Episode 16 The Big Questions


Episode 16

Nicky Campbell presents a special programme from Manor Church of England School in York, asking just one Big Question - is it more rational to believe in God?


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Transcript


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Today on The Big Questions, atheism.

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Good morning. I am Nicky to The Big Questions. We are back at the Church

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of England Academy in York. Is it rational to believe in God?

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Welcome, everyone, to The Big Questions this morning. Pascal, the

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physicist and inventor, became a Christian philosopher later in his

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life. He combined the mathematics of probability with religious belief,

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in his famous wager, arguing that as you can either prove or disprove

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God's existence, you must wager that if God exists and you are a

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believer, you gain everything. If God does not exist, you lose

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nothing. So he reasoned that you should believe in God. So, would he

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say the same today, when the faithful are often pilloried as

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idiots and science continues to look for rational expeditions for the

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mysteries of life. Is it more rational to believe in God? We have

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a distinguished line-up of theologians, scientists, people of

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faith and people that have lost faith. You can have your say on

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Twitter, log onto the website where you will find links to continue the

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discussion. Lots of contributions from our very lively audience. Is it

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more rational to believe in God? There are people who say it is far

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more rational to believe in God than not to. You will not be surprised to

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hear they are sitting in the studio. What do you say to them? Well, I

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think you have got to look at what is rational, you have to look at

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what reasons give us reason to believe, on balance. I don't think

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it's helpful to say religious believers are irrational, as though

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they are just stupid. There is a balance of evidence and you have to

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ask, where does Italy and most heavily? If you were to ask, what

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would happen if some buddy came into this debate without prior knowledge,

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without an upbringing in one particular religion or another? I

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think if they look that the evidence they would conclude this is a

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natural universe without any supernatural guidance. The religions

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we have in this culture are eight product of different cultures, which

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is why there are different religions in different societies. That is a

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very broad brushed version of the Ottoman. Just on balance, that is

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what seems to be where the reasoned points. There is no natural,

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inherent... There is no God within us that means we have to believe in

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God? Or we are led to believe in God? It seems to be a natural

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instinct towards looking for purpose in the universe. It seems to be a

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natural human instinct to try and find reasons for things happening

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that are to do with motivations and desires. The fact that it is

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something we have evolved to have does not tell us anything about

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whether there is something they're doing that. The instinct is just an

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instinct, which you could say evolved because we need to look to

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how things work. We need to understand how things work and for

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other people, it is helpful to see them as having motives. That general

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instinct, when we apply it to the universe as a whole, is misapplied.

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Because the universe is not another person, something we need to

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understand the motivations of. So, that last point about how we have

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evolved to seek patterns and explanations, Professor Alister

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McGrath, we are basically primates, we are pattern seeking mammals? Of

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course we seek an explanation and also we seek comfort? Of course we

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are looking for explanations. That is what intelligent people do. It is

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about trying to work out what is going on in the world. Julian is

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also right to say that is part of who we are. But that does not deny

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the validity of looking for meaning, and its many why we think something

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does not invalidate the quest. I am a scientist, I began as an atheist

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and became a Christian, one of the enormously exciting things about

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discovering the Christian faith is not to be that it helped me be a

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better scientist, it really opened up this question of meaning. Many

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are watching this programme today precisely because of this question

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of meaning, that it really matters. It is not something you can reel off

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from just looking at the universe, it is about deep reflection. Maybe

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it is about the deepest instincts in us. Was your life lacking in meaning

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before? I think I had meaning, but it was a meaning I had just

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constructed. Is there something there I am meant to be walking into?

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A bigger picture that I could be part of? That seemed to me to be a

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very important question to ask. A lot of people point to certain

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precepts of religion and they see them as being irrational. Some

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people say, how can it be rational to take your religion, to accept

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that we are born sinful, that unless we get better we are threatened with

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hell, that the God that created as created. You can CYP Bull might

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think that is baloney? I can see why people would think that, with

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respect I don't think that. Many of your faith do? Exactly. You have to

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accept that Christianity is a rich religion and there are different

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perspectives. To say it is baloney, I want to say that Christianity is

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rich, exciting, enormously intellectually stimuli can. But it

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is a broad church and I belong to a depth that I think is great. He is

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exactly right, there are different forms of religion. Anybody that

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tries to say that religion is a rational because of X, you are never

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going to get to the bottom of it. We have this debate in these very

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polite ways and talk about how, of course, you don't have to believe in

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hell, when it comes down to it, it is true that the majority of

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religious people will believe at least one thing which to an atheist,

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to somebody that will take a purely scientific view, is kind of

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outrageous. In terms of Christianity, the bottom line for a

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lot of people is the resurrection. lot of people is the resurrection.

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They made out to certain things happened in the old Testament, but I

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have yet to find... Very few Christians I meet will be prepared

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to say, no, that boom was not empty because there was a resurrection of

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Christ. That is a because there was a resurrection of

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believe if you People do believe it. I'm not saying

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are going against, I think, a scientific worldview in that

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are going against, I think, a particular part. Vince, you want to

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come in? It's a really good point. I think sometimes there is an

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assumption that Christianity, or belief in God generally, is the more

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extraordinary belief, it is the more miraculous belief. Therefore, it has

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the burden of proof. I thought that for a long time. The more I reasoned

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about it, I thought, what other possible big picture explanations

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for the universe? There are only three primary ones. One might be

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that God made it. I might just put my hand up and say that is pretty

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extraordinary, it is remarkable. But if I look up the other two, the

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universe just popped into existence from nothing with explanation, it's

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a very odd option as well. Physical stuff normally doesn't pop in and

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out of existence. If it does not now, why would it then? Or we say

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that the universe has existed infinitely, stretching back in time.

