you think, if you get a chance to listen...

Wednesday, June 22 2011

How the light gets in - vodcasts

A couple of my contributions from How The Light Gets In are now online, alongside many others...

How To Be An Agnostic


Of Gods and Monsters