Recent Profile: http://tinyurl.com/DaveWebster
This is a blog about atheism, Theism, spirituality and ethics. It was started when I wrote the book ‘Dispirited: How Contemporary Spirituality makes us Stupid, Selfish and Unhappy’. I am now writing a follow up to be entitled The Circle of Stupid.
My professional profile is visible here: https://philosvids.wordpress.com/who-we-are/dr-david-webster/
Sadly, I have also succumbed to twitter – and you can find me at @davidwebster
Author profile also at http://www.zero-books.net/authors/david-webster
Dr David Webster
After a degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy from the (then) Polytechnic of Sunderland, I studied for an MLitt at Newcastle University, researching doctrinal change within Leicester’s Hindu communities. Following that, I began some teaching at the University of Sunderland, while studying for my PhD in Buddhist Studies, and during that time, also taught in FE colleges, for the Open University and taught a range of evening classes for adults in Newcastle and Gateshead. During the writing of my PhD, I also did some teaching at Goldmsiths College (University of London) and for the University of Bristol.
Having completed the PhD, published in revised form as The Philosophy of Desire in the Buddhist Pali Canon (Routledge, 2005), and begun to work at the University of Gloucestershire, my interests in academic work began to diversify. Recent publications have included book chapters on Blues music (Even Philosophers Get the Blues) in Cross the Water Blues, editor Neil Wynn), on Death within religious traditions (Death and Dying: A Reader) as well as work within Buddhist Philosophy (‘Buddhist Approaches: Not What? but How?’ in Cheetham, David (ed.),Contemporary Methods and Practices in the Philosophy of Religion. and journal articles).
Beyond that, I have spent my time teaching and working with students. My final year course ‘Love, Sex and Death’ has brought me ever closer to the role mortality plays in human consciousness, and the impact of our knowledge of our own death on our relationships with others.
A key part of my role at the University of Gloucestershire has been to conduct outreach work, and I can often be found in local schools, and have written for local papers, chatted to a range of perky local radio DJs on all manner of subjects, and spoken to audiences well beyond the usual academic community.
9 thoughts on “About Me…”
I am interested in your thoughts on RE in schools, and can’t quite square what looks like a fascinating book,(waiting for my copy) with your role as an academic in the field of RE.
I have been troubled for a long time about the way religion is taught in schools, usually by Christians who look very confused indeed when asked whether humanism or secularism is in the lesson plans.
Everyone seems to agree that RE should be part of the school curriculum, but to me it seems impossible to teach this as a separate subject in an intelligent non-judgemental way.
Ethics and morals seem always to be included as part of RE which makes things worse. Having seen a GCSE exam paper I remain very concerned about how the subject is taught.
I look forward to the day it is taught as history.
Thanks for the comment. There is a summary of my views on this over at our course blog: http://r-p-e.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/why-atheists-should-care-about-re-in.html – but I’ll try and respond more here too.
There are many excellent RE teachers in the UK (I taught some of them, who amaze me with how good they’ve become). Many engage with humanist ideas, recognise that secularism is not about being anti-religious at all, and offer a really nuanced and balanced account of religious phenomena. Not all achieve this- but many do.
As an aside, my students will attest that I take a much more balanced and objective tone in class than I do in Dispirited- which is (as you’ll have noticed) a polemic work!
Are you atheistic or agnostic? I think the best anybody can do is say they don’t know. A leap of faith is involved in either embracing or denying God with certainty.
Thanks for the question. A quick answer..
Personally, I would describe myself as an atheist. Here’s why. I don’t see the question of the existence or non-existence of God as one where each option is equally plausible based on the world as we encounter it. Hence the claim of the atheist is not an equivalent knowledge claim to that of the Theist who claims to know that God exists.
The burden of the balance of proof is not equally shared here. The believer in God is positing an entity whose existence is non-obvious: they are adding to the entities existing in the world – and need to advance evidence to do so.
The burden of proof sits firmly with the Theist. I don’t believe in God in the same way that I don’t believe in Unicorns, Fairies, and other things for which there is no evidence. To be an agnostic is to perhaps find the ‘evidence’ (which I wholly reject as being valid as such), to be partly convincing – to have muddied the waters and opened a possibility.
Furthermore, I’m convinced that many thoughtful theists don’t see the matter of proof and evidence as that important (I talk about Kierkegaard of course in the book), but would nonetheless concede that atheism is not a position requiring of evidence. In fact, the idea of proving God seems anathema to really deep notions of faith and belief – almost a mockery of them.
For me, however, I guess, the lack of evidence for Theism is sufficient.
Finally, the world acts just as a world would act without God: so even if there is a God, his or her existence seems to make no difference: I encounter that world as atheistic, and have to treat that as my starting point – as I begin to look at in https://dispirited.org/2012/06/26/283/ . For me, the arguments about God’s existence are not important – it’s the questions about where atheism can lead that are much more interesting..
Hello Dr. Webster, I stumbled on your page by accident and was taken with the sub-title of your book (and the subsequent photo of you with the sticky on your forehead reeled me in!). I have little education in these matters but a high degree of interest. My comment is, you (mildly) claim atheism and state above that the burden of proof is on the theist (old arguement that im not sure I agree with) but then go on to say that this is ‘anathema to really deep notions of faith and belief.” Again, with my limited education, but that seems to be deeply contradictory.
Hi- thanks for the interest: I’m away at present, so a more detailed comment later: but what I *think* I meant was that many more fulsome conceptions of faith don’t rely- at all- on ideas of proof at all. That the whole idea of ‘proving’ things (particularly existence of God) is in conflict with having faith in them: Kierkegaard’s “Knight of Faith” doesn’t believe on a balance of evidence- it’s an existential choice in the absence of evidence- either way..
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What confused and empty views you have of faith in the One true God. Not surprising you present as a sad and miserable person. maureen-ray.com
MS. Sheila. Your comment doesn’t qualify for a response, because you seem to be quite insecure person. feel Dr. Webster doesnt have to reply to this , as you seem to be one of them who is so conditioned with their God fearing insecurities, that they would make sentences like that. Dr. Webster is speaking from depths of his study, however,Rejecting and accepting concepts is an individuals prerogative. Calling some one miserable just because his views doesnt match with ones faith, only proves how sad your state is. Sorry for being so rude as you have been to Dr. Webster, but I feel people like you Ms Maureen are the reasons why teens and young adults despise religion or God. Be it Atheist or Thiest, that which promotes compassion is only that should remain, rest all tags are mere empty talks and boasts of the identity which hasn’t found its true locus.