Here you can listen to any CICCU talk. Just click the title of any item to listen.
“Yes, we agree about the rights but on condition that no one asks us why.” (Jacques Maritain, talking about his involvement in framing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) How should we think about the basis for universal human rights in the 21st century? Many would argue that old rationales, bound up with transcendent religion and especially Christian morality, are now passé, and have been shown to be flawed. What, then, are the alternatives - and how secure are they? Can the idea of universal human rights be sustained in today’s world - and if so, how?
The celebrated libertine Marquis de Sade once wrote: 'Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other.' This captures the attitude of many at Cambridge today: as One Direction cheerfully sing: 'Tonight let's get some, and live while we're young.' So why are Christians such prudes? And why does their God seem so intolerant about sex? Come along to hear how the Christian sexual ethic leads to a surprisingly greater freedom, and offers a window into the greatest possible love.
The freedom to live as an individual is one of our highest values as a society. We hate the idea that we might be constrained by the rules or conventions of others. But does this lead to contentment, let alone happiness? Does individualism leave us isolated and alienated, deprived of community and relationships? Could the radical claims of Jesus hold the key to combining freedom and happiness?
Christians claim that Jesus reveals a God of love and yet the Old Testament tells of God commanding war. Isn't it irrational to try to claim that the Bible has a consistent picture of God? Isn't following that God today bound to lead to more violence?
We often think of God as accepting ‘good’ people, but is this actually true? How good is good enough? Or isn’t it hypocritical that sometimes Christians themselves do wrong things, all the while believing that they will go to heaven? Join us for a short talk and discussion with Jonty Allcock about whether being good is in fact the way to be accepted by God.
“To give a text an Author and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it is to impose a limit on that text." If there seem to be so many different interpretations of the Bible, is it possible for it to have a single ‘correct’ interpretation, and how could we know what that is?
Doesn't it seem odd that the symbol of Christianity is a object of torture and execution? Why is one of the most celebrated events of Jesus’ life His death? What, if anything does it mean for us as Cambridge students in the 21st Century?
Wasn’t the bible chosen to make it say what early church leaders wanted it to say? What about the other gospels? Can we have any certainty that what we read now is the same as what people wrote in the 1st Century AD? Join us for a short talk and discussion about all these issues and more, with Pete Williams, a lecturer in Theology at Cambridge, and expert. [First few minutes of talk missing].
Why would anyone spend their life on this earth, with all of the many things to enjoy, waiting for a future life after death which apparently consists of floating on clouds playing harps forever? Is it nonsensical even to speak about life after death? Jonny Clifton speaks on what Christians really mean when they speak of eternal life.
The issue that all of Christianity hinges on, whether Jesus rose from the dead, goes against all the laws of science. Is it reasonable then just to reject it immediately? Piyush Jani, himself a top surgeon, will be speaking on the claims of Jesus rising from the dead.
Is Christianity outdated if it claims to be absolutely true, for all people everywhere, or in fact is this just the height of arrogance? Can there be absolute truth, and if it does exist, is it possible to know it? What about the challenges of relativism and postmodernism?
The fourth talk in our Monday Lunchtime series entitled Jesus:Examined.
The third talk in our Monday Lunchtime series entitled Jesus:Examined. [Unfortunatly the first two talks are unavailable]
If God exists, and He really is loving, surely that doesn’t fit with the idea of him letting people go to Hell for eternity? Surely no-one deserves to be punished like that, and should this call us to question whether He really is as He says He is?
As science has advanced, we have discovered more and more about the world we live in, and it has enabled us to do things unthinkable several hundred years ago. With all of our accumulated knowledge, can we really still believe in God? Doesn’t science rule out the idea of a creator or of miracles?
We often hear that to have faith is to ignore reason. If this is true, then faith in God must be blind, and is it then reasonable to believe in God at all? Can we know whether God exists, or what He is like?
As we come to University, we begin to think about what we want to do with our lives. How should we live, and what should we do with all we have? What, in fact, are we here for at all?
Everywhere we look in this world, we see suffering and death. Sometimes we can feel this acutely in our own lives, and those of our friends. Can we really believe then in a good God, one who is able to stop it, if He seems to just let it happen?
The bible itself admits the truth of the Christian faith stands or falls on whether the resurrection actually happened. So can we in the 21st Century really believe that Jesus rose from the dead, without ignoring science or history?
Is it true that all religions are just different sides to the same ultimate reality, and is Christianity any different compared with the others? In fact, is it worth investigating the issue at all, if they all lead to the same place?
As human beings, we spend much of our time looking for satisfaction, and sometimes, we find that what we thought would satisfy disappoints us. What does this tell us about ourselves, and are there answers that Christianity can offer in our search for satisfaction? David Illman will be speaking to us.
