What’s the point of children?

Boy writingTeaching philosophy to primary school children can improve their English and maths skills, according to a pilot study highlighting the value of training pupils to have inquiring minds.

So writes Sarah Cassidy in The Independent . Apparently,

Children from deprived backgrounds benefited the most from philosophical debates about topics such as truth, fairness and knowledge.

No doubt this is true, but it’s a superb illustration of the topsy-turvy nature of our society. It means that English and maths are the objectives: truth, fairness and knowledge are the means.
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God?! What is that?

Conf2015‘Seeking the sacred’ was the title of last week’s annual conference of Modern Church together with the World Congress of Faiths.

We heard speakers from a wide range of different faith traditions, and in some cases representatives of different traditions in dialogue with each other.

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Churches and death: can others do it better?

Group of people drinkingHere’s confirmation of one of the points Professor Linda Woodhead made in the talk she gave at St Brides Liverpool on Monday.

The talk was entitled ‘What’s wrong with the Church of England? And can anything be done?’

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What’s wrong with the Church of England?

Linda Woodhead

Linda Woodhead

– and can anything be done?

At last night’s lively talk at St Brides’ Liverpool, and the equally lively discussion afterwards, Linda Woodhead presented an alternative vision of the Church of England.

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The Pope and the environment

Pope Francis' coat of armsLaudato Si is the papal encyclical about the environment published on 18th June 2015. The subtitle is ‘On care for our common home’. At 40,000 words it is a substantial document. I hope this post serves as a useful summary and commentary, and perhaps encouragement to read the whole thing.

On the whole I think it is excellent but I expect criticisms, mainly on two points.

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God and your mind

Picture of headHow can you trust your mind? You make mistakes. You dream. How do you know when you are getting it right? If you ever do? This is a brief history of the rise and fall of the human mind, arguing that the best account depends on creation by God.

As far back as history takes us, societies accepted that they did not understand how the world works. It was too complicated. They believed it was being run by gods who knew more than they did.

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Cancelling debts is a Christian principle

Greek Parliament building

The Parliament building in Athens

Will Greece default on its debts?

Will it leave the Eurozone?

Will it leave the European Union?

Will it matter? To whom?

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God’s genitalia

God the Geometer

God as Architect/Builder/Geometer/Craftsman, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN, USA.

A controversial article in the Daily Telegraph tells us that churches are increasingly referring to God as ‘she’ rather than ‘he’.

Does it matter? If so, why?

The article responds to the latest of the Westminster Faith Debates, last Wednesday’s impressive discussion of the likely impact of women bishops .
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Aspiration and absurdity

JigsawExistentialist angst: life is absurd. We fill our days doing things we consider necessary or important, but when we stop and think about it, nothing matters. According to Sartre, we choose our own values but our choice is itself groundless, unjustified. According to Camus there is only one serious philosophical problem, namely suicide: whether life is worth living. We long for life to have a meaning, but there is none. Once we accept that we are just accidental products of godless atoms obeying laws of nature then nothing has any importance at all. Our aspirations are our own inventions, absurdly imposed on ourselves without any justifying reasons.

While attending to some such Existentialist writings, I couldn’t help noticing that the British Labour Party, reflecting on its disappointment in the General Election, is wondering whether it didn’t appeal enough to aspirational people. Potential leaders have been saying the party talked too much about compassion, not enough about aspiration.

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Lying, governing and colluding

Malcolm Bruce‘If you are suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or even told a brazen lie [should quit Parliament], including cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, we would clear out the House of Commons very fast’, said Sir Malcolm Bruce, former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Bruce was defending the action of Alistair Carmichael, who before the General Election had authorised his special adviser to leak a memo about a private conversation in which Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of the Scottish National Party, was supposed to have said she would prefer David Cameron to remain as Prime Minister.

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