nigel.sinnott's blog

Moncure Daniel Conway: a Very Unusual Virginian

Address given at the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church on 4 October 2015.

Moncure Daniel Conway came from Virginia, where his early years were privileged and orthodox. He was born on 17 March 1832, on a plantation near Falmouth in rural Stafford County, where his father, Walker Peyton Conway, was a local planter and judge. His mother, Margaret Daniel Conway, was the granddaughter of a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. The family were devout Methodists. According to Conway's biographer, John d'Entremont, the atmosphere that would have surrounded the young Moncure would have been "patriarchal values, unquestioned devotion to slavery and white supremacy, and a world view that set politics and power above artistic and intellectual pursuits".

As Moncure Conway wrote years later, "Destiny had lavished on my lot everything but freedom."

The patriarchal values did not, however, apply to his female relatives. Two paternal aunts, his sister and a cousin were opposed to slavery, and so was his mother, who was also critical of Southern patriarchy generally. She encouraged him to read widely, despite his father's disapproval of fiction. She was also a practitioner of homoeopathy, and took Moncure with her on her rounds. John d'Entremont says that "Moncure spent more time with his mother; the central lessons he drew from her and other female relatives were the legitimacy of the self, the importance of reconciliation, the value of intellectual endeavor, and the immorality of arbitrary power."

Dealing with Major Depression: Managing Malignant Sadness

(Talk given to the Existentialist Society, Melbourne, on 2 June 2015.)

This talk is a revised and expanded version of one I gave in January 2013 to the Melbourne Unitarian Church; and that in turn was based on an article I first wrote in 2003.

Please note that I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but just someone whose life has been profoundly affected by depression. So although I know a fair amount about my own depression, this does not mean that I can speak with authority about other people's depression. Indeed, my experiences have taught me that, where depression is concerned, what is right or wrong for one person may be wrong or right for another.

Unitarians and Astrology Debate

Yesterday evening, while attending a meeting at the Melbourne Unitarian Church, I picked up the latest (Autumn) issue of the ANZUUA Quest. It includes a transcript of the address given by the Rev. Bill Darlison at the 2013 ANZUUA Conference in Auckland. (I believe it has also been posted on the Internet.)

[Article is available on Bill Darlison's 'blog.]

A Militant Atheit's Viewpoint On Agnosticism

Thank you all for coming to hear me this afternoon. I must also thank David Miller, not only for inviting me to speak today, but for suggesting the title of the talk.

I think it makes sense to begin by defining the terms used in my title.

First, atheism and atheist. In a restricted and rather obsolete sense an atheist is someone who does not believe in a particular god or goddess; but in the modern and normal sense an atheist does not believe in the god of Abrahamic monotheism, Yahweh, Jehovah, El, Allah or God with a capital G, and almost always does not believe in gods and goddesses in general.

In my case I do not believe in the religious sense. I do not have religious faith or a faith. I do not believe in an entity or non-entity called "no God" or accept straw-man definitions by people seeking to discredit atheism. In short, my answer to the question "Do you believe in God?" is no.

Why Atheism and Atheophobia Matter

Talk given to the Atheist Society, Melbourne, on 8 October 2013.

Thank you for coming to hear me this evening.

In recent years we have heard or read complaints in the media about Christianophobia and Islamophobia, so I think it is time to give some consideration to atheism and atheophobia.

Muscular Christianity and the English Boarding School System

I am a member or supporter of a number of organisations in Australia and Britain. One of them, in the United Kingdom, is Boarding Concern, founded in 2002. It arose out of Nick Duffell’s work with Boarding School Survivors, which he started in 1990.2 Boarding Concern publicises the adverse effects boarding schools can have on children.

Malignant Sadness: Coping with Clinical Depression

Address given to the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church on 13 January 2013., by Nigel Sinnott.

(In memory of Philip Robert Wood, f.r.a.n.z.c.p., 1934 – 2012)

This is essentially a personal account of what I know, or think I know, about clinical or major depression, also called major depressive disorder, recurrent depressive disorder, unipolar depression and unipolar disorder.

Animal Ethics, Rights and Welfare

Most of you know me well enough probably to be aware of my prejudices and commitments regarding today’s topic. But as I have been asked to lead the discussion I will make my vested interests clear: I have been a vegan for about 32 years and I am a member of Animal Liberation Victoria.

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