Tag Archives: religion


How Humanist Are You?

That I’m taking a look at humanism should not suggest any doubt or move away from my Christianity. I think it is helpful to understand other belief systems, as well as my own faith. If you are interested too, you can try the free online course I am undertaking INTRODUCING HUMANISM: NON-RELIGIOUS APPROACHES TO LIFE.

The very first thing I noticed. in the introductory video of the course is that, aside from not believing in a deity, a lot of what humanists believe does not seem to conflict with Christianity, or other religions.

Humanists are much more committed to testing everything, acquiring scientific evidence for what they believe. The italics for believe are deliberate. For a religion, I use the term advisedly noting they have certain religious type characteristics, requiring testing and evidence, they refer to beliefs an awful lot. If “belief” is necessary because some elements cannot be objectively demonstrated and proof provided through evidence, then how is humanism different from any other religion or belief system that has elements that cannot be proven objectively?

I was interested to take part in the How Humanist Are You quiz that is on the Humanist UK website. The first time I took the quiz it told me that I am, apparently, 71% humanist. I suspect that might be a higher percentage than some self professed humanists, but the quiz itself makes me uneasy.

The quiz is of the multiple choice answer type and, one answer can be selected to each question. It seems to me that a number of potential, relevant answers are missing. Some of the allowed answers are not mutually exclusive, so more than one could be ticked if the design of quiz permitted it. I ‘believe’ the quiz to be deliberately slanted to suggest a humanist viewpoint at its conclusion. Of course according to humanists my ‘belief’ is as valid as theirs.

I took the quiz a second time, selecting alternative answers where I would have ticked two for the question, if the quiz permitted me to do so. I received a new score of 55% humanist.  So perhaps, averaging the two attempts, I am 63% humanist.

In line with the humanists’ own contention that everything we ‘believe’ should be tested and be evidence based, where is the evidence that the quiz is fair? What tests have been done to prove that by entering every possible combination of answers the results show a linear progression of 0% to 100% humanist?

As I write I am at the end of week two of the online course. This post will be updated if my views change as the course progresses.


Faith Without Thinking

But not unthinking faith.

Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant. 1893

I’ve been nominally a Christian since I was baptised as a baby. It’s in recent years that I’ve taken it seriously, trying to live by Christian principals. I’ve not done anything criminal or deliberately hurt anyone, nevertheless I’m probably not what you might call a good Christian.

I go to church each Sunday. I meet with Christian friends and discuss what being a Christian means. I read the Bible, sometimes. That might be part of what makes me Christian but not necessarily a good one.

Often on weekdays and when I’m not with my Christian friends, I am not thinking about behaving as a Christian. Of course it shouldn’t be necessary to be thinking about it all the time. Which is the point I probably need to explain a little more.

This post was inspired by a paragraph from a book, Unveiling A Parallel (To be reviewed later on Entertaining Angels Bookshelf). The passage is:

“Do you often hear an upright man professing his honesty? It is part of himself. He is so free of the law which enjoins honesty that he never gives it a thought. So with the man who is truly religious and no longer needs to guide himself bit by bit and rein, or measure his conduct by the written code.”
– From Unveiling a Parallel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant 1893.

The book is fiction. We can still learn something from it, just as we learn from Jesus’ parables which were fiction but contained a truth.

The person referred to in the quoted passage never thinks about his religion which, in the book, we are not told what it is. The point is that he doesn’t need to think about it. Its principals are so deeply ingrained within him, that he doesn’t need to think about them to live by them. It is, or has become, his natural way of living, of conducting himself.

As Christians, shouldn’t we be aiming to live by Jesus’ teaching, to the extent we do not need to constantly think about it?  I’m not suggesting we should not think about or discuss The Bible and God and Jesus, just that living by its principals ought to become second nature to us, or that we should aim that it does.

Lost In Translation

Mind your language.

My native language is English. I can read sufficient Dutch to make sense of a lot of things, I write it a little, very poorly, and hardly speak it at all. Like many English people, I was, I suppose, quite arrogant for a long time about my language, with no knowledge of any other.

When we refer to language, we don’t always mean your language or mine where translation from one country’s language to another is necessary to understand one-another. Sometimes language can mean the form of words we use. For example when talking about someone’s manner of speaking I might say ‘he doesn’t beat about the bush’ . Someone else might say ‘he speaks his mind’ or ‘he has a direct manner’. Another person might simply say ‘he’s blunt’. It all means the same thing, expressed differently.

