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What I Believe: Adrian Worsfold

We humans are combinations of library-keeping culture and biology, trapped in our individual bodies, and so the task of religion now is to use an overview of life to come to terms with our own death. The centre of such reflection is not only our consciousness but being aware of our own consciousness in a way that we presume most other animals are not. As descendants of group-apes, we do this together and we have our language to do it. Language and symbol is the key to this and it is clear that young humans learn the grammar of language faster than it is taught.

In terms of symbol and language, I am not an equal-sheet across-all postmodernist, because we don’t make it all up. Science and social science research delivers answers we do not like, and history has various schools but important rules about primary documents. But religion is none of these, but more like art, so that asking what is a good, guiding, approach to religion is like asking what makes a good painting. Postmodernism comes into its own with religion.

I have tried Christianity and Buddhism, and prefer Western secularised versions of both. In terms of Buddhism, this means a practical path of doing, but the doing for me is in a church setting. Christianity is a bit more complex. The first book in the New Testament is 1 Thessalonians and Mark comes some way down the line: they are all Pauline and Greek affected to some degree and later reflect a battle between spirit and matter, including key beliefs.

So the mistaken last days Jewish rabbi who pointed from himself to the action of a highly supernaturalist God became the salvation figure of the early communities of Gentiles as well as the Messiah in waiting for the few Jews who joined up and were destroyed by the Romans.

Human beings evolved. They are not born of virgins and when they die brain death is rapid and irreversible. There is no final miracle in Christianity. Jesus was an interesting reverse-ethics teacher in the conext of the last days, but those ethics are available more directly.We simply don’t have the history to judge Jesus’s moral insight: but it seems he was initially rude to Gentiles in his focus on Jews and some animals received demons. As an orthodox Jew he will have been busy at the Temple with animal sacrifices and debated with Pharisee rabbis on the spirit of the Law.

But that is for then and we live now. After Paul’s effect on Christianity, now religious humanism is further more universal and kinder to animals (even in a food chain). Ecology is our last days concern.


I tried to be a postmodern Christian in a friendly Anglican parish, but could not do it. I stopped taking communion, said progressively less, and finally made a complete switch to the Unitarians where the denomination, despite being tiny, is broad in argument and on the whole more ethical thanks to it being egalitarian, liberal and democratic.

In a service, words and music enhance the purpose of living and reflect upon extinction. They ask the individual to say sorry, be thankful, welcome your neighbour and enemy and to think afresh. It is an overview, a joining of the dots, rather like transcendence.


Adrian was one of the first people I encountered online, when I set up this website. I was fascinated by his sketches of his fellow bloggers and those professionally involved in religion. And then I began to read his blog, Pluralist Speaks. He always says something to make me think, and his opinions are never of the ready-made, out-of-a-box sort. He couldn’t write in clichés if he tried.

The short version of his biography is:  Website creator; critical examiner of social sciences and theology, religious liberal, ‘terror blogger’.

Thank-you,  Adrian,  for starting us off on what I hope will be a series of blog posts by people from different theological backgrounds and none on ‘What I Believe’. I am grateful to Chris Fewings for the idea.


Both illustrations are from Adrian’s website and the copyright remains of course with him. Adrian allowed me to copy them here to illustrate his post.

6 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

This is one that I don’t have anything in the box to respond with. I’ll have to go away and think for a while about it all.

20 September 2012 12:31
Matthew Caminer said...


20 September 2012 17:17
Chris Fewings said...

How do you understand transcendence, Adrian?

20 September 2012 20:33
UKViewer said...

Having re-read Adrian’s post. I can say hurrah for him being so frank and open, which is something I struggle with personally at times.

I can accept the Post-Modern ideas that drove Adrian to the Unitarians, because I share some of them, but perhaps with a bit more of a traditional perspective.

I thought that we were in a new, post-post modern age now? Or have I missed something?

I love Creation and the environment and have done my best, within the context of where and how I live to conserve it. I actively support green policies as a member of the Green Party.

I love the Arts, at least some of them, but perhaps in the way of someone without a classical education or any real appreciation of what lies behind some of the things that are described as ‘art’ today. But I like Classical Music, Opera as well as many brands of popular music. I also like dance, but find that some forms of dance such as modern street dance are not really my thing. I like theatre, although much drama leaves me cold. It seems to introspective and doom laden. Perhaps comedy and musical theatre are the things that I enjoy, because they, in the main reflect the joy, hope or tragedy of human existence in a way that I can relate to.

It seems to me that being open to learn about and appreciate the finer things of life is great, but can be bit of a luxury for those who are more affluent.

I just wonder how ‘the arts’ really connect with the many poor people, on survival incomes or benefits, just struggling to make ends meet, day to day? Somebody told me that having an appreciation of the Arts shouldn’t be limited to the Rich, but they couldn’t offer access to them free at the point of access, due to the lack off, reduction off, or removal of government funding for their particular sphere. Surely, if the Arts are to survive, they need to develop the commercial acumen to survive without public funding?

In matters of faith or belief, I suspect that I’m a bit traditional, in that I’m happy within the established church, particularly in my own situation within a multi-parish benefice. Having belonged elsewhere as a Roman Catholic, I value the freedom of thought and belief, faith and theology that it encompasses. Four years ago as a new Anglican, I was hungover with my Catholic heritage, but now, having moved and grown within the Anglican environment, I am perhaps in the region of either Liberal Catholic (one of many labels applied to members of different factions within the Church) as I would say are most of those in my parish.

I accept that the Unitarians take a very broad brush approach to their faith and world view, and they have a considerable heritage from their antecedent churches, which instead of holding them back, seems to have given them a modern, inclusive perspective, which is more ‘worldly’ than most main stream Christian denominations. I’m sure that I could be happy in a Unitarian environment, but my reality is shaped by feeling very strongly called to be where I am within the CofE and my parish. I can’t conceive of anything which would make me change, unless the church were to move so far to the right that they began to look and feel like the RC Church.

So, now to worship. I love Anglican Worship, but that isn’t to say that other worship is poorer. In the last four years, I’ve explored a wide range of Anglican Worship from Evangelical, Charismatic broad, middle of the road and so on. I’ve also experienced worship in Methodist and a URC services at times. I see worship in whatever place or context of us sharing worship of God as part of the Universal Church (whether apostolic or not) and feel that even at ecumenical worship, we are all sharing that membership in the spirit of how Christ calls us to unity in his body.

I even go to Mass occasionally at an RC site close to where I live as part of occasional retreats. I don’t take communion at an RC Service from respect for their rules and tradition, but have at services of other Christian denominations.

I’m not sure if all this makes me a multi-cultural Christian, or just a believer trying to do the best they are able to in their own context. I’m certainly not a consumer Christian. I am firmly an Anglican and will remain so, as far as I can see, for life.

21 September 2012 11:21
Pluralist said...

Transcendence I see as something from below. I go with Peter Berger’s sociology of signals of transcendence, where some things point to the possibility of greater things, at least as an ideal. Some transcending things might be fractals and equations. But the world as such comes first, and then there is transcendence.

On the longer comment, there is a huge overlap between the Anglicans, Methodists and URC, and the Unitarians, and I have inhabited it, but Anglicans may find Unitarian worship a bit ‘thin’ and irregular. But if Anglican worship becomes repetitive, stuffy and not expressing your beliefs, then Unitarian worship is a relief.

Chris Fewings said...

Thanks. I can only see it in poetic terms, I fear.

22 September 2012 09:42
21 September 2012 21:56

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