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April 1, 2023

Social researcher turns to god

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Social researcher Hugh Mackay and his book Beyond Belief. Photo supplied
Social researcher Hugh Mackay and his book Beyond Belief. Photo supplied

Respected social researcher Hugh Mackay, who has recently turned his attention to our search for meaning beyond the everyday, is speaking in Byron Bay tonight.

Around two-thirds of us say we believe in god or some ‘higher power’, but fewer than one in ten Australians attend church weekly.

In his new book Beyond Belief, Hugh Mackay presents this discrepancy as one of the great unexamined topics of our time.

He draws on research suggesting that our quest for a meaningful life depends on believing in something ‘greater than ourselves’ and explores what that ‘something’ might be for today’s Australians.

He argues that while our attachment to a traditional idea of god may be waning, our desire for a life of meaning remains as strong as ever.

Mackay has interviewed dozens of Australians representing many different points on the spectrum of faith, including some who are part of the emerging ‘spiritual but not religious’ movement. He exposes the deep vein of ambivalence about religion that runs through our society: we may not actively worship, but we still like to see local churches operating in our midst, and we use ‘our’ church to marry, christen our babies, educate our children and commemorate our dead. He points out some uncomfortable truths, such as our tendency to call on god only in a crisis, and unpacks our human need for ‘answers’, even when science can’t find them. He endorses the christian ideal of the good life – a life lived for others – but acknowledges that there are many pathways to that same goal, not all of them religious.

Hugh Mackay – Beyond Belief, presented by Byron Writers Festival

When: Monday 30 May, 6:00 – 7.30pm
Where: Byron Theatre 69 Jonson St Byron Bay.

Tickets $25 Adults / $18 Under 30’s / $15 Members available online.


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  1. John Lennon wrote a song called “Imagine”. That song is the spirit of what the higher power is because without imagination how can we imagine that there is a God, a higher power.
    And without that imagination from our mind there is no God. There is a God because we imagine there is a God. Therefore the human being is God, because God is imagined through active thought of the mind, the mind of Home Sapien, the human being.
    Is there a God that is captured in thought from any other animal? No. because the brain of any other animal is not developed or sophisticated as ours.
    A God exists only because we think there is a God. And the same thinking that can prove there is a God also through the medium of thought can prove that there is no God.
    “In the Beginning God created Heaven and Earth.” begins the Bible.
    And who wrote that?
    A human being wrote that. Humans were not invented for the writer of that sentence to know that he was writing truth.
    And who created God before the beginning of Heaven and Earth because the beginning began when God was created before Heaven and Earth were created.
    To challenge the assumptions and traditions first we must disbelieve.

  2. The almost certain fact that there are no gods means we must resist the idea that morality and meaning can only be found through a belief in the supernatural. Our imperfect innate human solidarity must be a basis for morality and meaning and our we’ll achieve that sooner if we release ourselves from the shackles of wishful belief.


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