Saturday, December 23, 2006
Religion in Deep Decline but Ideal of Christian Behaviour still highly Relevant
I would tend to identify with those latter groups. Fairly typically, I was confirmed into the Church of England as a 13 year old and sang as a true believer in my village's church choir. But as my education progressed I grew to doubt a system of belief based solely upon faith rather than evidence. My attendances at church slowly declined until it was only weddings, christenings and funerals which drew me in. I became almost completely secularized and more or less remain so though I would prefer to see myself as 'agnostic' rather than a dogmatic atheist.
Interestingly, 49% of those from 'non Christian' backgrounds see themselves as religious. So we seem to be a largely secular nation with a residual one third still clinging to their faiths but within that a vigorous minority of Jews, Muslims and others to whom religion is possibly more important. And while 57% think religion is a 'force for good' 82% think it 'causes division between people'. I'm not sure which side towards which I tend on that question(though suspect it's the latter) but on another I also agree with Garton Ash when he writes:
I can't get anywhere with Christ as God, but as a human being Jesus Christ seems to me a constant and wonderful inspiration - perhaps even, as (Jacob) Burckhardt put it, "the most beautiful figure in world history".
That just about sums up the position of a group which must extend way, way beyond myself. Christianity, with all those miracles and the extended flummeries of the church, is not credible intellectually but the example of Christ as a person provides a model to which it still seems well worthwhile to aspire. Amen to that at least.
P. S. For a wonderful 90 second visual summary of the world history of religion see this(Hat-tip Roy at Mantex).
One point though: is it really possible to celebrate the teachings of Christ when so many conflicting claims about his life exist?
Not surprised TGA was impressive. My point was not so much his teachings but the idea of an altruistic life in which one thinks of others more than oneself. I'm not saying many people achieve this but it is a good goal to aim at.
To Him that was Crucified
MY spirit to yours, dear brother;
Do not mind because many, sounding your name, do not understand you;
I do not sound your name, but I understand you, (there are others also;)
I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you, and to salute those who are with you, before and since—and those to come also,
That we all labor together, transmitting the same charge and succession;
We few, equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times;
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes—allowers of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the disputers, nor any thing that is asserted;
We hear the bawling and din—we are reach’d at by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every side,
They close peremptorily upon us, to surround us, my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and down, till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races, ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers, as we are.
- C.S.Lewis, "Mere Christianity."
great poem, thanks.
Super quote but I don't follow Lewis's reasoning as it doesn't contain enough reason. I don't think Christ has to be insane to say the things he said and choose to accept him as the very thing Lewis says I shouldn't: a great moral teacher.
After my long experience of aettnding a C of E primary school, singing in the choir, attending confirmation classes and listening to endless boring sermons, I agree wholeheartedly with you.
1: He enunciated the doctrine that "There is no other way but through me" (By comparison, pagans were much more tolerant. Indeed, if it is true that the only way to God is via belief in Jesus, this would justify forced conversion in order to save souls, precisely the lesson drawn by Christians fanatics through the centuries. I'm afraid the rather mild Anglicanism we all find so congenial is a very recent heresy).
2: He believed in the doctrine of (eternal punishment) in hell; a place where, according to Jesus, there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" and where, according to Matthew, the "fire never goes out". This does not strike me as a very humane or admirable doctrine. (Remember: this is a punishment for disbelief).
3: He adopted a stance of passive submission towards earthly powers. Jesus was definitely "other-worldly": he believed the "kingdom of God" was "at hand" and so you needn't worry about the injustices and cruelties of this world, because (so long as you believe in Jesus) you will get pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. Personally, I prefer Spartacus.
I know there are other things in the New Testament, many of them admirable ("let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and so on), but taken as a whole the man was not especially admirable, and some of his beliefs were simply wicked.
I sympathize with your objections but they all relate to the religious belief side of the man, rather than the more humanist helping the needy etc side.
By the way, do either of us have nothing better to do on XMas day? I'm off to the pub.
Don't agree re TGA. I think the world before the birth of Christianity was not exactly a socialist paradise and there was a degree of civilizing achieved thanks to Christ's teachings as well as more than a little bloodshed in consequence of the wars caused. I'm off to have my dinner now! Happy Whatsits...
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