The Inspirational Malala Yousafzai

A presentation held on August 4th, 2013 at the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church

Apparently those with patriarchal religious beliefs do not like educated women. Such beliefs find their expression in numerous sources, such as the demonic temptress Lilith in Judaism, the recommended treatment of women in Paulian Christianity, the the Quran's verse 34 of Surah an-Nisa, which establishes hierarchy and allows domestic violence. In some cases those people with such misogynist attitudes, derived from such texts, are prepared to engage in the worst sort of violence to further their hateful ideas. Such misogyny has a particular place in history due to its prominence in religious thought often used in the union of thinking that both hates women and fears the concept that they are deserving of equal rights.

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.

Knowledge vs Belief - Justification and Truth

What scientific knowledge is and how it works. A Presentation to the Melbourne Philosophy Forum on July 7th, 2013

Fred Hollows Foundation Concert Speech

These concerts are always such an expression of musical talent, and a reminder to myself that, as appreciative as I might be, I have no practical skills in the field. But apparently I can come up here like a stormcrow and bring the mood down.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Dialectical Reasoning

Presentation to The Philosophy Forum, June 2nd, 2013

1.0 Pre-Modern Dialectics
1.1 Logic can be differentiated into formal or discrete logic and informal or rhetorical logic. The former can include studies in purely formal content, propositional and predicate logic, set theory and so forth. The latter is a study in argumentation and fallacies. (See "Logic in Philosophy", April 18, 2007
1.2 The story of dialectics begins as a type of informal logic used by the Hellenes, especially by Plato's Socratic dialogues, but also Heraclitus argument of the transitory nature of all things and, as a result, the union of contradictions: "We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.""We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not."

Core values in Aboriginal religions

I hope you will forgive the formality of my reading a prepared talk – anybody who has heard me speak would know how unusual this is – but the subject I’m speaking about today is complex and I could not hope to do it without detailed notes.

I would like to begin by making two quite general points on the subject of Aboriginal religions:

Secular Religion: Is it really a contradiction in terms?

Spirituality without the Supernatural

In non-supernaturalist terms, ‘Spirituality’ is merely another name for human nature. Or, in other words, Spirituality refers to the Human Spirit. The higher or positive aspects of human nature are, for many people, symbolized by metaphorical personifications known as gods. ('God' in the monotheistic Abrahamic religions). Another way of putting it is that the gods are fictional representations of these aspects.

Success and Failures of Contemporary Unitarian-Universalism

This is an address about our the current situation of our shared and chosen faith, the way it is organised, how it conducts itself, and its future prospects. It is neither optimistic nor pessimistic in its approach, nor does it seek to besmirch or to eulogise. The address will look at some contemporary examples of successes and failures within Unitarian-Universalism, and tie these into motivational and especially organisational reasons for these effects. The scope of applications include the Unitarian-Universalist churches of the North America and Australia-New Zealand, the Unitarian and Free Christian churches of the United Kingdom and Australia-New Zealand, and indeed all those organisations that come under the umbrella group of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. In this sense, it is a very broad picture - but one which will also look at some local examples.

First International Meeting of the Sunday Assembly

In 2011 writer Alain de Botton graced our shelves with a text entitled Religion for Atheists. The argument was that the debate of whether or not what a religion says is true or not wasn't really that interesting. Although he agrees, most certainly, that the argument for God was thoroughly unconvincing what was important was that churches they provided community and consolation, they provided structured events through ritual, they offer meditative retreats and so forth. Perhaps, de Botton, atheists should have their own churches (a Temple de la Raison? I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before). Patrick McCabe's insightful review in Eureka Street notes that criticism came from prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Steve Rose. McCabe notes:

These criticisms demonstrate the gap between de Botton and other atheists. Dawkins and Rose's outlook is missionary, while de Botton's is pastoral. Dawkins and his ilk want to save souls from religion, and promote the good news of atheism. De Botton is more concerned with the spiritual needs of the existing flock.

What I Love About Philosophy

As a church-going atheist, I was very pleased to hear of this not-a-church "Sunday Assembly". It now means I have four different congregations to visit each month. One is quite spiritual, but also agnostic. Another is extremely political, and not very religious. A third is nominally Christian, but more interested in psychoanalysis and self-healing. And the fourth? Well, we're standing in it, and it is based on a very beautiful statement: "Live better, Help Others, Wonder More".

Such an appeal suits my love of philosophy. Around twenty years ago, I received a stiff piece of cardboard that said that I had a degree of expertise in loving philosophy, and since then I've continued this practise, often autodidactically by talking to the strange daimons in my head, sometimes with other people, and often at a group I convene entitled "The Philosophy Forum".


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