Can we be human without free will?

April 2nd, 2019

Do human beings have free will? Can we choose among different possible actions and beliefs? Or are we controlled by our genetics, or by blind physical processes in our brains?

And if we couldn’t make genuine choices, would that diminish us? Would we be any different from animals, except a little smarter … perhaps? And what would that say about human rights and ethics?

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Can life have meaning without God? Five views

August 2nd, 2018

Most of us want to be happy, and most of us want our lives to be meaningful. And psychologists confirm that we are happier when we feel our lives have meaning and purpose

But what gives our lives meaning?

It used to be that religion gave life meaning. Even if life was hard drudgery, or worse, dangerous and painful, the hope of a better life in the age to come gave meaning and purpose even to the suffering.

But with religion in decline in first world countries, what gives lives meaning now? Some say nothing can. But most say we can, and have to, choose our own meaning and invest our lives in that.

But does it work? Can life have meaning without God?

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Science vs religion: Is scientific thinking different to religious thinking? Is it better?

June 26th, 2018

Science has been one of the success stories of the past few hundred years

Through science we know more about the world. We can predict outcomes like weather, the paths of space rockets and the prognosis for cancers. And we can treat many sicknesses, travel all over the world, communicate to virtually anyone anywhere and blast a city with a nuclear bomb.

And so for many people science holds the answers, while religions no longer help.

What are the differences between scientific and religious thinking, and the ways science and religion can assist us in life?

Most of the ideas in this post, and the quotes, come from social scientist Connor Wood, who specialises in the sociology of religion.

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Experiencing God?

April 9th, 2018

Many people claim to have experienced God directly in some way. They claim to have seen a vision, or received divine healing, or they have had some deep spiritual experience, or God has turned their lives around in some way. They come from different religions, even from no religion and atheism. Sometimes the experience changes their lives completely, sometimes not so much.

The interesting question, of course, is whether God is really the origin of their experience, or not. If so, then life takes on a different meaning. But even if these experiences have natural causes, they are still of great interest to psychologists.

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The doubt that breathes beside you

March 10th, 2018

People move into and out of faith. Probably most of us stay with the religious beliefs we form in our late teens, but a fair number change their basic belief somewhat later.

These changes in belief can be difficult to make and to carry through. But probably nothing is more difficult than when one partner in a close relationship changes their previously deeply held belief and the other does not.

Blogger, author, wife and christian, Stina Kielsmeier-Cook, has given us in The Doubt that Breathes Beside You a beautifully written and heart-breaking story of her experience when her formerly zealous christian husband decided he could no longer believe.

Whether you are a believer or a non-believer, I think you will find her reflections memorable and touching.

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Logical truth and psychological truth

January 17th, 2018

Most of us like to think that our beliefs are logical and based on the evidence. But we also know that very few things can be known with certainty – after all, this may all be a dream.

But we need to live our lives and make choices. So sometimes we have to act despite the uncertainty.

I have been thinking how this relates to my beliefs (and yours too). How certain am I of my beliefs, and how much do I live with uncertainty?

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“I don’t set much store by signs and wonders, but ….”

November 12th, 2017

Aussie novelist Tim Winton is without doubt my favourite writer. I especially love That Eye the Sky, a novel of a family that is put under pressure by a serious car accident, and finds relief in unexpected places. It has been made into a film and two stage plays.

And it turns out that so much of the storyline is taken from real events when Tim was just a boy, something that was maybe miraculous, and which made a deep impression on him and his whole family

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