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And I think that pushes the oddness one step back. Or universes? If

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there is a succession going back infinitely in time, still with no

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explanation for why that is the case. I come to the conclusion that

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we live in a miraculous world. If you are an atheist, theist or

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agnostic, I don't think there is any getting around that fact. Once I

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came to see that, I think I was more open to seeing that

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came to see that, I think I was more could take place. But it's

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impossible for us to conceptualise that stuff. 13.5 billion years, it

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is no more likely we are going to do it and a raft is going to explain

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what the London Underground is about? Whatever the truth is, it is

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extraordinary. It is extraordinarily hard to fathom. But I don't think

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anyone should think that the solution to come up with, whether

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they are atheist or theist is the final account. There are the

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mysteries that we don't understand, and there are deep mysteries for the

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more scientifically inclined people. Many religious people are

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scientifically inclined? Some of them are. A lot of them are. Some of

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them are? A lot of them are? It is a question of which extraordinary

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explanation fits the most. That is where I think the rationality points

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to the natural one. There are fascinating areas in signs to

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discuss. You touched on this, Julian, what about the cultural

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reasons? Different religions in different parts of the world,

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different cultural histories, different anthropological basis for

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those. Dr Lois Lee, this is quite interesting, recent studies have

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shown that societies with a stronger belief in heaven and hell have

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higher crime rates? This multi-fact , as they say. Societies with a

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welfare state, a big comfort blanket, lots of security for people

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within, they have lower religious belief. What can we extrapolate, if

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anything? And, goodness me, it is very compensated. It is. I think it

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gets to... You said, if we leave the religious backgrounds at the door,

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then we can work with evidence. That is a really big if. We can't leave

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our backgrounds at the door. Most people we find that you are

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religious or nonreligious according to the norm in your locale. It can

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be as local as the borough that you live in, it can be as local as your

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family, but it also works on the national level. When we are thinking

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about rationality, weighing up the evidence, we are putting to one side

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a big part of the picture, this cultural inclination towards one

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belief or another. As you said, there are many factors. The larger

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the welfare state, the less likely you are to be religious. The

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religious history of a country as well? Absolutely. What we can find

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is a general trend, the larger the welfare state and how relatively

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affluent it is, that can allow us to predict how religious it is or how

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atheist it is. Then we find we get pushed in different directions by

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the cultural backgrounds. State atheism have a big impact, we saw a

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big rise in atheism within that cultural context. So we have to

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consider those cultural factors and not say, because there is a big

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welfare state, therefore I can say that religion is all about comfort

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and so on. There isn't going to be an easy explanation like that.

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Certainly we need to take us into account. What about Sweden? Famously

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cited as an example of quite an atheist, agnostic or not very

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religious place. Are they a rational? Or are they very rational?

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-- irrational. If you do focus exclusively on rationality in these

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kinds of debates, you end up having to say the Swedish are more rational

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than the Brits, that you may wish to say. We are 13th highest in terms of

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the amount of atheism, in a shorter list. Are we the 13th most rational

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or 13th most irrational? So we would have to accept that we are less

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rational than the French, the Latvians, more rational than 27

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other countries. It's like the Eurovision Song Contest, we are

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never going to win anything! Is there a tipping point, perhaps,

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where it becomes... A lot of people are feeling at the moment that they

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think it is becoming unacceptable to express your religious belief. Is

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there a tipping point where I had become socially more acceptable and

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expected that you are not a believer? It's self-perpetuating, in

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a sense? Absolutely. The creation of a new culture, in which it is normal

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to be X or Y. That's important in terms of rational claims. You want

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to see that they back it up by their action. You see a transformation of

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rationality, which is very informed by these different cultural norms. I

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think Britain is quite an interesting country because there is

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a balance between religious cultures, Christian culture

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especially, and atheists and nonreligious cultures. They are the

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two, both sitting at 40% or 50%. It's an interesting space for

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discussion. Discussion matters, because that is what creates the

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cultures. The cultures influence what we then take on. There's no

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reason to say we have a deterministic view and there is no

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point even having the concession, but if we start to say someone is

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being irrational, we have to accept that we are all pretty irrational

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and accept that as a starting point. We are, I do this show a lot!

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Professor Alister McGrath, you are a very great scientist, but that is

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nothing to do with your religion, great scientist, great academic,

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highly respected. You are an evolutionary theist, you accept

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that. You said Adam and Eve were symbolic. We come into the science

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later on. You have already hinted at this, you can understand very well

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how some people point out aspects of religion and belief and think that

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is, if you'll pardon the expression, bonkers. The other accusation to you

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would be that you have moulded religion to fit into your

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rationality? And that is all you have done? Everyone who thinks about

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these questions has to say, do I buy into something that is already

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there? Do I think this through in a freethinking way? This is what I

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believe to be right. I would want to affirm the importance of

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rationality. The real problem we are facing is that only shallow truths

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can be proved. All of us are in a situation where there are deep

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questions like what is life all about? Is rape wrong? What has that

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got to do with it? In many ways we have to realise we are in a

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situation where to answer the big question is, we have to go beyond

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what reason is able to say. It is not a problem but it is an emphasis

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on the need to try to understand each other and allow these

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discussions to take place. I think that is what is missing at the

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moment. I have no problem with Julian but there are other atheists

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who are downright nasty. Religion doesn't have a clean record. Of

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course it doesn't. We will have a situation where we need to have a

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good conversation. Ridiculing, whether you ridicule faith or

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non-faith, makes things worse. We need to have an intelligent

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conversation, I think that is what we are having now.

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APPLAUSE Ollie Killingback is a former vicar,

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he is not one any more. There has to be discussion and balance and

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generosity. It seems to me, sitting among us, we have a group of

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rational people with widely different opinions. Those opinions

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are motivated by something. It seems he was on to something when he said

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the reason can only be the slave of the emotions. It seems religion is

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about an emotional commitment. I for one had reached the end of

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intellectual belief, long before I could make the actual move out of

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the church. It took me 20 years to get to the position where

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emotionally I was ready. What was the mindset when you were in the

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church? When you are a believer? I wish it was as clear as that but it

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is not. I started asking questions about my family's religious beliefs

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when I was five or six. The whole thing followed through through

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college and so on, there were always more questions than there were good

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answers. There were answers but often not good enough. I was on the

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way out not long after I was ordained, intellectual. People were

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saying that religion is a man-made phenomenon. Nonetheless, it is a

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good thing. I bought that. I lived hard with

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good thing. I bought that. I lived good thing. Those two don't sit

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together very well. good thing. Those two don't sit

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odd years to make the break and say, I can now take off this dirty

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garment and walk away from it. APPLAUSE

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garment and walk away from it. Julian on what Alistair has said

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about the big question is, to address the big question is, the

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profound questions about, why is rape wrong, I think that was how you

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put it. We somehow need to be religious beings.

