Wednesday, 27 February 2013

How Will Pope Benedict XVI Be Remembered?

As Pope Benedict leaves office tomorrow, the question remains over his legacy. How will he be remembered?

Some fear, it will simply be as 'the Pope who retired'. This indeed will change the ministry of all future Bishops of Rome, that option is now very real. If John Pall II taught people how to suffer and accept illness and death in a very public way, Benedict XVI is showing a different way, one of his characteristic humilityu
It is without doubt that there has been great challenges during his Papacy. The child abuse scandal has continued to run, while Benedict has increased the openness of the Church to this problem, apologised publiclly and personally met with many victims. His successor will need to continue to meet with this challenge. The Vatileaks Scandal revealing corruption and mismanagement in the high levels of the Church including the bank have also been damaging. Yet Benedict showed his compassion by pardoning the individual who revealed the information.
However, his work as a scholar and deep theologian will be long remembered, with his insightful and powerful accounts of Jesus' life keeping the Pope on many best seller lists for several years. Alongside this, his speeches live long in the memory of all who witnessed and heard them. He visted mosques and entered into much inter-faith dialogue, reaching out to those of other faiths. He was also the first Pope to own an iPad and tweet!
Indeed he will be very fondly rememebred, particually by the young, and particually by those he came in close contact with; with the UK sharing in that collective experience.
How do you think Pope Benedict XVI will be rememebered? Have the scandals been too damaging? Is it his strong personality that will win through? Have his numerous visits to Catholics around the world effected people's views? How will the next Pope follow in his footsteps?

An insightful link from the BBC about how Benedict XVI's life will change: 10 Things About the Pope's Retirement

The BBC have also compiled what they beleive to be his 10 Defining Moments

ABC (Australia) have written a more detailed piece on his legacy: Benedict's War

A fantastic video from LifeTeen:

Friday, 15 February 2013

Atheists Versus NEW Atheists

Douglas Murray wrote an interesting piece for The Spectator on "Atheists vs Dawkins". He begins:

"My fellow atheists, it’s time we admitted that religion has some points in its favour."

He goes on to claim that while witnessing figures like Richard Dawkins speak, that it seems illogical to hold what they say as being correct; "Religion was portrayed as a force of unremitting awfulness, a poisoned root from which no good fruit could grow."

Indeed it is often cited how Christianity was largely responsible for the abolition of slavery by individuals such as William Wilberforce and the obvious contribution to American history from Christians such as Martin Luther King. Additionally it was the church that provided the first free medical care and education in the UK.

Murray seems to think it because these New Atheists are obsessed with 'what is true'. This is always an interesting discussion with young people, who often to some degree, also subscribe to this idea.

Genesis is the story of creation, as known to Christians and Jews alike. It is not a historical account, nor is it a scientific account. It is a beautiful piece of poetry, that tells the truth. It is the truth of our purpose and creator.

The way I best explain this, is to read some war poetry. Take this poem; Siegfried Sassoon's 'Suicide in the Trenchs'. It would seem inappropriate to say this poem was not true, however it does not tell me when WW1 began, nor ended, nor how many people were killed...

Murray points out that, "You can be in agreement with Professor Dawkins that Adam did not exist, yet know and feel that the story of Eden speaks profoundly about ourselves."

However, he also point out that New Atheists are unwilling to even begin to consider this notion. Murray says that, " ought most to consider whether what you are pulling down is as wholly valueless as you might temporarily have to pretend it is, and whether you have anything remotely as good to put in its place." (Admitedly, de Botton beleives we do...)

The article continues considering whether or not we have "vessels for truth-carrying in our age.". New Atheists argue the search for truth can be found in poetry and philosophy, but this is rarely the case. The majority still search for truth and answers for the 'Big Questions' through their religion. Murray also suggests that the danger is potentially, "if you keep telling people that they lead meaningless lives in a meaningless universe you might just find yourself with — at best — a vacuous life and a hollow culture?"

To conclude, Murray does offer some kind of vision that means there is not this constant conflict. He suggests that religions must distance themselves from political power and decision that effect non-believers. However he says for atheists they must recognise that "when it comes to discussions of ideas, morality and meaning, religion does have a place... we might at least agree not always and only to deride, laugh at and dismiss as meaningless something which searches sincerely for meaning."

His final though is an important one, "something must be done to prevent believers and non-believers spending yet another century talking past each other."

What do you think? Is Murray correct in his conclusion? Are New Atheists 'as bad' as theists? Do you think things will ever change?

Read full article here:

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

266th Pope?


Tuesday 11th February 2013 was the day Pope Benedict XVI changed the role of the leader of the Catholic Church in the modern era. No longer was it a life long vocation and calling, but more a very real, and challenging job. He believed he was no longer up to that role, and needed someone younger to step up. He will retire to life in a convent within the Vatican, returning to the title Cardinal Ratzinger.

However now the speculation begins...

Firstly, make sure you watch this:

It would be helpful if political commentators did. Then we could avoid headlines such 'Vatican seeks to appoint black Pope' as we are talking about some multi-national seeking a new CEO. The Holy Spirit will guide the Cardinals during conclave to appoint the 266th successor to St Peter, regardless of any conventional political agenda.
This CTS publication si worth reading if you want more detail:
However if you are interested in the journey to being Pope, this is a very interesting video:

Rome Reports gives this insight into the 'key' Cardinals, possibly one of these will be the next Pope?

