Tuesday 29 April 2014

Summer Conference Excitement

Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
Helping people to think differently about animals
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The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
We are on the cusp of holding the most important event on religion and animals ever held.

The response to our first Oxford Summer School on Religion and Animal Protection has been terrific.

More than 60 speakers from around the globe representing all the major religions will be presenting from 21-23 July 2014.

Already we are almost sold out even though the programme has not been formally published. But it is now. See here for the three packed days of intellectual exchange and debate.

We are delighted to announce that the Most Revd Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia will give the opening presentation on ‘Compassion for Animals in the Orthodox Church’.

We have done all this on a very limited budget, but it will undoubtedly have a big impact on religious thought about animals.

In addition, the latest book in the Palgrave Macmillan Series on Animal Ethics is Christian Theology and the Status of Animals by Centre Associate Fellow Ryan Patrick McLaughlin. Dr McLaughlin’s book is a tremendous accomplishment – one of the very best to highlight the resources within Christianity for a positive view of animals. More details are available here.

We are also delighted to announce that Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s foreword to The Global Guide to Animal Protection has received international coverage and acres of comment on the web. It has really helped to put animals on the agenda of the churches. Details of the book are available here. Please help us ensure that every library in the world has a copy of these books.

All this adds to our core mission which is to change the world for animals by helping people to see animals differently. Without this intellectual change there can be no lasting improvement in the way they are treated. But there is so much that needs to be done, and we have so few resources. We work flat out here, seven days a week.

Every gift, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated. For details of how you can help see here.

With every good wish

The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey
Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
Copyright © 2014 Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, All rights reserved.
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Monday 28 April 2014

Facebook Debating

It's not my place to put here posts written by others, but I can represent my own point of view. There is a debate where my responses are also part of my view that an institution has a right to set (and monitor) its own boundaries.

A poster, who became a 'Facebook friend' and is ordained in the Anglican Church in New Zealand pointed approvingly to this:

James Mulholland speaks lots of good sense about this interesting journey of revising faith and meaning.
Religious Grief - Leaving Your Religion

For many, leaving religion can feel like the death of a loved one. When my religious faith ended, I recognized the stages of grief in that experience.


Adrian Worsfold S - are you paid to represent the institution and what it stands for as is commonly understood within, without and by authority? Otherwise you could be accused of 'acting' when you do what the job demands when you don't understand it within its boundaries.

Adrian Worsfold It is a bureaucratic question. I'm sure the bishop will be clearer about a party line. In Derbyshire I was told about the Trinity, if I wanted to consider Anglican ministry, although the priest in my village called himself a 'religious humanist' and later on I was told there was a clear dividing line between someone who could maintain 'real absence' (acceptable) and 'non-realism' (unacceptable) because of the importance of maintaining theism in one form or another. But I was a non-realist with an anthropologist's approach to religion and ritual. But several other indications clearly meant I was 'outside'. I did not believe in Christ as the incarnation of God, nor did I believe in a resurrection in the sense that the person who died was the person who consciously met others after his death. Nor did I give much care for the Trinity as an expression - people give it all sorts of social definitions. It seems to me that if you don't uphold the incarnation and resurrection, and you want to be a bit Buddhist/ Hindu/ Pagan then you are outside, and ought to join a broader ministry from the institutional-representational point of view.
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Adrian Worsfold After all, it is a free choice today. You won't be persecuted for changing religion where you live or where I do.
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Adrian Worsfold I'm loathed to push this further because in the end employment is involved: however, the notion of 'comprehensive' doesn't mean as wide as you like and into all sorts of other things. It means, for Anglicans, a bit of Catholic, a nod to Lutherans, quite some Reformed, the Platonists and biblical critics. It's all within the broad credal boundaries, but even I'm allowing for creeds-light, that is to say pushing your luck on the Trinity, no demand on a tomb and that, nor virginity via the Holy Spirit - but yes to incarnation and resurrection as the glue to keep it stuck together, understood as a kind of pseudo-science and intervention into history.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Further Debating Points

This refers to the previous entry and is a continuation of the points I make. Here I don't include what others have said, but they are accessible. Remember that these comments are typed at considerable speed and without looking things up.

