Sep 11 2011

September 2011 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters



September 2011




David Kitchingman  spoke on:

The Rise and fall of fossil fuels – physical and spiritual

He wrote:

Are members aware that 22 September, the very day of our next SoF meeting, is the official international “Car Free Day”?  So there’s a challenge! To tell you the truth, I wasn’t aware of it either (if I may assume that you didn’t know). I only learned about it when I began to prepare my talk for the meeting. I actually had another day in mind, the Saturday following, 24 September – “Moving Planet Day – A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels”. Don’t tell me you weren’t aware of that! Just kidding. While the day will be observed, even in Dunedin, there’s been little fanfare about it.


I will break my usual rule and come to the meeting on the 22nd in my car because I want to bring along a big poster about climate change! In driving my car, I will use a mode of transport that has a payload efficiency for transporting one person of about 1 per cent. If I were to bring another member, the energy efficiency might be 2 or 3 percent. If my car were hybrid or electric, I might get up to 4 percent. And so it goes.


George Monbiot prefaced his 2007 book, Heat: how to stop the planet burning, by saying that “almost all of us have agreed that climate change, in Tony Blair’s words, is ‘the single most important issue that we face as a global community’”. Monbiot adds “We have also agreed to do nothing about it.”


My talk will explore the ground between those two agreements. I want to air some of the complexities, the contradictions and the calamities of climate change, especially as it is exacerbated by fossil fuels. That is more than enough for one meeting, but I shall not be able to resist going on to pose the question of whether there are any spiritual equivalents of fossil fuels. Is there anything about the Bible, the Church, and the concept of God that could make one stop and think?


SoFiA Bulletin …
is a monthly emailed publication by Sea of Faith in Australia, which I’ve found interesting. If you would like to try getting it, Scott McKenzie, the Editor would be pleased to hear from you. It’s free. Email him at:
And if you aren’t getting our New Zealand Sea of Faith Newsletter, that too has consistently good reading. $15 for 6 issues emailed, or $20 for hard copy posted.
Email Peter Cowley:


I’ve been reading recently Don Cupitt’s recent (2010) book “A New Great Story” which is now in our local SoF Library. As with the other Cupitt books I’ve read, I got cross at times with sweeping, dogmatic statements for which Cupitt gives no evidence. At times I thought he might have a point, but he didn’t convince me. But I also thought there were some brilliant insights well expressed.


By “Bronze Age religion” which he refers to at the end, he means the kind of system that developed with the beginnings of agriculture and cities, when, he says, … religion became extremely objectified, and both the cosmos and within it, the state, became great hierarchies of sacred power and authority.” Here’s what I thought was the best bit of the book:


“An interesting but seldom-marked feature of Jesus’ religion … is that it is not irrational. A very marked feature of church- religions, so called ’creeds’, is that they require every believer to hold many beliefs for which here is no good evidence, and many more that are obviously untrue. But Jesus’ religion is simply a call to ethical decision. It asks us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to burning love for life and for our fellow-humans. ….


“… Jesus’ horrible and tragic death caused a loss of nerve [among his followers]. The fullness of the ethical vision was soon forgotten. Instead, the very small surviving group concentrated their attention upon trying to understand the religious meaning of what had happened. To guide them, they had the Hebrew Scriptures and other related materials provided by their own culture, and they had their own traditions about the Lord’s sayings and their own fast-fading recollections of him.
Something of their debates survives in the many-layered Passion Narratives preserved in the Gospels. Those narratives aren’t historical; they are records of early debates about what, as they thought, must have happened. Not what did happen, but what must have happened.


“During the 40s they gradually came to believe that Jesus was not simply and finally lost. No, he had been exalted to Heaven, there to wait as Messiah-designate. Before long he would return in glory to establish his Kingdom on earth for ever. …


“Meanwhile, the community needed to remain in existence, organized and vigilant … It needed leaders …. Thus, by the year 50 or so the Church was already emerging as a multinational society and a new creedal religion … The old Bronze-Age cosmology with a heavenly world above and a long chain of command rising above your head all the way up to the highest heaven – all that was coming back. …


“Jesus, well ahead of his time, had wanted his hearers to choose a new kind of divine/human life in a new world. But within twenty years of his death he had been made the basis for a relaunch  of the old Bronze-Age type of religion – a religion of spiritual power that most of us are still stuck with today.”




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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