Last night I gave a lecture on the origins of supernatural beliefs in John the Baptist church in Bristol. The medieval church was decommissioned 25 years ago but for the first time since then, it had a full congregation who came to hear a scientist explain the brain basis for why we believe that unbelievable. I even threw in a bit of magic and fantasy to spice things up.
The church is still sanctified or holy if you like, which makes the content of my lecture with references to murder, sex with virgins, organ transplantation and cannibalism, holy inappropriate to those who consider these topics taboo within the context of a church. I even gave my sermon from the pulpit which was a very strange experience. There is something very empowering about being perched above a congregation and with them looking up to you. Still there was no devine retribution (so far) but I must admit, the evening did not go without some stress.
After the talk, we had a wine reception and book signing in the amazing crypt below complete with craved pumpkins and skulls. There are still tombs down there and I would imagine that if they could, the inhabitants would be turning at high speed. The book signing went well until the elderly lady from the bookseller took a very nasty tumble off a step onto the stone floor and a bunch of dodgy gate-crashers came in and started helping themselves to the wine. Anyway, the lady was alright and I booted the gate-crashers out. I bet Richard Dawkins doesn’t have to manage his own events! Speaking of which, I am introducing him next week when he comes to promote his new book. I did not have any protestors but I would imagine there might be some at the Dawkin’s event.
Thinking of our bookseller lady, maybe it’s not the speakers who attract the devine retribution but those around them who help out at the event. In which case I had better watch my own step at the Richard Dawkins talk. Check back next week when I update the blog with that event…. assuming I am still around to post one.
UPDATE: I just discovered that the church was broken into after my talk and the collection money stolen. Hmm…