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Photo of a skull in a medical school

Posted: 26 July 2019

Is there a genuine conflict between science and religion? A new report shows that the ‘conflict’ between science and religion is sometimes talked up in the UK as if it were part of an emerging culture war, as it apparently is in the US.

The report, produced by Theos, the think tank specialising in the relationship between religion, politics and society in the contemporary world, gathers over ten years of polling data to give the fullest picture yet of the science and religion landscape in the UK.

The report can be downloaded (for free) here. Some of the most memorable findings include the following facts and figures, taken from the report’s executive summary:

• The percentage of people who agree or strongly agree that science and religion are incompatible is only 27%, compared...

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Photo of Justin Brierley in the Premier Radio studio

Posted: 03 July 2019

Ahead of Unbelievable? the Conference 2019, Justin Brierley, presenter of Unbelievable? – a radio debate show which brings people of faith and no faith together – talks about his experience of being a Christian, and of sitting in the hot seat of debate for 10 years.

I grew up in a Christian family. Both my parents became Christians when they were at Oxford University together. However, I wouldn’t say that I really owned that faith myself until I was about 15 years old. We went to church every Sunday, and I had friends in the youth group, but I went because my parents did. The turning point for me came at a church youth camp. As a teenager, l wasn’t sure about Christianity, I didn’t have the conviction that others seemed to have. However, on that youth camp, faith really came...

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Photo of the Nathan-Melech bulla being held by an archaeologist

Posted: 23 June 2019

A tiny clay seal discovered beneath a former car park in the centre of Jerusalem may be linked to a name found in the Bible’s book of Kings, according to the archaeologists who found it. The seal was found in the ashes of a house which burned down in 586 BC, when the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem and razed the city to the ground. Stamped onto the clay seal are the words: ‘Belonging to Nathan-Melech, servant of the king’.

According to a report in the New York Times, the Israeli archaeologist Yuval Gadot found the discovery very emotional, saying, ’When you find something like this it’s very exciting. It gives flesh and bones to things that are very distant stories.’

Photo of the Nathan-Melech bulla

The distinctive name Nathan-Melech is found in the story of an Old Testament...

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Posted: 20 June 2019

‘If there are many different reigions, there are also many different atheisms,’ says John Gray, in the introduction to his book, Seven Types of Atheism (2018). A British philosopher and himself an atheist, Gray says that the New Atheists, who have dominated the debate between faith and non-faith for the past generation with their ridicule of religion, have failed to understand both religion and the broad tradition of atheism.

Gray distinguishes and explores the branches of atheism ancient and modern, from the old atheists of the Enlightenment through to the New Atheists of the recent past, such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, whom he describes as ‘mostly a media phenomenon and best appreciated as a type of entertainment’. That comment immediately tells you that Gray’s book is not...

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Photo of man sitting in church

Posted: 28 May 2019

‘The fact that having a religious faith is good for you is psychiatry’s best-kept secret,’ says Andrew Sims, Past President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Leeds. In this interview, he talks to Nigel Bovey about the health benefits of faith.

Professor Sims, why did you choose psychiatry as a career?

My father was a GP and he had a few colleagues who were psychiatrists. He didn’t think much of psychiatry, but as a schoolboy I was interested in what makes people do the things they do. I had never heard of psychology but thought that if I studied medicine, I might be able to get into psychiatry, which is what I did.

Have you worked as a clinical psychiatrist?

Yes. After qualifying as a medical doctor, I trained in...

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Posted: 12 April 2019

A combative new book on Jesus and New Atheism, authored by the philosopher and apologist Peter S Williams, has just been published. The book, Getting at Jesus (with the forthright subtitle, ‘A Comprehensive Critique of Neo-Atheist Nonsense about the Jesus of History’), argues that New Atheist claims about the historical evidence for Jesus are mistaken and false. It builds the case for how modern readers can get at the truth about the Jesus of history for themselves.

Says Williams: ‘The so-called New Atheists are interested in “getting at” Jesus in the sense of attacking belief in him, but they don’t put much effort into thinking about how we get at Jesus historically speaking. I wrote this book to show that thinking carefully about how we get at the historical Jesus reveals...

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Photo of Marcelo Gleiser

Posted: 19 March 2019

We’re very pleased to learn that Marcelo Gleiser, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and our Drawbridge lecturer in 2018, has been announced as the winner of the 2019 Templeton Prize.

As a leading proponent of the view that science, philosophy and spirituality are complementary expressions of humanity’s need to embrace mystery and the unknown, he is a worthy winner of the annual Prize, whose purpose is to honour ‘a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works’.

Professor Gleiser’s commitment to building bridges between science, spirituality, philosophy, and other human projects of exploration, was what led us to invite him to give the Drawbridge Lecture last May. His...

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Photo of British and German soldiers meeting on Christmas Day 1914

Posted: 29 December 2018

Christmas 2018 saw the 200th anniversary of the carol Silent Night. Martin Clarke, Lecturer in Music at The Open University explores its musical and lyrical content, as well as its key role in the Christmas truce on the Western Front in 1914.

Few Christmas carols evoke the season of peace and goodwill as readily as Silent Night. Two popular stories contribute to its appeal: one concerning the circumstances of its composition in Oberndorf, near Salzburg in Austria, and the other its role in the Christmas Truce of 1914 when the opposing forces walked out of their trenches to greet their enemies and share food and drink.

But its lyrical and musical content are also important factors in understanding its enduring popularity, and Christmas Eve 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of its...

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Posted: 05 December 2018

A famous letter by Albert Einstein which expresses his thoughts about God, the Bible and Judaism, was sold at auction for $3 million this week. The letter had been expected to sell for half the price.

Writing to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, Einstein’s thoughts on religion are essentially negative. He writes: ’The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.’

The letter has been previously described (by the New York Times) as ‘pouring gasoline on the culture wars between science and religion’.

Writing in the Guardian, Harriet Sherwood comments: ‘The sentence has been hailed as evidence that the physicist, one of the 20th century’s...

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Posted: 30 November 2018

An ancient copper ring unearthed in Israel 50 years ago, but which has only just been cleaned and examined, may once have belonged to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who sentenced Jesus to death, archaeologists have announced.

The ring, which was discovered in 1968 in the ruins of the Herodium, the palace of King Herod the Great, near Bethlehem, shows a wine vessel surrounded by the Greek letters of a word translated as ‘Pilatus’. The ring would have been used to seal official documents, and archaeologists believe it may have belonged either to Pilate himself, or to an aide in his office, sealing letters on his behalf.

The discovery has excited interest because this is only the second artifact ever discovered to carry the name of Pilate. The other is a stone block bearing a...

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Photos at the top of this column by:
Taro Taylor and Jon Sullivan