Whatever happens, it won't take too long to find out, the next Pope is likely be in place by Easter.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Same-Sex Marraige: Potential Implications

On 5th February 2013, MPs voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by 400 to 175, a majority of 225. In now moves towards the House of Lords where it will meet strong opposition. However in all likelihood, the UK will have same-sex marriage in place at some point over the next few years.

This blog has already posted about the same-sex marriage <see here> and in particular the Catholic Church's view on it.

There will be much discourse, including celebration and outrage over the next few days. Here I will aim to collect some of the possible implications:
  •  Michael Gove has expressed fears that the Government will be powerless to prevent primary school teachers from being sacked, if they refuse to teach children about gay marriage. <link>
    • This will ultimately be an EU decision, and despite ministers claiming that "Teachers are able to, and entitled to, express their views about same-sex marriage and there’s no requirement at all for them to promote it but, obviously, we wouldn’t expect teachers to be offensive or discriminate in any way about anybody.". This confusion is not helpful, and the Government need to set out clear guidelines as to what is appropriate and what is not, with provision made for teachers conscience.
  • Bishop Egan suggested that the legalisation of same-sex marriage "would in time have catastrophic consequences" for marriage and family life and could lead to the Catholic Church being forced to withdraw from the civil registration of marriages. <link>
    • The result in this being, that to get married in a Catholic Church will purely be a sacramental procedure. To be legally wed, a couple will also need to visit a registry office.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Atheist's 10 Commandments

Could Atheist Alain de Botton have come up with a way of having a civilising influence on modern life? As we live in an increasingly secular society that sees Judeo-Christian teaching such as the original 10 Commandments out of date and no longer relevant.

Indeed it is hard to see how anyone could argue with de Botton's on how to be a 'nice person', and equally could any person of faith argue that all these characteristics are not in keeping with their religions beliefs?

Whereby many see the 10 Commandments as a form of social control, this list for atheists is a 21st-century guide to pleasant coexistence with which no one could argue. Perhaps with the exception of  Richard Dawkins, because this list is mostly definitely all about the 'Unselfish Gene'.

It does raise some questions, does sacrafice have a place in 21st centruty living? Whcih de Botton repies, "We won't ever manage to raise a family, love someone else or save the planet if we don't keep up the art of sacrifice."

Psychologist Jacqui Marson claims, "Religion doesn't have a monopoly on ethics, and this list is an excellent, thoughtful guide to behaviour. It places the onus back on the individual to listen to their humanity and trust in other people, rather than laying out rigid instructions for living."

de Botton says that his list is aimed to "ignite a vital conversation around moral character to increase public interest in becoming more virtuous and connected as a society". Something that he claims doesn't often happen for the non-religious.

How does this compaire to the 10 Commandments? Do atheists and the non-religious really not strive to be more virtuous? Does this list function in the same way as the 10 Commandments? Do you think de Botton is in danger of moving towards his own cult, in a similar fashion to 'Dawkinism?'
Read more:

Alain de Botton's 'list for life'
  1. Resilience: Keeping going even when things are looking dark.
  2. Empathy: The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique experiences of another person.
  3. Patience: We should grow calmer and more forgiving by being more realistic about how things actually happen.
  4. Sacrifice: We won't ever manage to raise a family, love someone else or save the planet if we don't keep up with the art of sacrifice.
  5. Politeness: Politeness is closely linked to tolerance, -the capacity to live alongside people whom one will never agree with, but at the same time, cannot avoid.
  6. Humour: Like anger, humour springs from disappointment, but it is disappointment optimally channelled.
  7. Self-awareness: To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one's troubles and moods; to have a sense of what's going on inside oneself, and what actually belongs to the world.
  8. Forgiveness: It's recognising that living with others is not possible without excusing errors.
  9. Hope: Pessimism is not necessarily deep, nor optimism shallow.
  10. Confidence: Confidence is not arrogance - rather, it is based on a constant awareness of how short life is and how little we will ultimately lose from risking everything.
Also available in a print out/PDF version: <here>

Monday, 4 February 2013

What Would Jesus Say?

Lot's of things in Aramaic!

This was Jesus' native langauge and one of the 50-90% of the world's languages likely to become extict in the next 100 years.

It's an ancient language, over 3,000 years old, originally spoken in the Middle East. However, the largest concentration of speakers is now in Chicago's northern suburbs. Here lives tens of thousands of Assyrians, who are Aramaic-speaking Christians, driven here by persecution and war.

Linguist, Geoffrey Khan of the University of Cambridge, has travlled to Chicago to try and record and document the different dialects of Aramaic. Even now, he tries to find elderly people who accents have been less mixed and influenced by their new surroundings.

Parts of the Bible and the Jewish Talmud were written in Aramaic and Jesus is quopted on several occasions speaking in this langauge. Even on the cross, he  cried out, “Elahi, Elahi, lema shabaqtani?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
This important part of history and culture is already being 'lost' and Khan is desperate to preserve something of its remaining speakers.

Do you think it's important to document Jesus' native tongue? Is it significant that it is soon to die out? Do you think in 100 years time people will just speak English, Spanish and Mandarin as some people are predicting?

Read more here: