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University of Cumbria public lecture addresses the language of religion

Religious belief has always been a matter for debate, but perhaps never more so than now. Diversity of beliefs has never been more apparent; repudiation of all religion never more widely publicised.

This topical issue will be addressed in the second of a series of public lectures at the University of Cumbria, all presented by academic staff renowned in their specialist areas.

The lecture will be held at the Lancaster campus of the university on 9 December and relayed live to their Fusehill Street campus in Carlisle.

In his presentation, Emeritus Professor Brian Gates will pose the question: What’s the difference between Father Christmas and God? Religious language in the thinking of children and adults – a challenge for any university.

Professor Gates explains:

“No religious institution is exempt from critical, even sceptical scrutiny. They’re too important to be ignored as irrelevances from yesteryear, we should take time to check what they’ve been talking about.

“Such beliefs and sentiments are at the heart of society, in the oaths that are sworn in courts of law and in the celebration rituals of birthing, mating and dying. From these, as from stories of Guy Fawkes and Father Christmas, children pick up religious language whether taught it directly or not.”

Drawing on his research with 6-16 year olds and their adult selves, from a range of very different backgrounds of religious belief and unbelief, Professor Gates will give examples – both amusing and serious – of the depth and superficiality of understanding.

He will ask whether universities, like schools, academies and colleges, have any responsibility to their students and staff to be deliberately and explicitly attentive to the grounds for beliefs and for the making of moral judgements.

Members of the public are welcome to attend these free lectures; more information and booking details can be found on the university