The same is equally true when we talk to someone about religion, for me Christianity but the language chosen is equally applicable to all religions. If you were not already A Christian, what would you think if I strolled up to you and said ‘can I talk to you about Jesus’ or Do you read the bible?’. Chances are, you would think me a bit odd and look for the first excuse to get away.

It’s not just what we say but also how we say something that can attract someone, or put them off entirely.I was put off The Bible early in my life by the, to me at that time, impenetrable, archaic language used in the King James Bible (given to me when I was 8 years old and which I still have). When we hope to introduce someone to Christianity, how we talk to them is important.

The same approach does not work for everyone, so be careful not just what you say, how you say it too. As usual I do not have answers, I just hope to get a bit of consideration started.


Religion And Politics

How politics is influenced by religion.

From time to time there are calls that religion and politics in the UK should be separated. Historically they have always been combined and if we go back to biblical times they are inseparable. It is not possible to completely divorce religion from from politics.

It has been suggested that, like in America, there should be a separation between the church and the state in the UK but, also like in America, such separation does not keep religion out of politics. It is no barrier.

It impossible to totally remove the influence of religion from politics, when some of the peoples representatives, elected or appointed, have particular religious beliefs. An analogy might be a divorced marriage. Although the couple are separated, their actions still impact upon each other.

Some might argue that the only true separation that might be possible is an atheist state, but this is a spurious argument. Atheism is non belief in a deity, or put another way belief in no deity. Some atheism is more aggressive, deliberately acting against religions, it is; less tolerant to religions than some religions are to each other, though I realise there are intolerant extremists in every religion. This atheism too is political and cannot be dismissed.

By acting against religion, atheism is then itself acting like a religion. It is evangelising a belief system, albeit believing that there is no god. Any belief system might be called a religion.

Buddhism has no deity and is called a religion, so why not atheism too? Any belief system could be called a religion. So whilst not believing there is a god, is non-political and less likely to influence thinking, believing there is no god, i.e. atheism, still influences politics.

Is Religion Man Made?

Making sense of God -sort of.

The title was a question posed in a discussion forum for an online history course. It raised an interesting discussion, that will never be answered definitively but this is my fourpennyworth on the subject.

I think it is first necessary to separate religion and faith. Secondly, who or what do we mean by God? I know I’m treading on dangerous ground here, but I am excluding man made gods and idols whether that be a statue like a golden calf or things we ‘worship’ today, like fashion, football and technology. So what are we now left with for God? Again treading on dangerously controversial ground, I dare to suggest that all religions ‘gods’, at least of the monotheistic religions may all actually be One God, who is given different names by different peoples. And that probably gives a clue already to my thinking on the original question.

Before going any further, I will state an assumption I make that, any/all atheists would argue that religion is man made. As an interesting aside, that I will not pursue here, is it a faith to believe that God does not exist or, put another way, does that mean that atheists have a kind of faith, which is not provable?

Having already separated religion and faith, I can say that I believe firmly that faith is God made, or perhaps better expressed as made available to us by God. Whether we choose to accept it is another matter entirely, as God that I believe in does not force it on anyone. Man has, on many occasions throughout history, tried to though; or has he? Is it faith man has tried to force on man, or religion? Whilst the instances of man forcing religion on man is somewhat less prevalent today, it is clear from the news media that it still goes on. What also clearly goes on, and has been reported on in news, is attempts to prevent apostasy, leaving a religion.

So, whilst faith is made available by God, religion is, I think, man made and God inspired. The need to answer questions that such a vast universe suggests to mankind, has led at least some humans to conclude that something or someone greater than they has been responsible for the creation. Religion then is perhaps humankind’s way of trying to make some kind of sense of the unimaginable, to our imperfect human mind. Man, not God, albeit inspired by Him, wrote the books about Him and devised the practices and rituals used to worship and glorify him. God gave us free will and the ability, often poorly or selfishly used, to think for ourselves, so we come up with wrong or incomplete answers, which is probably why there are different religions and even different sects within the same religion.

“Sometimes I believe 6 impossible things before breakfast”
“This is impossible” said Alice …..
“Only if you think it is” replied the Mad Hatter.
– from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice In Wonderland.

The Others

This post was originally my response to a question in Christianity Through Its Scriptures.
How are those who belong defined or viewed by the ways in which they view or define those who don’t belong?

OthersWithin the Church of England church there seems to be a general acceptance of the ‘other’, whether that be different religions/denominations or no religion, humanists and/or atheist (if there is a difference).

