‘Philosophy, Religion and Ethics in a Time of Change’ – new webinar series

The Department of Religious Studies will be hosting a new series of webinars running every Wednesday at 13.00.

10 June: ‘Learning from Chinese philosophy in times of lockdown’, Dr Leslie de Vries.

Thinkers in ancient China cultivated themselves to survive and even flourish in challenging times. How would a Confucian or a Daoist philosopher deal with our present pandemic? This talk explores fascinating Chinese views on ethics, society and the good life and their relevance today.

17 June: ‘Atheist Encounters: Between Beliefs film screening and Lives of Unbelief photography exhibition’, Briony Campbell, Aubrey Wade and Dr Lois Lee, in conversation.

Atheists now outnumber theists in the UK and atheist individuals and cultures are as diverse as religious ones, whether within the UK or globally. Yet we tend to have a narrow image of who the atheist is.

This session explores how real encounters with atheists open up new ways of understanding religious diversity in the world today – and can challenge our assumptions about what it means to be both religious and nonreligious. It includes an exclusive screening of ‘Between Belief’, a short film by filmmaker Briony Campbell and Banyak Films, and a virtual exhibition of work ‘Lives of Unbelief’, a photography essay by Aubrey Wade. Produced as part of the Understanding Unbelief programme, Briony and Aubrey will join programme lead Dr Lois Lee in conversation around their work.

24 June: ‘Cracking up: Can laughter solve moral problems?’, Nicole Graham

There is often an underlying expectation that morality must be taken seriously and considered rationally. This talk will consider whether laughter can help us with morality. Can laughter draw attention to moral issues? Can laughter disrupt dominant moral ideas or does it simply reinforce them? Can we learn from laughter?

1 July: ‘What role does religion play in how we engage with our pasts?’, Dr Chris Deacy

This talk will focus on the role that religion plays when people reminisce about their past and how this relates to debates in the study of religion. Using data drawn on as part of a podcast on nostalgia, Chris will discuss how the way we understand the location and parameters of religion in the contemporary world needs to be re-framed in the light of the presence of those less formal and structured forms of religion which often overlap with formal religious practices but are often articulated without reference to it.

8 July: ‘What is a nonreligious worldview?’, Dr Lois Lee

From students and teachers to policymakers and legislators, people are increasingly being asked to take better account of those who have ‘nonreligious beliefs’ or a ‘nonreligious worldview’. But what is a nonreligious belief or worldview? What should count as a nonreligious worldview in the classroom or in any other area of public life? How do you go about learning about them? How do you even know if you have one?

This talk will address these big questions, and share new findings from the landmark Understanding Unbelief research programme which investigates the beliefs of so-called unbelievers.

15 July: ‘Making sense of values and meaning-making today: From spirituality to the sacred’, Professor Gordon Lynch

With decreasing numbers in the West identifying with traditional religious beliefs and institutions, there has been a growing interest in the study of religion in trying to develop effective ways of thinking about the meanings and values that shape people’s lives. Drawing on his experience of working in this field over the past 20 years, Gordon Lynch examines how different concepts like ‘spirituality’, ‘world-view’ or the ‘sacred’ don’t just describe social realities but come with assumptions about the role that belief and values play in the lives of individuals and groups. Understanding these assumptions more clearly is important not only for understanding the world around us, but imagining the ways it might change in the future.

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