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put it. We somehow need to be that... I didn't make my point,

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put it. We somehow need to be was saying we had to go beyond pure

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reason. You may raise religious questions along the way. It is that

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term pure reason. It is an important one. I think sometimes people on the

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atheist side of the debates overstate the extent how far

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rationality can take us. They think if you just follow reason and

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rationality, you can make sense of everything and nothing us is needed.

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Even great philosophers were not that optimistic about rationality.

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The point about rationality is pushing it as far as you can, being

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as rational as possible, applying as much reason as can be applied both

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but it is never pure and who claims that it is is onto a hiding to

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nothing and they will be guilty of that accusation, that rationality

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leaves lots of things undecided. You can always push rationales and

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justifications and as much as possible, and you only then have to

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put the other things in when those things have to fill a gap. You don't

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bring in rationality in before it is necessary.

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David Hume is one of the greatest of before suffers, gets mentioned in

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every book written by atheists against religion. This quote gets

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mentioned. To paraphrase, he asks, which is more likely, the

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supernatural explanation or people believing we supernatural

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explanation are mistaken? He comes up with that although the time. That

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is a good example. You can't prove one way or another. It is more

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likely people are mistaken? That is always more likely. There are

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possible circumstances where the evidence was so overwhelming,

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something could happen in front of the cameras so miraculous that we

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had to believe it was a genuine miracle and there was not a natural

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explanation. We haven't seen anything so far end history that was

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so commencing. -- in history that was so convincing. It is a question

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worth asking, would we believe it is a miracle or would we explain it

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away in some way? It depends what it was. If we saw a vision. For

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instance. Some of us might explain it away. It can be a matter of where

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your emotions are, where your heart is, how we perceive different

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situations. I think it is interesting, we talk about miracles.

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If we are going to say miracles don't happen, we are speaking

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against the vast majority of people throughout history, and globally

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still today. That doesn't prove that miracles do happen, but I do think

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we should be wary of being quick to say the vast majority historically

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and globally have been wrong. I think majorities in this case are

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not necessarily always right. APPLAUSE

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The other thing which is important is that once you force a crack in

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the laws of nature, once you say that for a moment the Earth is not

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going around the sun, relativity doesn't apply, Gravity doesn't

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apply, once you say that, you open up the entire universe to

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intervention. That is the important thing, that there is strong evidence

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on the other side. If we were on a grain -- game show and did not know

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the answer, I might poll the audience. If 98% said one thing and

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I went with another, people would say I was not rational, unless I had

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strong evidence. You raise this idea of the God of the gaps and

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intervention. Is it rational for you, Margaret, to have your belief?

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Yes, I think so. To believe in God seems entirely rational. If you will

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only believe what science has proven, whatever discovery is made,

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the same thing applied the day before it was made. Isn't it

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irrational to think that because you can't prove the existence of God,

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you either -- he therefore can't exist. Which is your God, the old

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Testament, the new Testament, Jesus? Jesus, yes. I have been researching

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a mystic called Julian who lived in the 14th century. He had a series of

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visions of the crucifixion. The image of God which he presents is

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totally in contrast to what we think of as the old Testament God. The God

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who went out smiting every day. Julian's theology which is very

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benign, he says God looks upon us in pity, not with blame and he doesn't

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condemn us for any wrong doing, and all wrongdoing has been forgiven,

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even before we ask for forgiveness. This is from somebody's visions.

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This is your point, if somebody had visions like that now, we would be

:23:54.:23:58.

extremely sceptical. The thing about Julian, she is accepted by the

:23:59.:24:01.

church, she is a blessing which means she is being beatified, she is

:24:02.:24:07.

on the way to being a saint. She is accepted as a great theologian. Are

:24:08.:24:10.

we accepting she really did have visions? Oh, yes, she wrote a book

:24:11.:24:16.

about it and she is accepted as a great theologian. The great Catholic

:24:17.:24:22.

20 century writer and mystic Thomas Merton describes as a true

:24:23.:24:25.

theologian in that she has the true image of God, this benign, loving

:24:26.:24:30.

image who never condemns us and is full of only compassionate love for

:24:31.:24:36.

us. Another idea of God. Moving on from the visions. This might even

:24:37.:24:42.

play to what Lois Lee was saying, of different cultures. This may even

:24:43.:24:50.

compromise the whole nation of the debate that we are having. We have a

:24:51.:24:56.

saying that reason and devotion are two wings of the same bird. And that

:24:57.:25:01.

both of them have a place. We also have an understanding that for some

:25:02.:25:06.

people, their attitude is such that pure rational explanation is what

:25:07.:25:10.

satisfies and gives them a sense of tranquillity. And for others, a

:25:11.:25:15.

divine experience or devoted worshipper gives them a sense of

:25:16.:25:18.

tranquillity. Our approach is that it seems to be a sense of

:25:19.:25:23.

tranquillity gives a person and experience which the mystics have

:25:24.:25:26.

always tried to communicate in some sort of a deficient blend which. Our

:25:27.:25:33.

focus is on -- deficient language. Our focus is how do you become

:25:34.:25:39.

eternally tranquil? In that state, there are no beliefs. I would even

:25:40.:25:42.

suggest that having a belief is unreasonable. I think that is right,

:25:43.:25:48.

there is a space for the rational... Everyone is agreeing

:25:49.:25:55.

beyond the rational. There is a slightly false dichotomy between

:25:56.:25:58.

rationality and religion that we therefore think atheists are all

:25:59.:26:02.

about rationality, which is not what we are trying to say. I interview

:26:03.:26:08.

atheists about their day-to-day lives and so on. I have a strong

:26:09.:26:12.

sense of the meaning systems, the aesthetics, the opportunities for

:26:13.:26:19.

devotion, if not the divine, full communion with out to tranquillity

:26:20.:26:25.

and so on, which not every atheist is interested in, in the same way

:26:26.:26:30.

that religious people are not all about those spaces. There are

:26:31.:26:34.

relaxed list religious cultures as well as .

