Young Question 9: Religion is Primitive

From Ben Nicholas of King’s School Ely: How would you respond to the view put forward by many anthropologists that religion is a primitive means of dealing with the unknown?

I agree. From the beginning of consciousness, people must have wondered What It Was All About. And shaping your life and ideas to fit in with the best answers you can come up with makes sense! So let’s hear it for religion…

Ah – but perhaps “primitive” is meant not just to imply ancient but Neanderthal, and “anthropologists” suggests that the really wise Homo Sapiens has grown out of such childish ideas?

Don’t believe a word of it! Science is really good at explaining how regular stuff happens. It doesn’t even begin to get to grips with the big Why questions and falters in the face of the unusual and edgy (experiments don’t work).

So when it comes to the big unknowns of our own lives, religion still rules OK.

Ely Diocesan Prayers February 23

Orton Longueville with Bottlebridge Holy Trinity

Rector: Dr Adam Dunning

Curate: Jane Penn

LLMs: Susan Waters; Lynessa Austen

St Botolph’s Church of England Primary School

Maseno North (Kenya) – The Rt Revd Simon Mutingole Oketch ; Maseno South – The Rt Revd Francis Mwayi Abiero ; Maseno West – The Rt Revd Joseph Otieno Wasonga

Well done, Wilburton!


Photo credit:

Several medieval churches in England have received funding the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage as part of their joint Repair Grants for Places of Worship program. In an announcement made earlier this month, over 153 Grade I and II listed places of worship across England were granted £15.7 million to support urgent repair work.

The churches include St Peter’s, Wilburton, in the Diocese of Ely, which has a tower dating from the 13th century. It has been offered at grant of £105,000 towards repairs to the tower spire, which was last repaired in 1903, as well as timber repairs to the spire and louvres, reglazing and masonry repairs to the tower parapets and stairs.

Reverend Fiona Brampton of St Peter’s, Wilburton said, “We are delighted that English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund have been able to help us. Our church is not only a beautiful treasure, but also a focal point for the community here in Wilburton, Cambridgeshire.”

"Visitors and staff may be in collapsed cathedral" – Christchurch Dean

The Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, the Very Revd Peter Beck, has said he is fearful that people may have been in the Cathedral’s tower when it collapsed after an earthquake struck the city.

The Salvation Army have been very quick to mobilise in response to the terrible earthquake in New Zealand.  If you would like to support, you can donate HERE.

Speaking to the BBC’s 5 Live Radio programme he said that he had himself been in the cathedral office when the quake struck, but was able to escape and get others out of the Cathedral. However, he warned that others could still be trapped inside.

"We were in the cathedral when this happened," he said, "in the office and fortunately that wasn’t too badly damaged, but the tower has collapsed and some of the walls have collapsed and we’re pretty fearful there may be some people underneath that."

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The Lewis Chessmen

lewisMark Hall and David Caldwell  are giving a talk soon at the Society of Antiquaries on the famous Lewis Chessmen.

A recent paper by them (Caldwell, D, Hall, M A and Wilkinson, C 2009. ‘The Lewis hoard of gaming pieces: a re-examination of their context, meanings, discovery and manufacture’, Medieval Archaeology, 53, 155—203; ) is downloadable for free.

“The Lewis Chessmen have recently been laser scanned by the National Museum of Scotland and they now produce replicas of these beautiful pieces, which are available to buy from Regency Chess based in Bath.” 

Big Society: More on Church Urban Fund Near Neighbours Project


The Near Neighbours Project is just what we need if the Big Society project is to gain real ground in harder-to-reach areas. Here is a press release from CUF on the funding award, and some details of the project.

