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To Believe is Human

August 08, 2014

Life is painful. It’s full of doubt and uncertainty. And it ends, in this world anyway, with death. For many, the antidote to this pain has been religion. The appeal is obvious: comforting stories, a clear sense of right and wrong and eternal life as the carrot at the end. Even New Atheists such as Alain De Botton have retrieved some of the comfort traditionally offered by the church. But has the church taken up the easy sell of “ending suffering” and promising answers to unanswerable questions.

In contrast to this “Good News,” Peter Rollins argues for a radical and initially disturbing Gospel: we can’t be satisfied, life is tough, and we don’t know the secret. We should attack the idea of God as that which makes us whole, removes our suffering, and offers us the truth. Rollins is less concerned with the question of life after death than with the possibility of a life before death, and his “churches” challenge escapist versions of spirituality, inviting us to embrace complexity, ambiguity and pain. Doubt is part of life, and religion should be able to explore it — instead of presenting an all-singing, all-dancing distraction.

Peter Rollins is a leading figure of the radical Christianity movement and author of books such as How (Not) to Speak of God and Insurrection. A philosopher, theologian, believer, and doubter, he has developed a number of contemplative practices to help Christians accept doubt and complexity, such as ‘Atheism for Lent.’

Chair: Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre, and is co-curator of Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Have the new atheists won the battle of ideas by proving that religion isn’t true? Scientists and philosophers such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Lawrence Krauss have brought a new fire to debates on religion and belief by using the tools of logic and scientific method to dismantle the ‘God Hypothesis.’ But the response of ‘new religion’ is that theology cannot necessarily be understood by evidence or facts. As with the belief in equality or the belief that torture is wrong, defending religious belief in this misses the point. According to Peter Rollins, “faith is not placed into danger by being exposed as counter-factual,” and to try and defend it in this way is to undermine its very nature. Can these contemporary views of religion open a new front in the atheism vs. religion battle? Or are they just a strategy to co-opt the middle ground for the religious? Join new atheism’s most entertaining exponent Lawrence Krauss and postmodern religious firebrand Peter Rollins for a challenging debate.

Chair: Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre, and is co-curator of Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Lawrence M. Krauss is a renowned cosmologist and science communicator, and is the author of recent bestseller A Universe From Nothing.

Peter Rollins is a leading figure of the postmodern Christianity movement and author of books such as How (Not) to Speak of God and Insurrection.

Here is a little taster of the content from my new book The Idolatry of God which has just be released in the UK and US.

Where Does Our Faith Lie?

November 11, 2012

This is a talk from at ikonNYC exploring the relationship between belief and unbelief as well as the nature of scapegoating as a means of avoiding inner conflict.

Confronting Our Beliefs

August 08, 2012

I am the Stranger

May 05, 2012

Here I explore how we attempt to protect ourselves from the strangeness of our own beliefs by treating those with different beliefs and practices as strange. For more in-depth reflections on this theme check out my latest book ‘Insurrection’ and my forthcoming book ‘The Idolatry of God’.

The Embrace of Unknowing

January 01, 2012

What if the significant difference is not between those who know the secret of the universe and those who don’t, but rather between those who do not know the secret but who acknowledge this unknowing and those who do not know the secret but who refuse to face up to their unknowing?

Salvation for Zombies

January 01, 2012

In this short interview I introduce my new book “Insurrection.”

Illuminating the World

September 09, 2011

This is an excerpt from a session at Poets, Prophets and Preachers where Rob Bell interviewed me about my work. The full interview is available in my forthcoming book Insurrection.