In the Bible, much of the Old Testament is filled with violence and war. In places, God even seems to condone it, so what should we make of this? Join well respected academic Pete Williams for discussion about whether we can reconcile this violence with how we usually think of God.
All of us live with hopes about the future; often they are what drive what we do and how we feel. We live for the summer holiday, or for the future relationship or job. What does the Jesus say about these hopes that we all have, and are these better with God out of the picture? Jon Thompson will be speaking to us.
The idea that ‘God is love’ is central to the Christian faith, and helps us understand who He is. Why then does the Bible say that he would send people to Hell? Should this idea make us question His character, or even His existence? Pete Nicholas will be speaking to us.
Hitchens claims that faith is the surrender of reason. Others such as Descartes have maintained that you can prove that God exists. Against that backdrop, what is the role of proof and evidence in Christianity, and can we know it to be true? Michael Ots will be speaking to us.
In our increasingly multicultural society, ‘evangelical’ Christians look more and more out of place. People who not only think their worldview is ‘correct’ but who also feel compelled to convince others of this seem to be causing more harm and antagonism than anything else. How can Christians claim that they have ‘the truth’, and why do they persist in shoving that truth down people’s throats? Graham Shearer will be speaking to us.
Freedom: ‘the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants’; ‘the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved’. It would seem that any notion of God – particularly the God of the Bible – goes squarely against such definitions. Why is God out to stop people doing what they want, and why do so many Christians adhere to His requests - requests which are, at best, counter-cultural, and at worst, enslaving? Mary Jane Axelson will be speaking to us.
Christians claim that the God of the Bible is unchanging in His character. How, then, do we reconcile the God of the Ten Commandments, who authorised the destruction of entire nations, with Jesus ‘meek and mild’, calling us to love our enemies? Why is there such difference, and how can we believe that this God is consistent, believable, and worth any time? Pete Williams will be speaking to us.
At the heart of the Christian faith is the notion that a man rose bodily from the dead. This might have been believable at some points in history, but it’s certainly far harder to accept in an evidence-driven, rational culture like Cambridge. Can there really be credible, sufficient evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? Andy Towner will be speaking to us.
Many people, believers and non-believers alike, have wondered why God's existence isn't more obvious. Whether the wish is for more empirical evidence, more obvious answers to prayer, or a Bible that's less ambiguous, the problems are similar, and won't go away. How can Christians believe in such an unclear God? Are humans really dealing with a being who is deliberately obscure? Robin Whaley will be speaking to us.
In recent decades, the Bible has been accused of pretty serious offences. Its teaching has been labelled racist, sexist, homophobic, slavery- and genocide-supporting by many people. So how can Christians today hold to what it says with any integrity? Can they seriously claim it to be communication from God? And if so, how would they defend all of its unsavoury and even dangerous elements? Craig Summers will be speaking.
Everywhere we look we can find pain on some scale. But if God is all-loving and all-powerful, as Christians claim, why is this the case? What could possibly be stopping him from preventing it all? Matt Lloyd will be speaking to us.
Given all the uncertainty surrounding the God question, and especially in our increasingly multicultural society, isn’t the agnostic position the only sensible position to take? Dave Gobbett will be speaking to us.
Christians claim that God is all loving, and yet some go around crowded streets talking about Hell and damnation, and preaching that we must all ‘repent and be saved’. But surely we can’t have done anything to deserve such a harsh punishment! Moreover, if some people are going to be rescued from it, surely an ‘all-loving’ God would rescue everyone from it! Is the God of the Bible simply inconsistent? Simon Tomkins will be speaking to us.
Christians today base their faith on a small collection of ancient books, translated and re-translated over the centuries, heralding dubious moral standards and reeking of pre-modern credulity. Can we really believe that the Bible is “literally true”? Aren’t Christians simply deluding themselves? Phil Jack
Over the past few centuries the scientific enterprise has grown exponentially, accompanied by a huge multitude of scientific discoveries - evolution, mapping the human genome, splitting the atom, the Big Bang, the Higg’s Boson and countless more. Given all this, hasn’t God now, finally, been shown up for what he is - an unnecessary hypothesis?
Everyone knows that university is much more than a degree factory - it's a place to try new things, meet great people, and above all have some fun. But fun often seems to be the last concern in Christianity. Why is the Christian God such a square? Wh
When it comes to morality, surely God doesn’t need to feature in the question. Even in our lives, we’ve seen many people who don’t believe in the God of the Bible do great things for the world, such as Nelson Mandela or Bob Geldof. Is it time for us all to realise we’ve outgrown religion and move on? Johnny Clifton will be speaking to us.
There are over 5.5 billion people in the world today who believe in some form of religion, and only 2 billion claim to be Christian. Surely the rest of the world can’t simply be wrong! Even if there is such a thing as a ‘true’ religion, how can any of them, let alone Christianity, claim to be it? Charlie Butler will be speaking to us.
