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First published
Pevensey Bay Journal
Edition 22: Saturday 27 October 2018
Now available in local newsagents, priced forty pence
Bay Life and Times for the Digital Age
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Father Tony Windross, the vicar of Pevensey: From Bertrand Russell to the Loch Ness monster and Angels: Why it’s vital to distinguish between belief and faith


The great philosopher Bertrand Russell once said ‘many people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do’. So, what’s your take on the Loch Ness monster? Is there one in there – or not?

If you think there is – maybe you’re too gullible? If you don’t think there is – maybe you’re too sceptical? How can we decide? How much evidence is there? What’s the quality of that evidence? How scientifically respectable is it? (or do you think we’ve had enough of experts in general, and scientists in particular, and can safely ignore anything they say?)

When it comes to making claims about how the world is, there’s always a continuum – ranging from something like ‘I’m certain there’s a monster in Loch Ness …’ through ‘there probably is …’ to ‘there might be …’, ‘there probably isn’t …’ and ‘there definitely isn’t …’

Most people probably couldn’t care less about Nessie – because it doesn’t matter to them. But what about something that does? How do we decide if a claim is true or not? Oddly enough, people are often most confident about things for which there’s the least evidence.

Which is why some are completely certain that various religious claims are true. And some are equally certain that they’re not. If we had to choose – would it be better to be gullible, or sceptical?

Fortunately, we don’t have to choose – because that’s something over which we’ve got no control.Faced with the same evidence – some people respond one way, others respond another. This is why some say there’s a monster in Loch Ness – but think angels are figments of our imagination. Whilst others say the opposite.

We can’t believe to order. So if the Church says that unless you can believe x, y and z, you can’t be a Christian – only those whose minds work in a particular way can be Christians. Which is a bit of a shame for all the rest!

This is why it’s vital to distinguish between belief (over which we have no control) – and faith (over which we do). But maybe more of that another time.

Father Tony Windross


Father Tony Windross is the Vicar of Pevensey