:26:35.:26:43.

If you take it to a lot go conclusion, having a belief in the

:26:44.:26:50.

existence of some god figure, I would say is equally as irrational

:26:51.:26:53.

as having a belief in the nonexistence. Because they are both

:26:54.:26:56.

beliefs. APPLAUSE

:26:57.:27:05.

I absolutely agree. People have belief systems, mindsets, ways of

:27:06.:27:09.

getting through the night, basically. As a Muslim, you have had

:27:10.:27:15.

a bit of flak recently. You took part in a music video, showing... It

:27:16.:27:23.

wasn't my bad dancing. It was the tune, Happy. Showing Muslims being

:27:24.:27:28.

happy and dancing. You have had a lot of flak. People point to things

:27:29.:27:35.

like that, some people will believe you are wrong to do that, they are

:27:36.:27:39.

entitled to have that belief. It is about the rules and red delicious,

:27:40.:27:40.

what sort of God is this question I I think many rudest people do a

:27:41.:27:52.

disservice to religion. -- many religious people do a disservice. It

:27:53.:27:58.

does not represent the actual faith itself. Going back to Ollie's point

:27:59.:28:05.

about believing in God is based on emotion, I think that statement is

:28:06.:28:10.

based on emotion. There are volumes of books in the British library,

:28:11.:28:14.

King 's College library, discussing religious philosophy, using

:28:15.:28:21.

philosophy, argument, logic. There are books like that on both sides.

:28:22.:28:26.

Of course, I am not saying atheism is irrational but I would say that

:28:27.:28:29.

the overwhelming evidence, especially now, is on the side of

:28:30.:28:37.

God. The last 40 or 50 years, when scientists examined the universe, we

:28:38.:28:42.

are pretty much convinced that the explanation of the universe is not

:28:43.:28:45.

contained within the universe will stop it points to outside or beyond

:28:46.:28:51.

the universe. To categorise believing in God is emotional is

:28:52.:28:57.

rather juvenile. It is very outdated. It is very much

:28:58.:29:05.

enlightenment, outdated claptrap. There is a lot of outdated claptrap

:29:06.:29:08.

in religion, which you haven't acknowledged. We are comparing

:29:09.:29:16.

atheism to the irrationality of religion, let's say. There are

:29:17.:29:21.

irrational aspects within religion. That is a false comparison. Even if

:29:22.:29:24.

religion is false, it would not prove that atheism is true. God can

:29:25.:29:30.

still exist even if religion is false. There is a false comparison

:29:31.:29:33.

so far. If we look at the evidence on the side of God and atheism, the

:29:34.:29:37.

overwhelming evidence is on the side of God. One thing we can talk about

:29:38.:29:42.

is the extent to which people who have religious belief, if any

:29:43.:29:47.

bonuses on them at to show their belief is rational. There is an onus

:29:48.:29:51.

to show that your belief is not contrary to what we know about

:29:52.:29:54.

science, but there is a long tradition in religion of actually

:29:55.:29:57.

thinking that the basis of faith is not a deductive argument, it is not

:29:58.:30:02.

rationality, it is an encounter with the divine, an emotional thing.

:30:03.:30:09.

Doubting Thomas is held up as a counterexample. He says, I'm going

:30:10.:30:16.

to give belief when I see that wound. The people praised those ones

:30:17.:30:22.

that make the leap of faith beforehand. There can be too much

:30:23.:30:26.

wanting to claim rationality. I think you are redefining my

:30:27.:30:30.

position. My position is that I believe in God on a rational basis.

:30:31.:30:34.

It's all very well saying that the leap of faith is what religious

:30:35.:30:38.

people should be involved in, but that is a convenient redefining of

:30:39.:30:42.

Mike position. I wasn't talking about your position personally, I

:30:43.:30:48.

was talking generally. The majority of religious people don't believe

:30:49.:30:52.

because they think it is and emotional position, it's because

:30:53.:30:56.

they think it makes sense to believe in God, especially in a world where

:30:57.:30:58.

we are discovering more about the origin of the universe. People would

:30:59.:31:03.

say we have evolved because of that fine June in. -- shooting. --

:31:04.:31:18.

tuning. Bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions would you say you are an emotional

:31:19.:31:28.

atheist? Let us say we have two professors of biology at our great

:31:29.:31:34.

universities. Both of them, leading scientists. One, from what he sees

:31:35.:31:41.

in biology, says he is convinced that religion cannot be the case.

:31:42.:31:46.

The other one comes to exactly the opposite conclusion, that the

:31:47.:31:51.

evidence, their reason, each one's individual rationality leads them to

:31:52.:31:55.

their own opinion. What drives that opinion is the inclinations they

:31:56.:32:00.

were born with, the education they have had, the emotional experiences

:32:01.:32:04.

they have had. The whole personalities. That is what forms

:32:05.:32:09.

at. The crux of the demented as this. Shall we believe that the

:32:10.:32:12.

entire argument to leg universe can come from nothing? Let's talk about

:32:13.:32:19.

where the entire universe came from. We mentioned it earlier on, the

:32:20.:32:24.

whole idea of the scientists, the God of the gaps. Where there is an

:32:25.:32:29.

apparent gap in scientific knowledge, historically, there has

:32:30.:32:33.

been an explanation that God did it. And the gaps are, it is said by

:32:34.:32:37.

some people, the habitat is shrinking. When there are stunned,

:32:38.:32:44.

we know that God is not angry. -- thunder. We know how rainbows are

:32:45.:32:50.

