“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
– G. K. Chesterton
What made me think of that Chesterton quote was an article, Atheists Debate How Pushy to Be, in the October 16 New York Times. The article reported on an early October Los Angeles Council for Secular Humanism conference of folks opposed to religion. Well-known heroes of the group are Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Bill Maher. During the conference, such deep questions as, “How publicly scornful of religion should we be?” were dealt with. There was also discussion on “alternative ethical systems” that do not depend on any deity. There was tension and discord. Humanists interested in seeking common ground with religious people were accused of being “accomodationists” while the most militant atheists were tagged “confrontationalists.” It almost sounds like a meeting of a group of “religious” folks! (I think that is actually what they are.)
Of course skeptics get much of their energy and inspiration from religious folks such as Rev. Ronald Allen who, in an attack on homosexuality, offered us this challenge in a Letter to the Editor of The State Newspaper yesterday: “Think about it: If any word in the Bible is wrong, then every word in the Bible would be suspect, and the Bible would not be the word of God. But God cannot be wrong, and his word cannot be wrong, whether we like what it teaches or not.” I just can’t help wondering if persons who take such simplistic views of the Bible are reading it carefully and paying close attention to the words. I wonder if they are reading it looking for confirmation of what they already believe and completely missing or ignoring anything that challenges them because there are some deep, mysterious, apparently conflicting, and difficult-to-understand words in the Bible. And such statements as Rev. Allen’s make great fodder for the critics and encourage them to be even more pushy.
But back to the work of the LA anti-religion conference. Of course it is quite easy to have a system of ethics without any reference to God or religion. Any group of people can get together and decide what rules they will live by and what the consequences of breaking the rules will be. But, they, like many Christians, would be missing entirely the point that Christianity is not about rules and ethics. Christianity is about dying to oneself and giving up everything to be one with Jesus in loving service to others. If you missed that, go back and read the New Testament again and then join me in confession and penance. If all Christians really lived as Jesus calls us to live, it would take all the wind out of the sails of the atheists, humanists, and skeptics. It would be a permanent fix for many of the world’s problems. Shame on us for not doing just that.
I know this is a bit different from my normal political themes, but just blame it on The New York Times from whence the idea came.