The Government has today awarded the Church Urban Fund £5 million to promote interaction in communities through a new project called Near Neighbours. The three-year initiative aims to bring people together in diverse communities, helping them build relationships and collaborate to improve the local community they live in. Near Neighbours will be set up as a charity by the Church Urban Fund and Church of England to foster better understanding and relationships between people of different faiths. People of any faith will be able to bid for funding through the local parish church to award grants of up to £5000 to individual local interaction projects. A wide range of community, education, environmental, arts, and sports activities will be eligible, as long as they encourage involvement by local people from different faiths or none. Near Neighbours taps into the unique Church of England parish system, which has presence in all neighbourhoods and an ethos as the national Church with a responsibility towards all in the parish. Near Neighbours will start operating later in 2011 in locations in the M62 “mill towns” corridor, Leicester, East London (north and south) and Birmingham (north and east), drawing on the resources of local churches long established in all the neighbourhoods in these areas. The Church Urban Fund has been working in the most deprived areas of England for more than 23 years, during which time it has awarded more than £65m worth of grants to fund community projects tackling both inner-city and rural poverty. Near Neighbours will develop and expand this work. Church Urban Fund’s chief executive Tim Bissett says: “We welcome the government’s recognition of the vital role churches and faith-based organisations play in local communities. More than 20 years experience has shown us local people often hold the key to solving local problems. Church Urban Fund is already working in these communities and will also use the Church’s existing strong relationships and infrastructure to make this idea a reality. "We’re also excited by the opportunities this grant presents for us to work alongside committed people from all faiths to bring about much-needed change in some of England’s most diverse areas.”

Near Neighbours programme simple summary follows:

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Young Question 8: Do we worship the same God?

From Hannah Bosworth-Daft of King’s School Ely – Do you believe that you are worshipping the same God as believers of other faiths? If so, how is it possible for narratives about God to be in conflict?

These questions from young people really are what we need to be addressing. In fact, I’m getting quite a head of steam up about how we should as church and society be engaging much better with younger people. Tokenism and lip service are easy. It’s easy too to overdo things the other way and assume that just because the voices are young they are sensible – I’m afraid young and old are in the same boat too there! But this question is important and topical too.

If, as Christians do, you believe that there is only one God, then no-one can be worshipping another one. Except of course it’s not that simple, and someone can be worshipping a person or a thing or another entity and calling it God when it isn’t – whether that is your best girl, football, or (and this is where things get difficult) some sort of spiritual being other than God.

My position is that the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are worshipping  the same one God. They clearly understand God differently and have different narratives about him, and we must come back to that. But in straightforwardly historic terms they are family; they all started at the same place.

The position is more complex with other faiths. I like to use the old image of a mountain (God) that we are all trying to climb from different sides. My own faith is that Christianity has a viewpoint that sees as far to the top as any human can (God revealed in Christ), but that all people of good will are in all probability looking at the same mountain, but may be mistaking a smaller sub-peak or outcrop for the main summit, or taking a long way round. That may be why some of them acknowledge many Gods, because before the one real one comes into focus, there are many smaller heights along the way. Some faiths do not allow personhood or even reality to any God, and I am glad that they persevere with their good endeavours, but I hope that one day they might lift their eyes and see more.

Just occasionally we encounter, or more usually hear third-hand stories about, faiths and people that seem so upside-down in their morality that we cannot believe that the “God” they acknowledge is even on the road to the one we know. Here we have to be very careful because feelings will probably run high, but a good motto is to proclaim the good and do it as best as you can, and not turn what is a spiritual struggle into a human one. That said, sometimes we do have to face the problem of an “evil” dictator, for instance, and actual armed struggle seems inevitable. Even then, though, it can be dangerous to co-opt the religious element too strongly into the political or military conflict – the “crusade effect” can sometimes obscure Christ.

Now back to the issue of different narratives. If we are all trying to understand and speak about a God who is not just us but bigger, but the ground of all being, then any narrative is going to be imperfect. Since we come at the project from our own point of view our narratives are going to betray our own perspectives, even though many faiths are also going to say that they have some sort of privileged revelation that they can rely on.

My position is that as a Christian I do think that in Christ we have as full and secure a revelation of God as humanity can receive, and that in the Scriptures and through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can be supported in that secure salvation because God is also alive and active in them as well. But I also accept that the Scriptures are historical and human attempts to pass on those truths and so show variation and development, and that our attempts to listen to the Spirit can show quite a degree of deafness. A degree of humility is in order!