A shortened audio recording with slides of inaugural professorial lecture ‘Religious Education for a time of Existential Threat’, given on May 11th 2022 at Canterbury Christ Church University. To find out more visit nicer.org.uk and bobbowie.com. You can book our conference for £25 this July 4th 2022 at this link where some of these themes are being explored further here https://tinyurl.com/NICERconference
Ways of knowing, metaphor and the symbolic imagination: an alternative architecture for an RE that integrates language, thought and embodied experience.￼
My conference presentation given at the International Symposium on Religion Education and Values in Lincoln, 31st July 2023
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I am linked to the AfterRE project, a research project funded by Culham St Gabriel’s which is asking questions and exploring possibilities about the next stage in development of the subject, Religious Education. This is a think piece that is linked to that project.
How the world thinks
In his conclusion to the first section of his book How the World Thinks, Julian Baggini suggests that philosophy is differently conceived across the world. One objective that seeks to pin down reality (he says the world) as a truth-seeker, fixed on getting an understanding of things right, with conceptual clarity. Another objective is the concern of a way-seeker, attempting to navigate life, how to live and act while engaged in the world.
“Philosophy in the West has always aspired to be more of a science: rigorous, precise, describing reality as it is. In the East it is more of an art of living.”
Baggini, Julian. How the World Thinks (p. 143). Granta Publications. Kindle Edition.
Baggini contends that philosophy needs both.
“These two projects are related, of course. You understand the world at least in part to get around it, and you can’t have an interest in getting around it without also knowing something about the way it is.”
Baggini, Julian. How the World Thinks (pp. 143-144). Granta Publications. Kindle Edition.
What might RE learn from Baginni’s reflection on Philosophy?
Baggini’s thinking about philosophy could be applied to current discussions about the future of the subject of Religious Education (RE) (See here, here and here for example) which has been framed under a new phrase Religion and Worldviews. Historically the subject of RE has probably often contained a balance between these two strands. On the one hand a focus on asking ultimate questions of existential importance about the fundamental nature of truth – truth-seeking as found in the scholarship of Divinity, theologies, and philosophies, seeking to answer questions of the meaning of life. On the other, the study of ‘way-seeking’ – the more embodied search for meaning in life as enacted and practiced through traditions and communities of way seeking.
The current debate in RE can seem quite focussed on definitions of Worldviews. However the focus could on both Religion and Worldviews, treating it as a compound concept, a constructed concept of multiple parts. Religious Education is a compound concept with a particular sense of religious and education brought into a particular relationship. Failure in understanding those sense and that relationship is one reason for the subject being conflated with faith development.
Treating Religion and Worldviews as a particular compound concept in the context of school education in England, could allow a subject that combines both truth-seeking and way-seeking; the meaning of life and meaning in life.
Here are some comments about two recent podcasts well worth listening to if you are working in the field of science and religion
Nick Spencer and Bethany Sollereder
The first, the shorter of the two, is Diving Deep Into Science and Religion | Live from the UK trailed as ‘Nick Spencer and Bethany Sollereder help us to move into the deep end of the science and religion conversation.’ They talk about the large-scale research project by Faraday Institute and Theos to find out how people in the UK understand and think about science and religion.
According to Nick, one of the co-authors of the report, they found that the conversation is much deeper and much more interesting than is often portrayed.
Bethany Sollereder recently edited with Alister McGrath Emerging Voices in Science and Theology: Contributions by Young Women published by Routledge in 2022 which says of the book “This volume engages with the relative absence and underrepresentation of female voices in the field of science and religion, which tends to be dominated by male academics who are in the later stages of their careers.”
Click here for the podcast, download the transcript and the report here: https://biologos.org/podcast-episodes/diving-deep-into-science-and-religion-live-from-the-uk
Jonathan Pageau, Douglas Murray, and Dr Jordan B Peterson
For a longer listen / watch (depending on whether you prefer Youtube or the podcast version, there is a recorded conversation between Jonathan Pageau, Douglas Murray, and Dr Jordan B Peterson. Here the discussion is around hierarchies of perception, existence, faith, and whether meaning is a self evident truth or something intangible. It is an account of how deep meaning and a truthful spiritual reality can exist. It goes beyond a superficial understanding of symbolic meaning to one that permeates that which is truly real.
Jonathan Pageau is a French-Canadian liturgical artist and icon carver. His work has featured in museums across the world. He carves Eastern Orthodox and other traditional images, and runs a YouTube channel dedicated to the exploration of symbolism and is a Christian, heavily influenced by Orthodox traditions.
Douglas Murray is a British political commentator and author associate editor for the magazine the Spectator. His most recent book is “The War on the West.” He has hosted numerous debates between Peterson and Sam Harris positioning himself somewhat between the two. It might not be entirely inaccurate to say that he sees religion, and Christianity specifically, as offering great cultural and political gifts to civilisation that might be necessary for human flourishing albeit he finds himself unable to take the last step of faith.
Peterson is well known for his outspoken political views against forced speech, his views on Marxism, totalitarianism of left and right forms, and his two recent popular books and extensive YouTube channel with the very popular series of videos on Biblical passages. Peterson is notoriously difficult to position interim of his religious views but he finds considerable psychological meaning in the Bible and remains open to the possibility of a spiritually real dimension.