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Cambridge Festival of Ideas opens for bookings

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These questions and many more on subjects ranging from the future of capitalism and whether marriage is healthy to how democracy ends will be discussed at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which opens for bookings today.

The Festival, which runs from 15 to 28 October, includes over 200 events and exhibitions. Speakers include bestselling author Tara Westover, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Professor David Runciman, Fiona Mactaggart from the Fawcett Society and Professor David Reynolds.

Top picks for this year’s Festival include:

From politics: Professor David Runciman will speak about the threats to democracy in the 21st century in How Democracy Ends.

From economics: in Trade wars: deal or no deal an expert panel will discuss what the likely impact of trade wars is and how the tension between protectionism and free trade has played out in history.

From historyForms of extreme protest in the post-war West explores two very different forms of extreme protest: violent protest cultures within ethno-separatist movements and two forms of extreme religious protests as part of the HIV/AIDS movement in Britain: the Catholic AIDS Link and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

From social affairs: marriage comes under the spotlight in the discussion Does marriage make us healthier? which brings together two historians, a psychologist, a scientist and a relationship counsellor to discuss the ways individuals have defined bodily and emotional health and its complex relationship with marriage in the past and present.

From technologyShining a light on the dark web explores the dangers of the dark web, including how anonymous users can purchase illegal firearms and drugs on this hidden part of the internet.  

From health: Improving our diets: more freedom or more control? debates whether we should be free to choose what we eat or whether there should be more state control.

A number of events deal with some of today’s most complex religious issues.

In Apocalyptic terrorism: taming the pale horse Dr Justin Meggitt from the Faculty of Divinity will focus on contemporary movements that have been associated with acts of terrorism, such as Aum Shinrikyo, ISIS and various environmental and white supremacist groups.

Dr Meggitt says: “Most apocalyptic groups share the following ideas: that the world is ruled by evil, that a special group possesses this knowledge, an authoritative text or figure discloses that the way the world appears to be is not the case, that the way things are is about to be shattered by a cataclysmic event and that those in the know will have a special role in these events. It is important to emphasise that not all apocalyptic groups believe that they have a role in bringing about this cataclysm or, if they do, this is necessarily a violent role.

“Apocalyptic movements are often misunderstood. They are not necessarily violent. In fact, historically, some have been radical pacifists. However, they are often depicted as solely destructive or dismissed out of hand. A significant proportion of the world’s population belong to movements that are apocalyptic, so we cannot afford to do this, and many people in the past were motivated by such ideas, and we do them a disservice if we do not try to make sense of the way they thought about the world.”

In Rethinking religious fundamentalism, Professor Kim Knott, Lancaster University, Ed Kessler MBE, Woolf Institute, Cambridge, and Tobias Müller, Woolf Institute and POLIS, University of Cambridge, discuss why fundamentalist beliefs and practices are so attractive to some, how fundamentalism relates to mainstream interpretations of the same religion and how we should distinguish between fundamentalism, extremism, radicalism and orthodoxy. They will focus on shared characteristics such as the desire to return to a golden age, the importance of charismatic leadership and the influence of globalisation while pointing out differences. 15 October

Other events linked to religions include:

The mystery of mythical seizures: This panel reflects on mystical experiences during epileptic seizures and what they can teach us about empathy, personal reflection and how different traditions of faith or non-faith can intersect in big questions about the nature of personal experience. It includes experts on the psychology of religion and people who have had mystical seizures. 18 October

What have the angels ever done for us? Angels are a nearly ubiquitous aspect of many world religions. They continue to be widely represented in popular literature, theatre, cinema, radio, television and music. Yet many doubt the intelligibility of the angels, although they are among the most exciting and least known topics in theology. This discussion panel will address who and what angels represent in religion and culture and whether they exist. 19 October

What is extreme? Definitional issues in the Government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy? Ryan Hill from Anglia Ruskin University discusses the Government’s use of the term non-violent extremism. 27 October

The Festival sponsors and partners are St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, RAND Europe, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Cambridge Junction and Cambridge University Press. The Festival media partners are BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge Independent.

*To book online go to www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas or ring the booking line on 01223 766766.

 

How should we tackle apocalyptic terrorism? What can mystical experiences during epileptic seizures teach us about empathy? What purpose do angels serve? 

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