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Atheism and Agnosticism

Philosophy of Religion

The Sea of Faith Network: Key facts

Information: This section contains a brief summary of the history and aims of the Sea of Faith Network. To learn more about the Sea of Faith Network visit their official website. Links to the New Zealand and Australia websites can be found here and here.

The Sea of Faith Network (SoFN) is often described as a radical Christian group. However, although the Network is predominantly Christian (and was begun by a group of Christians), it is open to anyone from any faith or spiritual tradition to join.

The SoFN has no official creed or statement of belief which members are required to subscribe to.

Although members hold diverse beliefs, they tend to be united in their opinion that religion is essentially a human creation and they explore the variety of religious teachings from this perspective.

'[The Sea of Faith Network] is most closely associated with the non-realist approach to religion. This refers to the belief that God has no 'real', objective or empirical existence, independent of human language and culture; God is 'real' in the sense that he is a potent symbol, metaphor or projection, but He has no objective existence outside and beyond the practice of religion. Non-realism therefore entails a rejection of all supernaturalism - miracles, afterlife and the agency of spirits.' (What we think, www.sofn.org.uk/sof/who_we_are.html [Bracket mine])

'[The Sea of Faith Network] acknowledges that no truths in the world arrive untouched by human hand. Truths are made within human culture and language. Ideas, beliefs, faiths: we made them all up - not, of course, as isolated individuals or lone craftsmen, but as communities, groups, collectives, cultures.' (What SoF is about..., www.sofn.org.uk/sof/about_sof.html [Bracket mine])

The SoFN began in response to a series of TV programmes and book (both broadcast and published in 1984) by the author, philosopher and theologian Don Cupitt.

The Sea of Faith book cover

The name Sea of Faith was taken from a poem written by Matthew Arnold in the 19th century called Dover Beach, in which he spoke of how belief in God and the supernatural was gradually declining in the modern world; which he likened to the the ebbing tide of the sea.

Although Cupitt's work has been influential amongst members of the SoFN, it is wrong to assume he is its leader or guru.

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The first SoFN conference was held in the UK in 1988. Following a second conference a year later, the Sea of Faith Network was officially launched.

As well as an annual conference, members meet regularly in local groups. Each national network of groups is supported by a steering committee, which is made up of members from local groups.

The SoFN publishes a bi-monthly magazine called Sofia.

There are well-established SoFN groups in New Zealand and Australia. They also have members in the USA, Northern Ireland, South Africa and France.

As of 2004, worldwide membership was around 2000.

The SoFN is not a church, nor does it seek to provide religious writings or ceremonies for its members. If anything, it might be likened to a support group for those who are seeking a real encounter with their faith (albeit from a non-traditional stance).

The SoFN is not a new religion or religious sect (nor is it seeking to become either of these).

The SoFN is a registered UK charity.

Some members have found it difficult to remain in their faith-tradition due to the changing and radical nature of their beliefs. Others find they are comfortably able to remain actively involved in them. However, members are not required (or even coerced) into leaving their faith or spiritual tradition when they join the Network.

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