made. Is that a problem for religious people? I think the God of

:32:51.:32:56.

the gaps argument is an interesting one. I would actually say that it is

:32:57.:33:03.

probably quite poor theology to revert to the God of the gaps. What

:33:04.:33:11.

you're doing his inserting a into day-to-day phenomena. Here's a

:33:12.:33:16.

hostage to science explaining something? I would explain the point

:33:17.:33:28.

in terms of the validity of truth. I will never stand outside of this

:33:29.:33:32.

universe. I think we need to recognise that that kind of meta-

:33:33.:33:36.

causal process, we will potentially never know. Science will never fill

:33:37.:33:44.

that gap? Then we cannot claim that God does not exist. The reverse of

:33:45.:33:48.

that claim also has to be the case. I entirely agree. But we have people

:33:49.:33:55.

on the side of the atheist saying that God doesn't exist. Not all

:33:56.:34:00.

atheists. We say that atheist 's experience God not existing in the

:34:01.:34:03.

same way that the rest is experienced the divine. How can you

:34:04.:34:09.

experience thing that is not there? I thought we have the irrationality!

:34:10.:34:16.

Let's put Julian into the gap. Keen to fill the gaps. Some gaps will

:34:17.:34:22.

never be filled. Let's talk about that first cause, has raised by

:34:23.:34:27.

Adam. This is where the brain started to hurt. What caused it?

:34:28.:34:32.

What caused the cause of the first cause? It is infinite regression.

:34:33.:34:36.

Does that not make you think, hang on a minute, something is going on?

:34:37.:34:40.

Bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions it is extreme the puzzling. It's true. But

:34:41.:34:44.

what you come up with is an answer on a very abstract level. This is

:34:45.:34:50.

the point. Even if, by rationality and reason, you are convinced, which

:34:51.:34:53.

most philosophers are, that there must have been an original first

:34:54.:35:03.

cause, and uncaused first cause. That gives you a general concept.

:35:04.:35:07.

People who are religious do not believe in an abstract concept like

:35:08.:35:12.

that. They believe in a specific God, created in the shape of the

:35:13.:35:17.

particular religion, whatever it might be. So if you are going to

:35:18.:35:21.

talk about trying to build things on reason alone, I think the problem

:35:22.:35:23.

with that is that you're going to be left with a very abstract idea,

:35:24.:35:27.

which does not have a lot of connection with the very ritually

:35:28.:35:33.

rounded, often personality driven gods of religion. I am interested in

:35:34.:35:41.

this uncaused first cause. No proper reputable scientist thinks that God

:35:42.:35:48.

created like Walt Disney designing mice. Let's go back to the Big Bang.

:35:49.:35:54.

If you think God was responsible for the Big Bang, is it a credible

:35:55.:35:57.

argument to say, was there a cause of the first cause, all was the

:35:58.:36:03.

first cause, necessarily, uncaused? Supposing we had been meeting here a

:36:04.:36:06.

century ago, we would not be having this conversation. At that time,

:36:07.:36:09.

science thought that the universe had always been here. One thing that

:36:10.:36:13.

we make absolutely clear is that science is on a journey, it changes

:36:14.:36:21.

its mind. These massive, exciting discussions we are having... Because

:36:22.:36:24.

it knows more and more? Absolutely. I agree what was said about the God

:36:25.:36:28.

of the gaps, I think it is silly, really. What is much more

:36:29.:36:31.

interesting is why we explain things at all, why does science raise these

:36:32.:36:34.

wonderful questions it can't actually answer? For me, it is not

:36:35.:36:39.

looking at gaps, it is standing back and trying to say, is there a big

:36:40.:36:43.

picture of things that makes sense of what we see, fits things in,

:36:44.:36:47.

brings meaning and joy to life. That is a much more interesting question.

:36:48.:36:51.

It's not about digging around for gaps, it is saying, there is a big

:36:52.:36:54.

picture here, let's figure out what it is and whether we are part of it.

:36:55.:37:02.

An experience I had when I was a young clergyman, simply asked me

:37:03.:37:07.

outside the church on a Sunday morning, why it was that I believed

:37:08.:37:13.

in God. I trotted out the answer I had given before, it seems to me

:37:14.:37:18.

that the universe reflects the kind of thing is that Christianity says

:37:19.:37:22.

are at the basis of everything. The warmth, for example, that Julian

:37:23.:37:30.

talks about. I heard myself saying my head, you know what, that isn't

:37:31.:37:37.

true. The universe is not warm, it is not forgiving, it is a cold,

:37:38.:37:41.

empty, nasty place. Which we could not survive in. For me, that was a

:37:42.:37:49.

turning point. For some people it is exactly how you would expect it to

:37:50.:37:50.

be if it had exactly how you would expect it to

:37:51.:37:54.

from nowhere. For other people, it exactly as you would expect if

:37:55.:37:57.

had been a creator. We had some had been a creator. We had some

:37:58.:38:02.

hands up. Three guys at the back? Glasses, first of all. The point has

:38:03.:38:07.

made that science is changing over time, but religion is as well. But

:38:08.:38:09.

it's never held to the same account. For example, religion was opposed to

:38:10.:38:15.

evolution, now they are slowly accepting that maybe

:38:16.:38:22.

evolution, now they are slowly churches preach we are the only

:38:23.:38:22.

evolution, now they are slowly planet with life on it because we

:38:23.:38:26.

are God's chosen people. I think when we discover life on

:38:27.:38:28.

are God's chosen people. I think planet, maybe, religion

:38:29.:38:29.

are God's chosen people. I think its spots, but will never be held to

:38:30.:38:33.

the same account as a scientist would be if he had disagreed with

:38:34.:38:37.

that. I was good to say the same thing. I was going to develop on

:38:38.:38:44.

that. It becomes an issue of falsification. If you say God did

:38:45.:38:47.

it, there is no way an atheist can disprove you. Then the fact that

:38:48.:38:57.

science keeps developing, and that religion is very stoic in its

:38:58.:39:04.

approach, it's... I think religion does change. Surely religion has

:39:05.:39:08.

