Jun 13 2011

June 2011 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters




June 2011

Kia Ora,



Pulling us Back from the Brink:

Economics? Science? Religion?


This is the theme for the national conference in October (more details below).


Where does the threat come from?

And where might deliverance from the threat come from?


This month, here in Dunedin, six of our own members will start us thinking about this cheerful subject.
Each of them will speak for five minutes –
one arguing: Economics may bring disaster upon us;
one: Economics can deliver us;
one: Science and Technology may be the end of the world as we know it;
one: Science and Technology can deliver us;
one: Religion may be the death of us.
and one: Religion can deliver the world;
They will each be brief and to the point, so that we have plenty of time to discuss.


National conference:
This year’s conference will be held at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, 59 Hewitts Road, Christchurch, from Friday 14 to Sunday 16 October. The theme is:

Pulling us Back from the Brink: Economics? Science? Religion?


Speakers will include Jeanette Fitzsimons [Conference opening], Professor Geoff Bertram [Wellington – Economics], Associate Professor Bob Lloyd [Otago – Science] and Dr Val Webb Australia – Religion].

The programme and registration forms will be available early in July with the national Sea of Faith Newsletter or on the website.


Our Library …

… has an interesting addition. “God and the New Atheism” by John F. Haught aims to show up the weaknesses in the recent arguments for atheism of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. There is a good review of the book on the Christchurch SoF website


Being Uncertain about Uncertainty:

I’ve recently read several things commending uncertainty, and pointing to the harm that can be done by people being too certain, too sure that how they see things is the only right way.


John Teehan says, in “In the Name of God”, “One aspect of religious psychology implicated in religious violence is the sense of certitude that accompanies belief”. And he goes on: “The Bible has contributed to violence in the world precisely because it has been taken to confer a degree of certitude that transcends human discussion and argumentation. …. We should be very wary of those who want children to grow up thinking that any one religion is the only true religion; such an attitude is a major ingredient in religious violence”.


From a different point of view, Mark Vernon’s book, “How to be an Agnostic” argues that “the authentic spiritual quest is marked not by certainties, but by questions and doubt”. The back cover of the book claims: “This journey through physics and philosophy concludes that the contemporary lust for certainty is demeaning of our humanity.” These and other things made me respond positively when I met the phrase “the beauty of uncertainty”.


But then, in a quite different context, I read about agricultural labourers and their families in turbulent times in mid-17th Century England. The point was made quite forcefully that uncertainty was one of the evils they had to cope with. Their grandparents had lived very hard and limited lives as peasants on feudal estates, but their lives had had more consistency, more predictability – and had therefore been easier to bear. Perhaps too, I’ve begun to think, the saying “There are no atheists in foxholes”, is onto something. And I would not dare suggest to anyone living in Christchurch right now, that uncertainty is beautiful.


So is uncertainty, after all, a Good Thing. Or is “the beauty of uncertainty” a phrase that can seem attractive only to an affluent, healthy person who knows he is loved and who lives in a secure and peaceful part of the Western world? The “beauty of uncertainty” seems, after all, to be something I am quite uncertain about.


Chair: Marjorie Spittle – Phone 481 1418 – Email: Marjorie
Newsletter Editor: Donald Feist – Phone 476-3268 – Email: Don
or: 16 Pioneer Crescent, Helensburgh, Dunedin 9010


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