There are no restrictions on the number of hallucinations, but I would agree in so far as the weight of the matter has to be on the literature – the setting of appearances is ritualised and theologised – and that the context is an expectant, last days excitement. We are told that the disciples kept well away from the death scene (ran away?) but however much there is negativity there it changes any possibility that Jesus was preparing ground for another (as much as he identified with Israel’s King) that now it can only, surely, be Jesus who is ready to return, and with the Pauline notion of a ‘spiritual body’ (we might say a square circle, like this is a nonsense, but he clearly retains the bodily aspect in his visitation reported). Ancient peoples will have had far more realist interpretation of dreams than ourselves, but even today we have a significant proportion of people who see, in bereavement, their loved one, or in religious ecstasy, the religious figure making most sense to them (the Virgin Mary being the most popular in Christian circles). It could well be that the visitation experience is Paul and a few others, but it became written as a roll-call of legitimate leadership for authority in the faith, just as it headed up the centrality ritual of the agape meal and eucharist. What matters is how the oral tales become written and what they are saying back into to those early communities.


That’s a significant event and interpretation, so please understand that my response is not to take anything away from your connections made. If I saw a vertical double rainbow it would be near the horizon (may also be reflected in water) where it tangents vertically, and there is always an inner and outer rainbow. A rainbow, of course, is not ‘there’ but is your own eyes seeing sun behind reflecting and refracting in raindrops ahead. No one ever sees the same rainbow. The ancient Noah story doesn’t get it that no one ever sees ‘a rainbow’.

However, I would not get the link between – certainly – the redistribution of atoms and molecules after the rotting and burning of death and what has to be at the core of resurrection, and that is the continuation of the self-consciousness of the individual. When it says the bodies rise again it means the people who were in them, and that their lives are transformed but nevertheless continuous. The Jesus who is said to have risen (though this ‘body’ visited hell first! In the alter tomb story) is said to be making decisions and directions to others in terms of his appearances and disappearances. He is supposed to be that person. Well, there may be a momentary hangover in quantum terms of consciousness, but most of us think that existence depends on the brain working and a destroyed brain is a destroyed person – witness the effect of dementia on reducing a person and being a thousand deaths of the one who once was effective as a person. So whilst we go back to dust I really rather doubt that our redistribution of matter and energy results in retained consciousness. But you never know. Consciousness is still quite mysterious, especially awareness of your own consciousness. But dementia suggests that consciousness and self-understanding is a slippery matter. My view then is that once Jesus died his brain was irrecoverable within seconds – as are all – and the Romans left him to be eaten by scavengers and dumped the body in the common lime pit grave. The rest was mythological interpretation and writing. But then many have spiritual experiences, as you report W.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Resurrection Proofs They're Not

The previous entry was an April Fool, but I have been warned by friends: make an April Fool like that, with a real lead-in, and then deadpan close to reality, and it will give the authorities ideas.

Also in April we are getting the usual trotted out 'It's history' accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, as if it is open to a historical test. Miracles (of which 'the resurrection' is one) are not open to historical test and theological explanation and gloss does not constitute historical material. Only what surrounds it is open to historical test and this depends on secondary sources given primary sources to early Christian communities and rather lost to us.

Ian Paul gives the standard apologist's account on Fulcrum for a human being not dying in the usual way. I then offer a bashed-out answer, which is, as I write, awaiting moderation:

This conflates theological and historical material, which do different jobs and have different purposes. The empty tomb is not provable simply because the documents are written so long after Jesus’s death – all that’s about is a lack of tomb ‘worship’ and identification, and the reason being (in all probability) that there never was a tomb. From the arrest onwards, the accounts don’t work as history alone and can’t. Cruficifixion was not simply about a cruel torture based death, but the carcass left on the construction to be eaten by scavengers – the denial of a death and burial. What remains is dumped into a common grave, a lime pit. There is no account throughout elsewhere of anyone, ever, being removed from a cross to be given a decent burial. There is no reason why Pilate, if he was personally involved at all, giving exception here given all accounts that he ran a particularly cruel regime, that he was a nasty individual that gave no quarter. The accounts of the tomb lead not to faith but confusion; the primary accounts are what are still experienced by about one in eight people today – hallucinations treated as real by those experiencing them of meeting loved ones or religious figures (in this case, both categories). Even these get wrapped into theological categories, thus Jesus is only recognised in the meal and then vanishes, thus being an “I get the point” and ritualised into the ritual [meal] becoming the most significant. The point is that resurrection cannot be understood except by the ascension – small, early, expectant of the end, Christian communities, being told that Jesus did appear to a leadership roll-call and ‘the congregation’ of 120/ 500, but that -sorry [to them] – he appears no longer and now it is spirit led. The Pauline influenced gospels are traditions, theologised, answering the questions of early Christians. The resurrection is itself a small-scale period prior to the Church beginning, rather like the firework lit before it went off. The explanation cannot be divorced from the belief of a small proportion of Jews and attaching Gentiles that the end time was present, that a messiah would return, that it was now Jesus who would be transformed, and a salvation figure thanks to Paul’s interpretive brilliance, and God would do it. Later the Church adapted as that return failed to materialise. The resurrection fits into that expectation and probably is little more than a few hallucinations including Paul and an explanation about why there was never any trips to a tomb. Jesus was simply killed by the authorities like others who were picked up, a casual valuing of life by a regime fearing instability at the edge of empire.