approach, it's... I think religion changed to accommodate itself to

:39:09.:39:12.

scientific discovery? Is rather saying, let's see if we have

:39:13.:39:15.

interpreted these text is right. John Paul II, one of the things he

:39:16.:39:23.

did during his papacy was say that actually, Darwin was right. Was that

:39:24.:39:25.

not a case of the church changing actually, Darwin was right. Was that

:39:26.:39:30.

because of inescapable evidence? No, if you look at Catholics over the

:39:31.:39:37.

last century, if you look at Augustus saying that the universe

:39:38.:39:42.

came to be in an instant and then developed over a long period of

:39:43.:39:45.

time. I think it was great for the discussion the other day, you know,

:39:46.:39:49.

maybe science and religion need each other. Science is rightly saying,

:39:50.:39:52.

maybe science and religion need each why do you think that is right? Very

:39:53.:39:55.

good question. Religion is saying, what is the deeper meaning of

:39:56.:39:58.

things? These things can go together to give a full view of things. I

:39:59.:40:04.

just wanted to come back on the point about evolution and religion

:40:05.:40:09.

being in a kind of clash. We have to be very careful with the history

:40:10.:40:11.

here. It's not as clearly defined as was just implied by that question.

:40:12.:40:16.

That clash does not necessarily exist in the publication of The

:40:17.:40:22.

Origin Of The Species onwards. It's quite recent, it's a political and

:40:23.:40:28.

ideological construction and a product of the 20th century. One of

:40:29.:40:33.

the things that we have to recognise is that the majority of people do

:40:34.:40:38.

not necessarily see there being a necessary conflict between science

:40:39.:40:41.

and religion. We have to really, really step away from communicating

:40:42.:40:46.

science and atheism as one thing. There are a couple of points where

:40:47.:40:50.

we have been doing that, where we have conflated science and atheism

:40:51.:40:53.

together and they are two very different things. You have tried

:40:54.:41:03.

Mormonism, you tried Islam. Now you have tried atheism. How is it going?

:41:04.:41:08.

Well, I'm not really keen on the personal account type of approach.

:41:09.:41:12.

But I did want to pick up on... I forgot your name? Professor Alister

:41:13.:41:18.

McGrath. About the meaning of religion. If we take religion to be

:41:19.:41:23.

a general theory of how the world works, perhaps we can also is

:41:24.:41:28.

deliberately think that the have developed in response to what is

:41:29.:41:31.

going wrong in the world. I think this is missed by militant atheists

:41:32.:41:36.

who criticise people for being religious. They don't recognise and

:41:37.:41:42.

understand the great comfort that religion brings to people. The

:41:43.:41:46.

explanations of the world. That is one of the reason why I am

:41:47.:41:50.

completely against... They are at liberty to say, as Christopher

:41:51.:41:55.

Hitchens did, that it is a false consolation, that is a perfectly

:41:56.:42:00.

valid argument? One of the things this concession is showing us that

:42:01.:42:03.

there can be reasons on both sides of debate. I think we all agree,

:42:04.:42:06.

words like track quality and peace were used earlier, we can all agree

:42:07.:42:12.

that those are valuable things. From a Christian perspective, the place

:42:13.:42:16.

where I find peace is in knowing that you are loved, unconditionally,

:42:17.:42:19.

by someone that will never forsake you, by somebody that would even

:42:20.:42:24.

suffer for you, give his life for you. Given that, rationally, we can

:42:25.:42:29.

think about these questions and say... It's comforting? We had to

:42:30.:42:35.

ask the question, is it the mind that keeps us from belief in God or

:42:36.:42:41.

something else? Father? I have sinned! Albert Einstein, who was

:42:42.:42:48.

once asked, did he ever think we would come up with an explanation

:42:49.:42:54.

for the origin of the universe. He said, no, but when he thought the

:42:55.:43:00.

answer would be found will be two things, beautiful and simple. My

:43:01.:43:06.

faith is not about understanding how the world works or anything like

:43:07.:43:12.

that. What I hope my faith is is a lifelong exploration of truth and

:43:13.:43:18.

beauty, which I hope is what good science and philosophy is as well.

:43:19.:43:24.

Serenity? Well, that is the product of finding the truth and the beauty.

:43:25.:43:28.

I find that in the Christian message and I've got to try and deepen my

:43:29.:43:33.

understanding and faith in that. The last point I would want to make is

:43:34.:43:37.

that faith, actually, I just want to say in this context, the context of

:43:38.:43:42.

this argument, certainty, in a sense, is the opposite of faith.

:43:43.:43:49.

Doubt is not the opposite of faith. That is where I see the coming

:43:50.:43:53.

together of faith and reason. It's an explanation. This century, we

:43:54.:43:58.

have become good at throwing stones at each other. We have always been

:43:59.:44:03.

very good at throwing stones. Adam, what is the biggest problem that

:44:04.:44:09.

science poses for religion? If you were an atheist and were saying that

:44:10.:44:15.

science had blown it out of the argument, what is the best argument

:44:16.:44:19.

that they have? Against God? I don't figured would be a scientific

:44:20.:44:22.

argument, it would be a philosophical and moral argument,

:44:23.:44:28.

the problem of evil. That is one of the biggest contention is that exist

:44:29.:44:33.

against theism. It has generally Billy Bragg wrote genuinely just

:44:34.:44:37.

occurred to me, God knows everything that is going to happen. If he knows

:44:38.:44:41.

everything that is going to happen, what is the point? What is the point

:44:42.:44:46.

of converting? Does that not invalidate three will? There is

:44:47.:44:56.

salacious reasoning. Just because knows -- just because God knows

:44:57.:44:59.

something, it does not cause him to act. Does the Christian God in

:45:00.:45:06.

everything that is going to happen? Yes, I believe so. If I watch my

:45:07.:45:10.

goddaughter from across the room, I know how she is going to act before

:45:11.:45:16.

she does so. If it is true that God knows every hair on our heads, if he

:45:17.:45:19.

