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Christianity, secularism, and the individual


14 March 2018
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm AEDT

Sydney Conservatorium of Music
1 Conservatorium Road , Sydney


15 March 2018
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm AEDT

State Library Victoria
328 Swanston Street, Melbourne

It’s obvious. Life should be respected. We should obey the rule of law. Humans have inalienable dignity. People are of equal worth. Freedom is good. Science is legitimate. Rights should be respected, And – as Life of Brian reminded us – “we are all individuals”.

Except that it is far from obvious.

Societies have had very different levels of commitment to these values over the years, and it is only in what we call ‘the West’ that they came together in a sustainable way over the last few hundred years. 

And yet few people understand why. What does make the West the West? Rule of law, humanism, the Scientific Revolution, democracy, human rights – how did these things emerge and then embed themselves so deeply in our collective psyche? 

Nick Spencer is on a quest to rediscover our origin stories. He makes an argument that we’re all prone to selective amnesia, and offers a provocative assessment of which elements of our culture did – and didn’t – come from Christianity.


Nick Spencer is a Research Director of Theos Think Tank in London and author of several books including Atheists: The Origin of the Species (2014), The Evolution of the West: How Christianity Has Shaped Our Values (2016), The Mighty and the Almighty: How Political Leaders Do God (2017), and most recently The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable (2017).

Nick has written for The Guardian, Church Times and The Telegraph and been described by The Economist as “like a prophet crying in the post-modern wilderness”. Outside of Theos, he is Visiting Research Fellow at the Faiths and Civil Society Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London and a Fellow of the International Society of Science and Religion.

The Richard Johnson Lecture is an activity ​of the  Centre for Public Christianity.  The lecture seeks to highlight Christianity's relevance to society and positively contribute to public discourse on key aspects of civil life.