Archive | March 2011

Open Invitation: Edinburgh Religious Studies – First Year Research Student Presentations (23/03/11, 2pm)

This is just a quick, open-invitation to hear me and my fellow Religious Studies First Year Research Students present on our research projects. I shall be presenting on ‘Nonreligion in Transition: An Enquiry into Identity, Ideology and Sources of Significance amongst ‘Nonreligious’ Students’.

“Wednesday 23 March is the final seminar for this semester. Please come along and support our PG research students who will be introducing their projects.

23 March, 2pm, Room 1.07, New College, Edinburgh

Please note that this seminar will run for a little longer than usual. We aim to close by 4pm at which point the presenters will probably appreciate a drink and chat in The Wash Bar.”

Should you wish to tactically plan your attendance, the proposed order for presentation is:

Chris Cotter, Emily Kilburn, Phuti Mogase, Genevieve Nrenzah, Liam Sutherland and Jonathan Tuckett

We’d all appreciate support from the wider population (university or otherwise), and would thoroughly enjoy seeing some folk for a beverage afterwards.




Disney sought inspiration from Gaddafi?

Enough said…


An un-Christian message on an ‘anti-Christian’ policy from Cardinal Keith O’Brien

Whilst eating my breakfast, I was watching BBC Breakfast News, and picked up on the following story: “Cardinal brands UK aid foreign policy ‘anti-Christian’”

Essentially, Cardinal Keith O’Brien ‘has attacked plans to increase aid to Pakistan to more than £445m, without any commitment to religious freedom for Christians.’

The key points of his argument, as reported by the BBC, are as follows:

Cardinal O’Brien said: “I urge William Hague to obtain guarantees from foreign governments before they are given aid.

To increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedom are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy.

“Pressure should now be put on the government of Pakistan – and the governments of the Arab world as well – to ensure that religious freedom is upheld, the provision of aid must require a commitment to human rights.”

He said the report’s [see article] estimate of persecution against Christians was “intolerable and unacceptable”.

“We ask that the religious freedoms we enjoy to practice our faith, will soon be extended to every part of the world and that the tolerance we show to other faiths in our midst will be reciprocated everywhere,” he added.

Now, I am not suggesting that any form of religious persecution is a good thing… it isn’t… it’s very bad. But, from my limited understanding of the basics of Christian teachings I am pretty baffled by the language utilised by the Cardinal… and the fact that he has made this statement at all.

One of the core teachings of Christianity is not only to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins et al commonly reduce it to – attacking Christianity for having an inward looking love), but is, in fact, to love your enemy. Take some of the following cherry-picked teachings from the New Testament (NIV translation):

Matthew 5:42-44

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Romans 12:19-21

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

People may attack me, saying that these are cherry-picked… but they are quite simply summations of universal core teachings of Christianity.

Persecution was seen in the early church as a prime sign of faith, and something to be celebrated:

2 Thessalonians 1:4

4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Those believers whose faith withers in the face of persecution are castigated in the famous parable of the sower:

Matthew 13:20-21

20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

I would counter Cardinal O’Brian with the following: it might just be that Britain’s foreign policy is too Christian for your diluted, decadent twenty-first century Western Christianity. I would maintain that the policy of giving aid to countries where Christians are persecuted is a supreme example of the Christian virtue of loving your enemy.

Personally, I wouldn’t be giving aid to a country which actively, systematically persecutes any people… and, personally, I think the government probably shouldn’t either. However, I am cynical, secular, and don’t have much faith in humanity’s ability to change without a bit of a push.

I would have expected a more ‘Christian’ response from a prominent leader of the Catholic church.


Religion is but one factor in human ‘bad behaviour’

I haven’t had time to read the entire post, but I have just stumbled upon this blog post, ( and I have to say, I heartily agree with the following:

Professor A.C. Grayling is a very articulate man but a militant &, at times, rabid atheist who likes to drop the following statement into media soundbites:
“There good & evil people in the world, but only religion makes good people do & think evil things.”

Perhaps, but I can think of ten other things that make people commit evil acts:

1). Lust.
2). An abusive upbringing.
3). Anger.
4). Political beliefs.
5). Greed.
6). Envy.
7). Revenge.
8). Fear.
9). Metal Illness.
10). Group-think.( Religious beliefs often are reinforced by this.)

Apart from perhaps the use of the word ‘rabid’… but this illustrates a very important point. I am fed up with atheists who blame everything on religion… this doesn’t mean I think religion is a ‘good’ thing… but simply that it is only rational, logical and human to acknowledge that there are many, many other factors which make ‘good’ people do ‘bad’ things.

I look forward to perusing this blog more thoroughly in the future!

Bishops protecting the Almighty from spam, abuse, and computer viruses

The Church of England has launched ‘a dedicated prayer website from the Church of England. You can post your own prayers during Lent which runs between March 8th and April 23rd this year and these will be prayed for by various Christian communities throughout the country’:

According to their guidelines:

‘Prayers should be original material and must not be unlawful, defamatory, blasphemous, harassing, abusive, fraudulent, obscene, contain viruses, or be otherwise objectionable as reasonably determined by the organisers.’

How exactly does one make a ‘fraudulent’ prayer? What is the penalty for ‘prayer plagiarism’? What if you hold ‘abusive’ views about female equality, homosexuality, or other faiths? And are viruses now so advanced that even God is vulnerable?

Users are encouraged to check out the associated ‘Facebook page where we would love to have your comments and any answers to prayer.’

I don’t really know what to make of this… I guess it is a good means of popularising a festival and creating a sense of group solidarity which is almost nonexistent in contemporary society. I shall watch the developments with interest…

The Virtues (Christian) of Side-Hugging

A wonderful Christian rap about the virtues of side-hugging and the sin of  ‘not leaving room for the Holy Spirit’ when a girl ‘comes in with a look in her eye’ wanting a front hug…

Oh my.

KJB: The Book that Changed the World (Film featuring John Rhys-Davies) – Edinburgh, 3 March 2011

Just alerting you to an interesting event happening in Edinburgh today. If it is interesting enough and I have time I might write a review…
You are are warmly invited to a special premiere screening today (Thursday 3 March) of a new historical docu-drama film on the making of the King James Bible.

‘KJB: The Book that Changed the World’ is a fine feature-length film that includes dramatic re-enactments, on-site narration by actor John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings), and reflections from scholars about the creation of the King James Bible. It provides rich insights into the role of James VI of Scotland (James I of England), aspects of religious & political history and the different forces that shaped the making of the KJV bible 400 years ago.

This will be followed by a brief panel discussion (around 5.30pm) with the director Norman Stone (BBC’s Shadowlands), screen writer Murray Watts (Miracle Maker) and Professor Larry Hurtado, and then a drinks reception in the Rainy Hall. This is a unique opportunity to hear from two leading film-makers about their craft and the making of this film.

Please note that there has been a slight change in the venue for the KJB film showing at 4pm on Thursday, 3rd March. It will still take place on Thursday, starting at 4pm in New College, The University of Edinburgh, but in Lecture Room 1. (The Martin Hall will be used for overflow if necessary).

This event is sponsored by the Theology, History and Ethics Research Seminar & CTPI (the Centre for Theology and Public Issues).
All are very welcome.