Some minutes later I added a second comment to clarify the above:

Just mention that I bashed out the responding comment at speed. So it was sorry *for them* regarding the explanation to early Christians for no more resurrection appearances, being now paraclete led, and that in the Luke account the appearance is made manifest in the ritual of the meal. When typing at slower speed etc. I’m saying history needs regard for historiography (the rules of the trade) and here we are dealing with secondary sources regarding Jesus and lost primary sources which are written by and for early Christian communities decades later. Thus the tomb account cannot be checked back and the resurrection appearances are, at basis, subjective.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Depressing Labour Proposals for 2015 Election

As is well known to any readers here, the Liberal Democrats stole my vote because they went into an election with one manifesto and then became the wooden leg for the worst of Tory policies ever seen. So I might prefer Nick Clegg's and the Liberal Democrat's presumed policies for Europe (assuming they wouldn't turn 180 degrees again) over Nigel Farage and UKIP, but the Liberal Democrats won't get my vote until they are near destroyed at the election and realise the reconstruction they need with a focus on honouring the electorate.

But the Labour Party is becoming a concern now and, unlike the press, I have been rather well-disposed towards Ed Milliband. Now I am getting worried...

Labour proposes to 'nationalise' the Universal Jobsmatch website, in the sense that legislation will require all jobs advertised on any website to be also advertised on UJ. Ah no - it will still be run by a private company receiving the contract. In the new 'Rights and Responsibilities Social Contract', every person unemployed will have to register and visit each vacancy within 25 miles of their postcode and indicate, as is possible but not required now, why they are NOT applying for a job that is being advertised as well as pressing the buttons that constitute applications.

Labour further proposes that every business will be eligible for National Insurance reductions and subsidies to take on workers to process the (deluge of) emailed job applications that will result. Employment agencies will also be able to apply for subsidised workers, but there will be no more of the likes of A4e or In Training as the Work Programme ("neither Work nor Programme") will be scrapped.

Applicants will copy and paste each vacancy visited and its URL, and whether or not applied, and email this document to the Department for Work and Pensions, and the email reply will indicate whether the person has been signed on for a further two weeks or sanctions have kicked in. Anyone sanctioned for 4, 8 or then 26 weeks will not be deemed unemployed at the time. The old effort of physically going to sign on will end. DWP staff will now process these emails instead and at a much faster rate than meeting claimants.

However, the unemployed will have to be active each and every day. According to these 'Social Contract' proposals, anyone over twenty five who is unemployed for more than six months will have to take a literacy, numeracy and ICT test, and this will determine what class they go in to at school. Yes - school.

The unemployed will utilise the newer academies and remaining local authority schools and then attend English, Maths and ICT classes at the entry level appropriate. Labour thinks the sudden expansion of numbers will justify more investment in teachers, and mixing adults and children will also have the effect of improving classroom behaviour. During other lessons the unemployed will visit school computer suites to go on to Universal Jobsmatch. There will be one hour a day opportunities to use the school gymnasium or run around the playing field.

Whilst children will continue to wear school uniform, the unemployed will receive a clothes budget for formal wear but also wear orange high visibility jackets when in and around the school. In the sense that this further blurs the distinction between criminals and the unemployed, Labour sees this as an incentive for people to get a job. Failure to attend would in any case result in criminal sanctions and a custodial sentence.

Surely the likelihood of anyone being properly considered for getting a job, when the employers will be deluged with applications and just throw so many away, suggests that the policy is not well thought through at best.

People who go on to Employment and Support Allowance will only be required to sign up for Adult Education Classes in Literacy, Numeracy and ICT, and will not be counted as unemployed. Failure to attend could result in criminal sanctions and a custodial sentence. People will be tested as whether suitable for work under more generous conditions than under ATOS but Labour seeks an active unemployment count of around one to one and a half million.

All benefit receivers will continue to receive "accommodation subsidies" for one or a couple, plus children, and pay council tax to 20%, and pay travel expenses to and from school. Homeless unemployed and disabled may be accommodated in prisons.

Who to vote for? Please, not Nigel Farage.