knows are so much more than I know my goddaughter, it is not surprising

:45:20.:45:22.

he would note how we might act. It doesn't mean he is causing it or

:45:23.:45:27.

controlling it. Julian, do you have a view? I don't think it is a

:45:28.:45:36.

problem. Why isn't God's foreknowledge a problem? Because you

:45:37.:45:41.

can know what somebody wants to do of their own free will. The fact you

:45:42.:45:45.

can see it in advance doesn't mean it wasn't their own free will that

:45:46.:45:49.

caused it. I really don't think it is a problem. Coming in on this

:45:50.:45:58.

notion of free will, this isn't just a problem for theological discourse,

:45:59.:46:01.

it is a problem for atheist discourse as well. We risk losing an

:46:02.:46:10.

atheist conception of free will, which ties us back into the play to

:46:11.:46:17.

call, ideological... It is a side step too far? If we believe in a

:46:18.:46:23.

naturalistic world, a material world, the self is lost. We lose

:46:24.:46:29.

personal identity, we lose what makes us human. OK... It is

:46:30.:46:40.

overstating it. There are challenges, there is a kind of

:46:41.:46:44.

strand of overconfident atheism which thinks science will lead us to

:46:45.:46:49.

the promised land. But it certainly does raise questions about our

:46:50.:46:52.

inherent ability to even know the truth, our ability to have free will

:46:53.:46:57.

and so forth. I don't think these things blow it out of the water,

:46:58.:47:01.

they are not unanswerable, I don't think it makes the self and illusion

:47:02.:47:06.

but I think honest atheism needs to accept that the scientific world

:47:07.:47:09.

view is not entirely comfortable for everything that atheists believe

:47:10.:47:16.

either. Satish Sharma, is the Hindu conception of a greater power more

:47:17.:47:22.

in your mind compatible with science? It is a completely

:47:23.:47:29.

integrated experience. It is of no consolation to me to be convinced

:47:30.:47:34.

that yes, God exists intellectually. That is of no value

:47:35.:47:38.

to me whatsoever. They believe changes from moment to moment as you

:47:39.:47:43.

learn things. The only consolation, the only thing that would satisfy

:47:44.:47:46.

would satisfy would-be and experience. If you take the mystics

:47:47.:47:51.

out of the picture, the whole God argument becomes intellectual

:47:52.:47:55.

cogitation. The mystics had experiences. Our approach is what we

:47:56.:47:59.

do to recreate our experience in our awareness. The teaching is that when

:48:00.:48:04.

that experience happens, suddenly there is an expanded connectivity

:48:05.:48:08.

with all of life and all of creation. It becomes a knowing

:48:09.:48:12.

rather than a computational deduction. There are some hands in

:48:13.:48:21.

the audience. We have touched a few times on evidence. Don't we go a lot

:48:22.:48:27.

on things that we simply know? How do you know that your nearest and

:48:28.:48:31.

terraced love you? It is because you do know it, you can't put that in a

:48:32.:48:36.

test tube and you can't intellectualise that. To a certain

:48:37.:48:46.

extent, we can expect behaviour but it is a knowing. That is what people

:48:47.:48:52.

of faith have. I don't think it makes any difference whether you are

:48:53.:48:54.

Hindu or must limp or Christian, it is that knowing, that intimacy, that

:48:55.:49:01.

knowledge of God. You simply can't intellectualise it. We could argue

:49:02.:49:06.

all day and it would never make any difference. I actually don't believe

:49:07.:49:16.

in miracles. I went to Lourdes and I found it ever so depressing. I do

:49:17.:49:20.

have a fate and I believe part of having a faith is leaving. I don't

:49:21.:49:26.

believe, with respect, atheism, so I feel that faith is very important.

:49:27.:49:33.

Is atheism a belief system as much as any? Going back to our earlier

:49:34.:49:42.

discussion, I would argue that atheism is a belief system. I am an

:49:43.:49:48.

atheist, a lifelong atheist, I grew up in a scientific household.

:49:49.:49:55.

Atheism and science are not linked, necessarily. Touche! I say that

:49:56.:50:05.

because I work on communicating evolutionary science I have to be

:50:06.:50:10.

quite careful. I am concerned about what agendas I have. The point I

:50:11.:50:15.

would like to make about whether or not we need religion is, there are a

:50:16.:50:21.

couple of ways we can cut this up. We could argue there is an

:50:22.:50:25.

evolutionary reason for having religious beliefs. There are two

:50:26.:50:30.

ways way could look at it. We could think of religion as a by-product of

:50:31.:50:35.

other processes. As there is an evolutionary reason for love. It is

:50:36.:50:44.

for breeding and security... What Julian was referring to is religion

:50:45.:50:49.

as an evolutionary by-product, it could be an adaptive advantage,

:50:50.:50:53.

being able to work in social groups. It doesn't tell us anything about

:50:54.:50:57.

whether God exists or not. All it tells us is that there is religion

:50:58.:51:05.

in society which has existed for quite a long time. That is the fact

:51:06.:51:14.

we deal with. From when? Did the Neanderthals have a God

:51:15.:51:22.

consciousness? There is evidence of early prehistory, miso payer

:51:23.:51:33.

we know it has played a part of human society from early human

:51:34.:51:40.

history, all the way through recorded history. The other thing we

:51:41.:51:43.

know is that it is one of the defining categories of worldview for

:51:44.:51:47.

most people on the planet now. We have to deal with that, whether we

:51:48.:51:52.

are atheists or not. We have to accept we live in a world of

:51:53.:51:55.

difference, a pluralistic society and we have defined ways to engage

:51:56.:52:00.

with each other so we can communicate with an open dialogue.

:52:01.:52:05.

There are some hands up. The microphone is coming. In relation to

:52:06.:52:15.

the freedom of will, God in the Koran mentioned that people liked

:52:16.:52:19.

the atheists would come out and say things, let them prove it. This has

:52:20.:52:22.

been predicted, that people will come, very clever. The other thing,

:52:23.:52:32.

the revelation of the Koran will challenge science. That is in the

:52:33.:52:38.

