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Concluding the Pentenary

That's all 23 parts of the Pentenary special, which is thus complete. I hope you have enjoyed this special event to celebrate five years of Only a Game, which revisits many of the philosophical themes I've been playing with since the blog began.

Earlier this year, I started reading the books of the moral philosopher Mary Midgley - and discovered a tremendous overlap between what I've been rambling about and her own philosophy, written as much as thirty years before my own efforts! As a fitting end to the Pentenary, I'll be running an interview with Mary next Tuesday.

Enjoyed the Pentenary? Please leave a comment!


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Thanks for running the series. It's always good to read something that makes one examine and question my own assumptions.

As a whole, I think you spent a bit too much time trying to defend religion in this series. I can appreciate that it may be a vital part of your life, but I don't believe there are credible threats to ending religion as a whole. I think there's a problem in that often religion tries to paint itself as a victim; growing up and going to a fundamentalist church I was literally told the reason to memorize Bible versions was in case the government tried to take our Bibles away from us. Too often an "us vs. them" mentality hurts more than it helps.

The real danger comes from people who believe they have an ultimate answer and that others absolutely must conform to that belief. This can happen with fundamentalist religions that try to convert by the sword or through fear tactics. Yes, it also can happen with scientists that don't accept that there are parts of life that fall outside current scientific knowledge. Sadly, I think his "we have the TRUE knowledge" mindset is what the atheists have rallied around and is potentially as dangerous as anyone else of that mindset. I think they've gotten a bit of a free ride because the "unbeliever" mindset has been marginalized for quite some time in many societies, particularly in mainstream America.

I hope that reading this series does get people to consider the basic principles that we should live under, as it has for me. What is moral behavior? Why do we consider that moral and other things immoral? Ultimately, I think it's about doing the best we can to make life better for others, whether or not they share our beliefs. Life is too short and too brutal to do otherwise, in my perspective.

Thanks again for your insightful postings. I really do enjoy your series, even if I don't agree with some points. But, as I said, it makes me evaluate my own assumptions, which is always a good thing to me.

Brian: thanks for the feedback! Glad to know you enjoyed the Pentenary.

With respect to spending "a bit too much time trying to defend religion", I'd be interested to see what other people thought about this. I only wrote two pieces expressly in this vein, but of course a thread running throughout is the idea that we should make use of the moral resources we have, including that which comes from religious traditions.

And of course, since this is effectively a recap of the first five years of Only a Game, it also reflects the effort I have expended here in the defence of religion. If I felt that the case for its defence was appreciated, I wouldn't feel the need to advance it. It is because I do not that I find myself compelled to write about it.

This partly reflects a certain anti-religious bias that exists here in the UK a lot more openly and prevalently than it does in the US. While I was living in Knoxville, TN, I encountered a lot more religious prejudice than I did anti-religious, which I think is characteristic of United States right now, although I don't want to suggest that all I found was intolerance. The religious bigots were still, on the whole, in the minority, but the extremity of their positions was often shocking.

I agree with you that there is no credible threat to religion as a whole, but there is an incredible amount of political effort wasted in opposition to religion, particularly here in the UK. My hope is not so much to defend religion as it is to appeal to have this attack called off - it's a squandering of effort that isn't helping anyone.

I am particularly concerned by the prejudice against Muslims since both Christians and atheist hardliners are united in this bigotry, and it serves to block much needed reform in Islam by creating an enemy for Islamic hardliners to oppose.

The issue of people claiming to have true knowledge is complicated, and one that I struggle with more now than I did before. I am currently exploring approaches that allow people their own truth without any need to assert it upon others. The problem, as you suggest, is in presuming a single truth that must be enforced. It is a tricky knot to untie.

Glad that the series got you thinking about moral and ethical issues - this really was my goal here, to provoke some consideration of values and ideals. And as for disagreeing with me - well, what fun would it be if we all agreed on everything? :)

All the best!

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