Thursday, July 03, 2008

Seeing and Believing

The Church of England, and its international cousins in the Anglican Communion seem to be tearing themselves apart. As a former anglican there is a bit of 'I told you so' in my thoughts about all the controversy over gay clergy and women bishops, but in the main I don't take any delight in this. I agree with the Cardinal that "We don't rejoice at all. It diminishes the standing of Christianity.”

However, reading through some of the news items and the readers comments upon them I was struck by a curious observation. It seemed to me that the comments fell into three groups - those who believe the Church must 'modernise', those who believe that the Church must dig in and return to the old values and practices, - no surprises here - and a more surprising third group which rails against the Church of England, Christianity, the oppression of religion, the 'imaginary friend' and so on and so on. One rather long and vehemnent comment on a paper's web site ended with the comment that religion is a delusion, no one cares anymore, and the paper shouldn't report it.

So why leave comments?

Here is the irony. If the news article had been about a dispute in UEFA or a Premier League club there would of course be the comments for and against. But would there be as many comments saying that football is just a waste of time, 22 men kicking a pigs bladder around a field for an hour and a half? Well I don't think so, no. Those who don't care, don't care enough to comment.

But those who think faith is irrelevant, pointless, a waste of time and uninteresting etc etc etc want to have their say. We are told that religion is a delusion, that it is 'dying out' - so why write comments under news arcticles? why write books against it?

Perhaps believing does have some power after all.

It is the feast day of St Thomas - the doubting apostle. A good saint for today.


G Buckby said...

What do you think about the suggestion, consistently made by atheists that the problem with religion is that it makes essentially good people do bad things. Nobody has ever had enough faith in football to be a suicide bomber. Hence religion cannot be ignored in the same way as football, it is too dangerous to remain unchallenged?

Fr Peter said...

Well, two observations, Gary.

1) Either 'religion' is a force to be reckoned with or not. This is irrespective of faith or truth claims - but it is relevant? The question you present here suggests that it is - if not why oppose it? This is my principal point in the post here.

2) Now what about the suggestion itself - does religion make good people do bad things? Well sometimes, yes it seems so, but I think this can be true of any of any fanaticism, any obsession. I've never heard of a football suicide bomber, but people have been murdered because of football. Religion and culture are tightly bound together, and culture can often be identified with conflict, even when the principles of the particular religion may suggest otherwise - consider any of the many ethnic/religious conflicts in history. Such conflicts do not always rely on a faith divide, but often that is part of the complex picture. Notice also that at times the religious values of a group in conflict may actually contribute to eventual reconciliation (e.g South Africa and perhaps even Northern Ireland).

G Buckby said...

Obviously I am devils advocate but as regards

1) An atheist recognises fully the force of religion. It brought down the twin towers. The tragedy for them of course is that it is all built on fairytales. As a result anything an atheist can wrtie which discredits faith is worthwhile.

2) Clearly a distinct division needs to be made bewtween the fatal drunken post match brawl and the cold calculated planned murder using aeroplanes as bombs. Perhaps this issue is, if we did away with religion, would Northern ireland have happened, or 7/7 or 9/11, your atheist would say not

Fr Peter said...

Dear Gary

1. Religion is a force to be reckoned with.

2. Perhaps football isn't the best analogy here - but nationalism is. Whatever harm may be done in the name of religion, far more harm has been done in the name of other fanaticisms such as communism and nazism - both of which were atheistic.