The Best Questions in the World

We offer a course at St Mary’s every now and then called the God Factor. You may have heard me mention it. It works like lots of church courses in that folk gather around food and have a conversation. In our case we gather around the best pizzas in town which come from just across the road and most of the courses have chosen to meet on a Sunday lunchtime.

However, the God Factor is different from a lot of courses that churches run because I can’t tell you what will happen exactly from one course to the next. I can’t give you the book. I can’t give you a plan for what those on the God Factor will all learn. Why so? Well, because the participants set the agenda. The first meeting is all about collecting questions from the group. Those questions are then grouped and tackled by the group over about eight weeks. The idea is that they get to use those running the course (clergy and laity) as a resource to try to find answers to the questions that have been logged at the beginning.

For those who want a bit of pedagogy, this arises out of a situation where the Vice Provost is into Paulo Freire and the Provost is known to read Ivan Illich in the bath, but let us not be too technical and get too distracted by methodoloty right now. Because the exciting thing is that we’ve just got the questions for the course that is beginning at the moment.

I think these are the best questions in the world to get a group to try to answer. See what you think below. Oh, and if you want to join in with this course and engage in trying to find the answers to these then get in touch with the Vice Provost using this contact form.

The Questions – God Factor – March 2014


  • Is it OK to disagree with some bits of the Bible?
  • Do I have to believe everything in the Bible?
  • What is the best way to read the Bible?
  • If the Bible was written in approximately 400 AD, how accurate is it?
  • Why are only some Gospels used today?

Church and churches

  • How does the Scottish Episcopal Church choose its clergy?
  • Who are Episcopalians and how do they differ from Catholics and other Protestants?
  • What is the Church for? Couldn’t we do without it?
  • Why are there so many different denominations?
  • So few people go to church these days; will it change or simply die out?


  • Is God male or female? Black, Chinese, White?
  • How will I know that God has accepted me? Forgiven me?
  • Can you lose your faith, find it and lose it again in your one lifetime?
  • Is there such a thing as condemnation?
  • Is ‘God’ a male?
  • Reincarnation – does it exist?
  • Do you think suicide is a coward’s way out?
  • Spiritual ‘dry spells’ – what to do during them.
  • What ‘sins’ cannot be forgiven?
  • How do we define sin?
  • Is there an afterlife? If so, what does it look like?
  • Is there a hell?


  • Why is the Church obsessed with sex?
  • Why does a message of peace and love end up causing war, suicide bombings and so much hatred?
  • Why so many different rules and regulations, e.g. on birth control and same sex marriage?
  • The Vatican = corruption? Wealth? I struggle with their beliefs – no birth control, third world women dying etc.
  • Was there any truth in the Da Vinci Code book?
  • Why do the different denominations of the Church always seem to be at odds with each other?
  • Is faith just for sad people and those who need a crutch?
  • Why are so many religions intolerant of different people, e.g. gay people, and contraception?
  • Should the Church be involved in politics?

God and Jesus

  • Is Jesus God or just a way to God?
  • Why did Jesus allow himself to be crucified?
  • Will Jesus return?
  • Was Jesus God or human?
  • Does God exist?
  • Why does God not intervene on issues of poverty/hunger etc?
  • What does God look like/feel like?
  • Was Mary really a virgin when pregnant?

Other faiths/religions

  • Why is Christianity different to other faiths?
  • Why are there so many different religions?
  • Why has religion caused so many wars?
  • Why is the Jewish religion so feared? Hated?
  • How should we respond to people of different faiths?
  • Relationship between Christianity and other faiths.
  • Is the Christian faith the only way? What about good Buddhists, Muslims and Humanists?
  • Is war and bad weather judgement from God?


  • How can I learn to pray?
  • When during services do people ‘cross’ themselves and why?
  • Would Scottish independence be good for the UK?
  • Does God really love everyone? What about those who reject him?
  • How does prayer work? Is there a right and a wrong way to pray?
  • Why does it feel so incredibly peaceful in a church?
  • Why is incense used?
  • Why is the Eucharist important?


  1. Elizabeth Anderson says

    Great questions – definitely the best. Not quite sure I’m with you on the pizza though. Gambrino’s is very good but I’ve got to say (after extensive sampling) I think Sarti’s is better. However, it’s a broad church . . .

  2. Rosemary Hannah says

    It is interesting that some questions are quite factual and capable of answers (‘Why do we …’) and others – well, some are matters of opinion, but capable of being backed up by rational answers (eg, dates the gospels were probably written) and some make me want to throw up my hands and say ‘Who knows!’ – and ‘Why is the church so obsessed with sex’ would be one of those.

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