In 2012 there exist more charitable organisations across the globe than ever dedicated to helping all sorts of people in need. Moreover, governments are largely united in fighting terrorism, helping the environment and all sorts of major issues. But even on the smaller side, there are more counsellors, therapists, doctors, physicians, etc than ever! We seem to have things roughly in hand; so is God really necessary? Or does the problem run deeper? Dan Strange will be speaking on this question.
Is the God of the Old Testament not depicted as a blood-thirsty dictator, willing to smite entire nations that annoy Him and lay down merciless laws? Why would Christians ever want to believe in such a God? How can anyone even tolerate someone like that, let alone love them? Charlie Skrine will be speaking on this question.
Everywhere we look today we can find suffering in some form: injustice, pain, heartache, loss, fatigue… we can go on and on with a list of our own forms of suffering, let alone those of, say, those in the poverty-stricken nations across the world. But where does God fit into this? Does He even care? Is the world endlessly suffering, in big ways or small, because of something He is doing or has done? David Illman will be speaking on this question.
Is Christianity not a Western religion? Is its scientifically enlightened, post-modern society a factor in the decline of Christianity in the West and a sign we’re out-growing it? Or are we missing something that the rest of the world seems to be getting? Stephen Boon will be speaking on this question.
Why do Christians feel they can’t have sex before marriage? Surely it’s natural and doesn’t do any harm! Is the God of the Bible just against fun and want people to feel guilty about being human? Or is there a reason behind this? Pete Nicholas will be speaking on this question.
Christians claim that a first century tax collector, doctor and a couple of fishermen wrote the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life. Two thousand years have passed and well over a hundred different translations exist today. Can we honestly believe that they are accurate accounts, or has the Church had its way and doctored them to its liking? Michael Ots will be speaking on this question.
In a world with so many philosophies, religions and definitions of morality, is God really necessary? If Christianity is all about being good, why can’t I just be good without it? Or is there more to it? David Cook will be speaking on this question.
According to Christianity, God made us to belong to himself and to worship him with all our lives. But doesn’t that make God the most selfish being in the universe? Did he create us out of loneliness? What does it say of him that he’ll chuck anyone in to hell who doesn’t pay him due homage? And why would anyone want to worship a God like this? Roger Carswell will be coming to speak on this question.
The church’s track record on human rights is horrendous: active marginalisation of minority groups, passive indifference in the face of state abuse of authority, and a lust for power itself that’s caused terrible harm to millions. How could all this be possible if Christianity really was the one true religion? And how, therefore, can we possibly take the Christian religion seriously? Krish Kandiah will be coming to speak on this question.
Bertrand Russell once commented, “Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence. It will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.” The narrative of Western culture tells us that our future is a secular one, where atheist rationality will triumph over the blind faith claims of religion. But is this narrative correct? Is atheism the force of reason that it makes itself out to be? Or does it fall short even by its own standards?
Out-dated, irrelevant and anti-intellectual - Does Christianity have any place in Cambridge today? Voltaire predicted that within a 100 years of his time, Christianity would have become a relic of a past, less enlightened age. We may not have lived up to his expectations, but Christianity is clearly a declining force in our world. Why should we bother with it? Free lunch and time for questions.
If God really does exist, then why is that not more apparent in the world around us? In particular, if God as Christians conceive of him exists – if he cares about us, and if it really matters whether or not we acknowledge him – then why doesn’t he do something to make himself better known? Come along to hear Steve Midgley, a local church leader here in Cambridge, answer this important question.
Quite apart from its relevance to modern life, does the Christian idea of Hell square with the claim that God is love? Why would a loving Creator consign his creatures to eternal torment?
Can Christians really base their lives on the claims of an ancient text, whose historical reliability has been called into serious question? And can they really invite others to do the same? The 10 plagues in Egypt, Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the whale, Jesus’ death and resurrection…Is there any actual historical evidence for the claims the Bible makes?
Bertrand Russell said that “Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, [and] it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.” We no longer need Christianity to explain how the world and life began, and the Bible is filled with accounts of miracles that simply could not have happened. Doesn’t the Christian religion belong to a pre-scientific world?
Emma Goldman called Christianity "the leveler of the human race, the breaker of man's will to dare and to do ... an iron net, a straightjacket which does not let him expand or grow." Is human freedom and flourishing at all compatible with the Christian faith? Or does Christianity force you into a stifling iron mould - a life of robotic obedience to some “Big Brother” who determines what you do, think and say?
In the centuries since the Bible was put together, women have taken hold of their rights, slaves have taken hold of their freedom, and we no longer have to slaughter a pig to stop the harvest from failing. How can 21st century Cambridge students pay heed to a book that is so culturally backwards?