Archive for April, 2015

Mayday brings the first talk by our member Gary Loyden. He says:

“The Black Legend refers to historical accounts of the Inquisition in which it was presented as “cruel, bigoted, exploitative and self-righteous in excess of reality.” The term is usually applied to the Spanish Inquisition, stressing its role as anti-Spanish propaganda. In this talk I would like to consider that it might also be applicable to the time of the Medieval Inquisition, the 12th and 13th centuries.

In presenting opposing interpretations given by scholars, l will be asking the question whether the church, having created the inquisition as an institution with the well-intentioned aim of saving Christendom from dark forces, allowed it to develop into a cynical manoeuvre to reinforce the subjugation of the local populace of southern Europe.”

I hope to see you there.


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Just to remind you that this Friday, 24th April, from 7.40pm at the Friends Meeting House, John Little will be speaking on ‘The Mystery of Consciousness’. He asks:

Would a life without consciousness be worth living?

Would you swap a finite, conscious life for immortality without consciousness?

Without consciousness no joy, no pain, no thrill of success, no anguish of failure.

But life would be….what? ….meaningless? …….pointless?

Could it even be, as Nicholas Humphrey suggests, that the evolutionary role of consciousness is to make life worth living?


Do you think of consciousness as a process (the result of brain activity) or something that can have a separate existence?

A divine gift or the product of evolution? The gift of language or of biology?

Do you think that animals are conscious? All animals or only some? Birds? Octopus? How about simple animals like insects and earthworms?

How would you know? Are there reliable tests for consciousness?

And has the explosion of ‘consciousness research’ since the 1980s shed any light on these questions?


Lastly, given that we have not solved ‘the hard problem’ of how electrochemical activity in a brain gives rise to consciousness, could it be (as Marian Dawkins suggests) that the cause of animal welfare is not served by trying to convince sceptics that animals are conscious?

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17th April: The Bible

This week we welcome Steve Miller to the Phil Soc. Steve is a regular churchgoer, avid Bible reader and convinced atheist. He’s a psychologist by day, and a keen but amateur theologian, Biblical critic and historian of early Christianity in just about every free moment the rest of his busy life allows.  He says:
“It is de rigueur among some atheists to mock The Bible for its Bronze Age science and plentiful examples of barbarous morality. However, Steve Miller will argue that not only is it anachronistic to judge a collection of ancient texts by modern standards, but to do so puts these sceptics firmly in the same indefensible paradigm as biblical literalists. Like it or not, The Bible remains the central repository of beliefs for two billion of our fellow creatures. Moreover, it is by far and away the most significant text in all of Western history. It has shaped our literature, our law, our art and culture, our education system, the fundamentals of science and inquiry, our values, our politics and much else besides. As such it demands to be taken very seriously indeed. It is simply not possible to understand our past or present without properly reflecting on this book, its ideas and on the status it has achieved. Neither is it possible to engage in serious dialogue and debate with Christians without at least a rudimentary understanding of what The Bible is, where it came from, who wrote it and in what languages, when and why it was written, and what it is trying to tell us.

This is not to suggest that The Bible is the inspired and revelatory word of a God. It is a very much a product of the times and places in which it was created; and aimed directly at the writers’ contemporaneous audience. Thus it is not ‘true’ in the way most Christians understand it to be. But this is not to say it doesn’t contain great ‘truths’. To disregard it totally, merely because it is almost entirely mythological, is to ‘throw a very large baby out with the bath water’. It is certainly much too valuable and interesting to abandon it solely to the faithful, where it is regularly abused, mistreated and used as a ventriloquist’s dummy to justify repressive and regressive moral and political views. The Bible doesn’t belong only to Christianity. It certainly doesn’t belong exclusively to the fundamentalists. It is part of our shared heritage, and as such Steve would like to claim it back in the name of all non-believers and free thinkers.”

So come along to hear more. Because as you know, time keeps on slipping into the future…..




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