Interestingly, in 13 sessions at Hay, I have seen only one female speaker (excluding two women in the Saturday night Guardian Debate: Is Reason Always Right, in which all six panellists managed to both agree and disagree with not only one another but also the motion, to varying degrees, regardless of whether they were in attack or defence of it), and that was religious historian Karen Armstrong, asking Does God Have a Future?
About half way through her hour, I still didn’t have a clue whether God had a future or in fact how she was addressing the topic at hand; early on, her talk largely consisted of entertaining but inherently fictitious anecdotes about conversations between God and his apostles. She started though by noting that we often first encounter God along with Santa Claus – hardly an auspicious point of introduction for a child, and Santa Claus has the benefit of being much more easily understood. Discussing God, she continued, involved talking about a different level of reality to the one we see and routinely exist in – and not for instance an alternate, unseen but detectable reality such as the atomic world, but the Ultimate Reality. By this time, I was feeling my atheism to be increasingly confirmed, not challenged.
And then with Santa Claus, Ultimate Reality, apostles and fictitious conversations with God aside, things started to get interesting. Karen began to explain Brahmanism, the Indian search for the connection with God in the self, or more specifically, in silence. (more…)