Koran, 1400 years ago. The miraculous birth of Christ will

:52:39.:52:43.

believe it and also the Koran, it is the Graces miracle throughout

:52:44.:52:47.

history and atheists cannot challenge that because they can't

:52:48.:52:50.

discuss it in Arabic -- it is the greatest miracle. Game over, let's

:52:51.:52:55.

go home. It is the God of the gaps again. It is. This is what we need

:52:56.:53:01.

to be careful about. In my field of interest around evolutionary theory,

:53:02.:53:06.

we have to recognise it is not often a conversation about science but a

:53:07.:53:10.

conversation about theological debates, literalist interpretations

:53:11.:53:14.

of texts. It is nothing to do would be science. I don't have to talk

:53:15.:53:17.

about evidence to do with evolutionary theory because your

:53:18.:53:21.

conversation is intra to your own faith perspective. Other people from

:53:22.:53:24.

your own faith perspective would probably challenge or stance. The

:53:25.:53:33.

gentleman at the edge. A lot of the discussion that has taken religious

:53:34.:53:39.

group or context but the gentleman said you don't have to belong to a

:53:40.:53:44.

religious group to believe in God. The thought system from the

:53:45.:53:46.

Enlightenment didn't necessarily block to Christianity, Islam

:53:47.:53:53.

Judaism, it acknowledged the fact that God is an entity. I believe in

:53:54.:54:03.

God but I'd don't... I am a Christian but I see the two as

:54:04.:54:06.

separate and I think that is a big heart of the debate. We need to take

:54:07.:54:12.

the idea of God away from... I thought you were going to say I am a

:54:13.:54:16.

Christian but I don't believe in God. New Church of England people

:54:17.:54:21.

got not being serious! -- you Church of England people got not being

:54:22.:54:29.

in terms of practice, I am not very religious. The fact that we are

:54:30.:54:37.

alighting believing in God and religion, we need to keep it at some

:54:38.:54:42.

distance. It makes a much better discussion. We are the 13th most

:54:43.:54:56.

atheistic out of 40 countries in the world, what is driving people, what

:54:57.:55:01.

does drive people to atheism? Is it the examples of religion that you

:55:02.:55:08.

would describe as extreme? I think the rise of religious fundamentalism

:55:09.:55:11.

is the biggest driver of atheism in the world. I want to put my hand up

:55:12.:55:16.

and say maybe I'm contributing to that. You're not a religious

:55:17.:55:24.

fundamentalist. We need to think carefully and saying in effect, we

:55:25.:55:29.

are causing this problem. Secondly, there is also the question of the

:55:30.:55:32.

cultural authority of science which we have talked about quite a lot. I

:55:33.:55:36.

think scientists do need to make it clear that science is neutral. I

:55:37.:55:45.

don't say it is anti-religious but it is science. Science is science,

:55:46.:55:52.

it is great. When it starts behaving as if it has answers on religious

:55:53.:55:55.

things, it actually damages its self. I think that needs to be said.

:55:56.:55:59.

We need to purify science and rescue it from being used as a weapon from

:56:00.:56:04.

either religious or religious fundamentalists. Thomas Huxley made

:56:05.:56:09.

the point. He said science commits suicide once it adopts a creed. I am

:56:10.:56:16.

asking, can we purify science and get back to what we used to be? Can

:56:17.:56:21.

you purify religion of these ideological elements, people say it

:56:22.:56:25.

is ridiculous, the world was not created in... The ideological

:56:26.:56:30.

element 's most people are worried about is the propensity towards

:56:31.:56:35.

violence. That is a big one we have to face up to. My old theology

:56:36.:56:41.

teacher started out with something which echoed what you said. She

:56:42.:56:48.

began her first lecture by saying, if we believe that God is truth,

:56:49.:56:57.

theology is a journey into truth and it is -- there is no for no question

:56:58.:57:01.

which cannot be asked, no difficult question which may be ducked. I

:57:02.:57:06.

followed that teaching and it led me away from the church. She wouldn't

:57:07.:57:10.

like where I have gone to but she would approve the methods. That

:57:11.:57:14.

journey into light and truth is the way to go. Do you think it is a

:57:15.:57:25.

genuine threat to religions of mainstream views? Speaking as a

:57:26.:57:31.

Muslim I have seen my own faith, Islam, being hijacked by

:57:32.:57:37.

extremists. I don't know if it justifies Muslims becoming atheist,

:57:38.:57:42.

but certainly they contribute in becoming apostates. The abandonment

:57:43.:57:50.

of faith? Yes, and in some cases they are justified. They are not

:57:51.:57:53.

rejecting Islam but a perverted version of Islam. Very much so, I

:57:54.:58:00.

would agree that religious people, extremists, are contributing to

:58:01.:58:04.

anti-religious sentiments and atheists. What I would also say, I

:58:05.:58:12.

would support religious front -- what supports religious

:58:13.:58:14.

fundamentalism is extreme militant atheism. That is a problem as well.

:58:15.:58:25.

You have made a very balanced point, we have to leave it there,

:58:26.:58:29.

thank you for watching, we will see you next ample stock thank you all

:58:30.:58:38.

for taking part. -- see you next time. Thank you all for taking part.

:58:39.:59:09.

Does anybody know exactly what they're eating?

:59:10.:59:13.

Nicky Campbell presents a pre-recorded special from Manor Church of England School in York, asking just one Big Question - is it more rational to believe in God? Guests include the philosopher, Julian Baggini, Oxford professor of science and religion, Alister McGrath, Dr Lois Lee, founder of the Non-religion & Secularity Research Network, Dr Vince Vitali from the Oxford Centre for Apologetics, Dr Fern Elsdon-Baker, Centre for Social Relations, Coventry University, Muslim apologetic, Adam Deen, author and broadcaster, Margaret Coles, former clergyman now atheist, Ollie Killingback, Satish Sharma of the National Council of Hindu Temples and former Mormon and Muslim turned atheist, Clare Solomon.


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