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Posted: 17 January 2018

Think ‘God’ and what do you see? Psychologist Bonnie Poon Zahl of the University of Oxford has investigated people’s perception of God and the effect our image of God has on behaviour. She talks to Nigel Bovey.

Is there a link between having a religious faith and a sense of personal wellbeing?

There is a fair amount of research that shows a general trend of religiosity correlating with higher levels of wellbeing – so religious people seem to report more satisfaction with life and a greater sense of purpose. But it would be wrong to suppose that every individual believer feels good about themselves and about God all the time. As well as being a source of joy, religious faith can also sometimes be a source of strain.

How can having a faith be personally detrimental?

For my...

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Posted: 30 December 2017

Politicians ‘doing God’, scientists and theologians in conversation, a compelling biography of Martin Luther, and a fresh take on the Good Book. We look at 10 of the most striking books on the borders of faith and culture published in 2017.

Cover of Unbelievable?

Justin Brierley has hosted the radio show, Unbelievable? for the past 10 years, inviting atheists, sceptics (and believers) to debate arguments for and against the Christian faith. But how have all those years of discussion with Richard Dawkins, Derren Brown and others affected Brierley’s own faith? In his book of the show, Brierley tells the stories of his radio guests, and explains why (to borrow the book’s subtitle) ‘I’m still a Christian’. Published: June 2017

Cover of The Mighty and the Almighty

The Mighty and the Almighty: How Political Leaders Do God...

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Posted: 22 December 2017

The story of the birth of Jesus is well known through Christmas carol services and nativity plays. But modern archaeological finds have helped give the story greater depth – for example, by showing that the village of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, was a tiny, impoverished settlement. Here are three details from the Christmas story, illuminated by arcahaeology, taken from the booklet, Digging for Evidence, by Peter S Williams.

‘In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world… And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David’ (Luke 2:1,3-4).

So begins the birth narrative of...

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Photo of the ceiling and stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris

Posted: 30 November 2017

In 2015, Tim O’Neill started a blog, History for Atheists, dedicated to debunking the ‘pseudo history’, ‘fringe theories and crackpot ideas’ frequently used by new atheists. That might not seem exceptional, except that Tim O’Neill is a convinced atheist himself, and a member of various atheist organisations.

How did this happen? O’Neill says: ’I felt someone needed to start correcting the popular misconceptions about history which are rife among many vocal atheist activists. I also felt there needed to be some push-back by a fellow unbeliever against several fringe theories and hopelessly outdated ideas which have no credibility among professional scholars and specialists, but which seem to be accepted almost without question by many or even most anti-theistic atheists.’...

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Posted: 26 October 2017

La Sagrada Família, the celebrated (and unfinished) basilica by the artist Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, is the subject this week of a 99% Invisible podcast, one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes. The episode, La Sagrada Família, explores the history, design and religious inspiration of the church, which was begun in the 1880s, is scheduled to be completed in the 2020s, and is said to be the longest running construction project in the world.

The podcast says that Gaudí drew his artistic inspiration from the natural world, which had enthralled him during his childhood in Catalonia. ‘He seemed to absorb essential lessons from the patterns and shapes he saw in nature. A dried out snake’s skeleton, a snail, a honeycomb – these were nature’s perfect constructions. And for Gaudí,...

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Posted: 20 October 2017

We’re pleased to announce that we’re producing a Drawbridge Lecture in May 2018, to be delivered by Marcelo Gleiser, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College, and Director for the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement. The lecture, ‘Unknowns in Heaven and Earth’, will be followed by a conversation between Marcelo Gleiser and the Revd Andrew Pinsent, Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University.

‘Unknowns in Heaven and Earth’ takes place in the Crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday 22 May 2018, starting at 6.30pm. Entry to the lecture is by free ticket. Please register here

Marcelo Gleiset is also giving a lecture on Monday 21 May 2018, at 6.30pm, in the Harvard Lecture Theatre, Bush House, King’s College London. This is a free...

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Posted: 19 October 2017

Five hundred years ago this month, Martin Luther, a German friar and university lecturer, posted a protest against church corruption on the door of a church in Wittenberg, northern Germany. His protest was in the form of 95 theses – or short arguments – many of them the size of a tweet. To everyone’s surprise, Luther’s list was quickly distributed and read throughout Germany, and helped spark the Reformation, which split the church in the West, changed the face of Europe, and helped shape the modern world.

The 500th anniversary of this world-altering event has been marked this year with books, lectures and other events, and now the story of Martin Luther has been retold in a new historical drama, Reformation, which has just been screened by the BBC. The film is in two parts, each 90...

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Posted: 16 October 2017

We were very sorry to hear that Prebendary John Pearce, who was the chairman of the Christian Evidence Society in the early 1980s, has died at the age of 85.

John was an Anglican priest who spent most of his ministry serving areas of social deprivation in London’s East End. He was a pivotal figure in the history of the society, because he revived its work when it was in real danger of disappearing. In 1981, he became Vicar of the Church of St Barnabas in Homerton, Hackney, and when he moved into the vicarage discovered a room full of Christian Evidence Society material, including a library, papers and even furniture.

The society had thrived in the early decades of the 20th century, with open-air speakers who argued the case for the Christian faith from soap boxes, horse-drawn...

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Posted: 10 October 2017

Science’s partnership with secularism does it no favours, argues Peter Harrison. Not only has science failed to promote secularism around the world, but the cause of science has been damaged in countries as diverse as Turkey and the USA.

In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: ‘belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge’. Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularisation as a universal model....

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Posted: 03 October 2017

Over the past month, these are the events in faith, science and culture that have been catching our attention.

28 SeptemberAn AI deity is apparently being created by a former Google engineer, who has founded a quasi religious organisation called Way of the Future. Anthony Levandowski was instrumental in developing Google’s self-driving car, but Way of the Future’s mission statement – ‘to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society’ – goes way beyond sorting out earthly transportation problems. Wired has an extended piece on Levandowski and his career here.

28 SeptemberPhilosopher of religion Keith Ward has written a new book, The Christian Idea...

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