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An Examined Life

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Socrates famously said that ‘an unexamined life is not worth living’. Today we live in a world where there is frequent examination of life. Our performance and capability are often examined, whether in educational examinations, or professional reviews. Schools, hospitals, Read more ›

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Forgiveness

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Forgiveness is a gift generated by generosity. It is generosity of spirit. It is an element of a shared spirituality. Socially, it is an expression of Richard Titmuss’s ‘gift relationship’. Forgiveness recognises the existence of wrong, of imperfection, and seeks Read more ›

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Purpose

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Purpose appears to motivate and concern us. There are levels of purpose, from the immediate purpose of a functional task, to the purpose of life itself, whether our individual life, or the totality of all human life. A bird has Read more ›

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Fear

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Fear is a pervasive and powerful phenomenon. Fear may be rational. There are good reasons to fear a real danger, alerting us to act cautiously. But even here, the extent of our fear is not predetermined or necessary. It depends Read more ›

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Atheist Doubts on Darwin

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Current secular thought strongly and almost wholly embraces Charles Darwin’s specific theory of evolution set out in his 1859 ‘The Origin of Species’. This is very often associated with an atheist position, since evolution is seen as trouncing religious creationism, Read more ›

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Myth

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Myths, or epic stories, have been traditionally important in human society. They reflect a shared concern for values. They address moral dilemmas. They celebrate virtue and hope, and they counsel against vice and despair. The American philosopher Joseph Campbell wrote Read more ›

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Cynicism

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Perhaps cynicism is sometimes necessary. Perhaps we are unwise to trust, to believe, to have positive expectation, to hope, to take things at face value. Perhaps the truth is negative, and what we are told is untrue, what is presented Read more ›

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Humility

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Formerly considered a classic virtue and a hallmark of spirituality, humility gets little press these days. On the contrary, we value assertive behaviour. Self respect and self belief are important to us. We boost our confidence and promote our potential. Read more ›

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Friendship

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To most of us, friendship is valuable. It brings help and joy, endorses our identity, accepts our behaviour, shares our self back with us, and says we are OK. Or tells us when we’re not. It is a mutual mapping Read more ›

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Gnosticism

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Stephan Hoeller’s book ‘Gnosticism – New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing’ is a very readable, interesting and comprehensive account of the content and history of Gnosticism. It is also very relevant to the contemporary renewed focus on Read more ›

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Cruelty

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When we think of cruelty, we usually think of extreme cruelty. But cruelty is more subtle and pervasive in human behaviour. Kathleen Taylor in her book `Cruelty – Human Evil and the Human Brain’ defines cruelty as `unjustified voluntary behaviour Read more ›

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Democracy

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We put almost total trust in the principle of democracy. If something is democratic it must be good. The primacy of the ‘will of the people’ is a necessary result of a humanist atheist perspective. We have nowhere else to Read more ›

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Celebrity

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The way we rate people says a lot about the spirit of our society. Today we have a very strong tendency to rate people according to their fame, their wealth, their media presence. We are fascinated by superstar status. We Read more ›

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Whence virtue?

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We recognise virtue, we value it, but how can we explain it? Religion explains virtue by the existence of a God who is virtue. But this is an inadequate explanation for human virtue. It simple re-labels virtue and renders it Read more ›

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Respect

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Respect is a strong concept in our consciousness. It incorporates politeness and courtesy, but is more foundational. It might be clearer to say that respect generates politeness and courtesy. To respect someone is to accord them value. Its opposite is Read more ›

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Power

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‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ Lord Acton, letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887 All human societies are characterised by power structures and power struggles. Power is often considered to be a cynical idea with negative connotations. Read more ›

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Trust

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Trust is very important to us. It figures large in our thinking. We want to feel able to trust others. We feel disappointed and hurt if we feel they have let us down. It’s a very common feeling. Being trustworthy Read more ›

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Courage

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It takes courage to challenge, and courage to implement, courage to speak, courage to act. Sometimes it’s courage not to act, courage to disobey, but always courage to do what’s right. Having the ‘courage of our convictions’ will mean that Read more ›

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Mercy

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Mercy is the option to gratuitously limit a cost, penalty, payment, or harm we are legitimately entitled to impose on another person. It can also be the option to freely give care to someone, regardless of whether the other person Read more ›

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Money

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‘The love of money is the root of all evil’ Paul’s letter to Timothy in The Bible In our modern society, money plays a major role, not only in the economy, but also in defining people. We are poor or Read more ›

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Holistic Humanity

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The holistic understanding is that every human being is an integrated physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual unity. But such a balanced view is rarely achieved. History shows that society at any one time tends to emphasise one aspect of this Read more ›

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Justice

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Everyone, well nearly everyone, is passionately in favour of justice. It is almost the one single core rallying virtue for humanity. It’s surprising then that justice is in fact indefinable! This is where the endless argument starts. One person’s, or Read more ›

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Good Books

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Books on atheist spirituality André Comte-Sponville ‘The Book of Atheist Spirituality’ Bantam 2008 Geoff Crocker ‘An Enlightened Philosophy – Can an Atheist Believe Anything?’ O Books 2011 Richard Holloway ‘Godless Morality’ Canongate 2000 Brian Mountford ‘Christian Atheist : Belonging without Read more ›

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Postmodernity

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Modernity The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries was a major ‘paradigm shift’. It defined the ‘Age of Reason’ which was implemented as modernity. Now humanity understood the logic of cause and effect. No longer was some capricious divinity Read more ›

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Jealousy

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We don’t ever live entirely alone, but always in some relationship with others. Some of our relationships are close, some more distant, and in some cases we might only know about someone, rather than knowing them ourselves. Our relationships can Read more ›

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Physicalism

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‘You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules’ Francis Crick, Read more ›

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