Wishing you a terrified Halloween

Clouds with an eye

The title comes from my annoyance at the local Sainsbury’s, which wishes its customers a happy Halloween. If you’re happy, it misses the point.

Someone I know well has just told me that he’s into becoming a medium. This post describes my response. It’s not quite a Halloween theme, but a bit occult – at least, more appropriate than Brexit.

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Is there any point in praying?

Girl praying
Image by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay

I actually believe in praying, but not for the reasons many people give. The Christian tradition offers different, and often conflicting, accounts of how to do it and what to expect from it.

This post offers my way of trying to make sense of it.

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Bishops, Brexit and Bullshit

A bishop's mitre covering the UK

The Church Times is usually pretty deferential to the leadership of the Church of England, but this time its leader article excoriates all 118 of its bishops for their joint statement about Brexit.

At my local Philosophy in Pubs group we were recently discussing the difference between lying and bullshit. Lying, we thought, is when the speaker knows his or her statements are not true. Bullshit is when the speaker is expected to say something, and is more concerned to perform as expected than to speak accurately. This post asks: is the bishops’ statement bullshit? I would prefer to think not, as I know and respect some of them. But I think it is.

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Philosophical climate-striking

‘Right now, we are ignoring natural climate solutions,’ Greta Thunberg declares. ‘We spend 1,000 times more on global fossil fuel subsidies than on nature-based solutions.’

The world with a lit fuse

A year after the scientific community told us we have 12 years to stop destroying the planet, governments are still carrying on as before. The idea of a Green New Deal is becoming more popular, but it’s not as though governments across the world are adopting it. We know we need to change, and quickly. Why isn’t it happening? This post reflects on our underlying presuppositions about it.

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Democracy needs reliable information

Headline from the Daily Express

‘Parliament surrenders to the EU’, declares the front page headline of Wednesday’s Daily Express, adding underneath ‘On another shameful day in our so-called democracy rebel MPs vote to betray Brexit’.

The Daily Express purports to be a newspaper, but there is no news in this: it is pure propaganda. This post looks at one necessary condition of democracy: reliable information accessible to voters.

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Jesus insults his host

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.

So said Jesus, at dinner, to the person who had invited him. This post will explain why Jesus behaved so outrageously. It is a sermon based on the lectionary reading for 1st September, Luke 14:1,7-14.

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Christian imperialism

Logo of Gun Central

The image pictured here is the logo of Gun Central, one of the big USA corporations selling guns. After the two recent mass shootings, gun sales went up.

The Christian imagery is in your face: the shining white cross of the T, the biblical reference Luke 22:36 (where Jesus said ‘The one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one’.) The website heading shows a USA flag, ‘God bless America’, and a quotation from Psalm 33:12 (NIV): ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance’. To non-American Christians, wrapping up the promotion of guns in Christian rhetoric is astonishing, and arguably blasphemous.

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More cooperation please, less competition

Drawing of Boris Johnson

Competitiveness is supposed to oil the wheels of a successful economy, we keep hearing.

Yet Christianity, like most faith traditions, stresses the importance of cooperation. Competitiveness is all very well for those who win the competitions, but not for those who lose them; and God cares for the losers just as much as the winners. This post cites a speech made by Boris Johnson in favour of competitiveness a few years ago. Since he’s now our Prime Minister, it may be of interest. I shall argue against it from a Christian perspective.

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Natural disasters and religious belief

Volcano with picture of Jesus above it

Volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis make people more religious according to a study reported by Adam Becket in today’s Church Times. Why? Is it because ‘religious coping provides a stable reason for why people believe in God’?

This explanation is religiously neutral: it tells us belief in God is psychologically helpful, regardless of whether it is true. This post suggests that believers can make stronger claims.

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Why did Jesus send out missionaries?

Drawing of Diogenes and Alexander the Great

This post is a sermon about the Gospel reading for 7th July: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20. It follows on from the sermon I published on 29 June 2019 .

Jesus sent out missionaries. Scholars have asked how they compare with the Cynic philosophers of their day. Here I point to some similarities and differences.

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