The atheists, by contrast, whilst generally benign, have a significant number of members who accept no view but their own, some being quite aggressive about it.

A quick look at humanism.co.uk definition , while not explicitly anti Christian or religious, is implicitly so in the wording of their opening statement. They say in the first section of their definition, “and is therefore an atheist or agnostic”. But, since both atheism and religion is a matter of belief, with no absolute proof either way, is this fair?

It goes on to say “makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals”. Isn’t this what Christians do too, albeit that they express it differently?

Another preconception within the non-religious community of the UK seems to be how little the church gives to charity, and is in itself also a charity. Taking the second point first, it might be otherwise stated that it is supported by it’s members, just like the humanist society is, but is conveniently forgotten.

What the CofE gives to other charities, it runs into millions of pounds, but because it is often relatively small amounts here and there to different causes, it does not make news media like major charity initiatives such as Children In Need.

It seems that both the religious and non religious often perceive each other in an equally bad light. Christianity is a religion. At times, the non religious, in particular the humanist/atheist behave like their belief, for that’s what it is, a belief that there is no God, is a religion too.

Be Careful What You … Revisited.

PrayerAn update to an earlier post.

By chance I came across the saying ‘Be careful what you wish for’. It is not a new saying and has been around for a long time. I had heard it before but on this occasion it made me pause and think about it a little bit differently. As a Christian it made me wonder if we perhaps need to:

  • Be careful what you pray for.

In the original post, at this point I had said “I think we do, because I think that God always answers prayers.” I am no longer so sure that is correct. That does not imply that I think he ignores any prayer. I think he listens to every one but chooses not to answer some, which is not the same as ignoring them.

Most of the time, I think he answers in ways we do not expect, or see but is that His fault that we don’t get his answers? Almost certainly not. Probably many times when we don’t see or perceive his answer to a prayer, it is because we do not want to or we are scared it might mean us doing something outside of our comfort zone. It is not that we do not want Him to answer, or that we think he has not but it is because we might not like the answer he gives to us.

When we pray for something that God does not do for us or give to us, he may do something else instead. He gives us the opportunity and the ability to do it for ourselves. Maybe we already have the ability, in this case if we are just too lazy, as sometimes happens, to use it, why should He reply? Or if we pray for something selfish or frivolous, again why should He reply?

He may show us how to achieve something we have prayed for, but that does not mean he will do it for us. It is like a teacher in school showing a child, let’s say, maths. The teacher will show the child how to find the answer to the sum or equation, so he can do another one on his own. He will not just give the answer, which teaches the child nothing. God will almost certainly give us the answer to our prayer but does it in a way that teaches us something and serves His great purpose not ours.

We might look at it like a parent teaching a child to ride a bicycle. At first he just watches, while the child wobbles a bit but can’t fall off because the bike has stabiliser wheels; I had them as a child. Later the stabilisers are removed, and the parent holds the back of the saddle running beside the cycling child, With time the parent’s grip is loosened and eventually let go. Sooner or later will come the inevitable fall off the bike, causing bumps bruises and grazes. Painful and sore but not serious.

Sometimes God will let go of us. It’s not that he doesn’t care, or that he is ignoring us. Like the parent trusting their child and letting go sometimes what seems to be unanswered prayer might be God letting go, trusting us knowing there will be a fall but that is a lesson we, like the child, must learn too.

Sometimes we just do not see His answer because we are looking for it in the wrong place, or because we are not really looking at all or it might be that we do not really care that much about what we prayed about: there are a few lines in the 2003 movie Bruce Almighty that makes this point well:

God (Morgan Freeman) has just given Bruce (Jim Carrey) a rosary of prayer beads:

Bruce:-         What do you want me to do?
 God:-           I want you to pray, son. Go ahead. Use them.
 Bruce:-        Lord, feed the hungry. And … bring peace to all of mankind. How’s that?
 God:-          Great. If you want to be Miss America. Now, come on. What do you really care about?
 Bruce:-        Grace.
 God:-           You want her back?
 Bruce:-        No. I want her to be happy. No matter what that means. I want her to find someone to treat her with all the love that she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who’ll see her always as I do now through your eyes.

 God:-             Now that’s a prayer.

Bruce finally understood that the answer to his prayer was within his own ability to achieve, but it meant taking a completely unselfish action himself.

Of course some people do not pray at all.

Maybe because they think their prayers will never be answered.
Maybe because they know the answer will require them to do something themselves.
Maybe they do not pray because they think that there is no God.


Maybe they do not pray because …

they are afraid that there is.