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Photo of part of the Roman acqueduct at Caesarea

Posted: 28 March 2017

Photo of the cover of the book Digging for EvidenceImagine the excitement of brushing away the soil from some ancient stone or pottery shard and finding an inscription mentioning someone previously known only from ancient documents. Imagine what it would be like to unearth a building mentioned in the Gospels that Jesus and the disciples actually visited. Can you imagine discovering something which has been hidden for 2,000 years?

These things really happen. The evidence of archaeology can help us interpret certain biblical texts, as well as providing an independent way to check the Bible’s historical reliability. While the critics of the Christian faith continue to argue against the trustworthiness of the New Testament record, many new archaeological finds have been on the side of scripture, rather than the sceptics.

To illustrate the...

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Photo of the head of a robot

Posted: 16 January 2017

In the near future, our world will probably be populated by artificial intelligence and robots. How will this affect work, relationships and religion? Nigel Bovey talks to Dr Beth Singler, anthropologist of religion and Research Associate at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at the University of Cambridge.

Dr Singler, in the past you have researched the New Age movement and new religious movements, such as Scientology and Jediism. What are you investigating now?

I am part of a team researching the social and religious implications of advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. We are not building or programming robots, or trying to create AI; rather, we are looking at the impact on humans of potentially near-human machines.

Will robots running the world be more...

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Photo of Mark Zuckerberg

Posted: 12 January 2017

There was a surprise on Facebook on Christmas Day when Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the social network site, wished his followers a ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah’. His greeting attracted 27,000 comments, but one of the first, posted by José Antonio, asked, ‘But Aren’t You atheist?’ Zuckerberg responded, ‘No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.’

clipping from Mark Zuckerberg Facebook post

Mark Zuckerberg was widely claimed as an atheist for the simple reason that his Facebook profile had once listed it as his religious preference. According to Beliefnet, he declared his atheism when he was 13. Along with Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) and Elon Musk (SpaceX), Zuckerberg was one of the...

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Photo of the interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Posted: 02 January 2017

25 DecemberMark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has apparently rediscovered religion. A self-declared atheist for several years, Zuckerberg posted a message on Christmas Day wishing Facebookers a ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah’. When a commenter asked, ‘But aren’t you atheist?’ Zuckerberg replied, ‘No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.’ The speculation is that a meeting with the Pope in the summer, plus prayer at a Buddhist shrine in China a year earlier, were important milestones.

23 DecemberMartin Scorsese’s new film Silence was released and has been acclaimed as ‘one of the finest religious movies ever made’, but also panned as ‘inert, humourless and overly...

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Photo of a Doctors of the World Christmas card image, showing the three wise men with a drone

Posted: 24 December 2016

Nativity scenes are in the news every Christmas because, reliably, the Baby Jesus is kidnapped from nativities placed outside churches and homes, and in town squares. This year alone, the Bethlehem baby has been stolen from the towns of Pine Grove and Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, Perth in Scotland and Ladywood in Central Birmingham. Even a knitted nativity in the window of a second-hand shop in Basingstoke was lifted. Some churches have responded by installing a GPS tracker in their nativity statues.

The traditional nativity scene is said to have been invented by St Francis of Assisi. He staged a live nativity in a cave in 1223, complete with people and animals, partly as a way of getting people to focus on the birth of Christ, rather than on feasting and gift-giving. His tableau...

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Photo of silhouetted man reading a book by a tree

Posted: 23 December 2016

There have been some stellar books published in the last months of 2016 in the area where faith, spirituality, history, science and culture meet. Here are just seven which caught our eye and look well worth reading.

Hidden Christmas
The Surprising Truth behind the Birth of Christ, by Timothy Keller
Everyone thinks they know the Christmas story, but New York author Tim Keller takes a fresh look at the arrival of Jesus, with a strong focus on the women in the birth stories. Says the Methodist Recorder, ‘In this surprising take on the Christmas story, the author reveals how, by focusing on the women in the Christmas narratives, a colourful, scandalous and refreshing tale of grace emerges.’

A Dictionary of Atheism
By Lois Lee and Stephen Bullivant
This new dictionary by OUP offers more...

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Photo of Dr Andrew Davison

Posted: 22 November 2016

With doctorates in natural sciences and in theology, scientist and priest Dr Andrew Davison is the Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. He is also the author of several books, including The Love of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy for Theologians. He talks to Nigel Bovey about the overlapping worlds of science, philosophy and faith.

Dr Davison, how did you get into science?

As a child, I was fascinated by chemistry and would buy discarded chemistry sets from my school friends. I read chemistry at Oxford. I followed that with a doctorate in biochemistry, where I was looking at the metabolism of molecules that make up the fatty membranes of cells, with particular reference to lymphoma in the liver.

Where did the interest in theology...

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Image of the cover of the booklet Five Arguments for God

Posted: 06 October 2016

Are there good arguments for God’s existence? Have the so-called New Atheists shown that the arguments for God are no good? A new booklet we’re publishing online today (and available for free) explores five reasons to believe in God, following readable, step by step arguments. The booklet is by William Lane Craig, the philosopher, theologian and apologist. He’s well known for his debates on God’s existence with Christopher Hitchens and Lawrence Krauss, and is the author of Reasonable Faith, which makes the positive case for Christianity.

Download the Five Arguments for God booklet for free here.

William Lane Craig says: ‘It’s perhaps something of a surprise that almost none of the so-called New Atheists has anything to say about arguments for God’s existence. Instead, they...

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Posted: 30 September 2016

28 SeptemberAn ancient toilet found by archaeologists in the ruins of the city of Lachish, which was besieged and destroyed by the Assyrians in 701 BCE, has dramatically confirmed details recorded in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings. The book said that the Israelites used to complete their destruction of pagan temples by turning them into toilets, and the archaeologists at Lachish found exactly that when they excavated the city gate.

27 SeptemberLeigh Eric Schmidt has written a book called Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation, published today. The book explores the complex cultural terrain that unbelievers have long had to navigate in their fight to secure equal rights and liberties in American public life. Christianity Today has an...

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Portrait painting of St Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne, 17th century

Posted: 16 September 2016

Karla Pollmann, Professor of Classics and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Kent, talks to Nigel Bovey about the influence of early Christian thinker Augustine of Hippo on contemporary thought.

Professor Pollmann, you have written four books and numerous academic papers about the early Church Father Augustine of Hippo, who was born in North Africa in the 4th century. What fascinates you about him?

Augustine is one of the craziest early Church Fathers. He is the person in antiquity we have most texts of and he has written on practically everything the world bothers about – love and sex, war and peace, manual labour, justice. He is an exceptional communicator and arguably the most influential early Christian thinker in the Western world.

He is the author of...

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