Chris Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have and had wonderfully enquiring minds. Salman Rushdie’s is a perceptive critic of contemporary culture, and Bill Maher delights me every Friday night with his irreverence. But when it comes to matters of faith and belief, when they confront the age old phenomenon that we call religion, they collectively get lost in not so thinly disguised rage.. Each of them is brilliant is his own way, and have won deserved acclaim, but like all of us mortals, they have significant blind spots. Emotion shines bright when they encounter someone of faith, at times it erupts in outrage, and they are very genuinely perplexed that in our century anyone would take any of that rubbish seriously. They are eager to point out the regular litany of scriptural inconsistencies, love to philosophize about the snake in the garden, virgins who give birth, and sooner later we get to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the self identified Muslim martyrs, sacrificing their lives for those one hundred virgins, and more recently they want to let us know that they are uptodate on who is diddling whom amongst the various clergy, what is being covered up and of course they have read “God’s Banker’ . Wherever one happens to stand along that wide spectrum that goes from atheism through agnosticism to the multiple variants of theistic belief, few will deny that the reactions of the illuminati tend to be exceptionally emotionally charged. Hold on a minute, let’s take a deep breath.
Many of us were once told that to be polite we should avoid talking about religion and politics. It still is good advice to stay away form subjects which people have such strong opinions on, and in which everyone believes themselves to be experts. Nevertheless it is time for some of us to speak up just a little about confusion. Religion can be co-opted by politics, but politics is not religion. The fountain head of contemporary terrorism is not Islam, and neither is Islam inherently violent, quite the reverse. There is not now and there never has been a Jewish conspiracy, and neither Geneva, Canterbury nor the Vatican do justice to the simple message of Jesus of Nazareth, and as much as they have tried, and neither do they monopolize him.
I believe in God, a transcendent other who made a covenant with Israel and who revealed much about himself and who we are to be in Jesus the Christ. I believe in prayer and I believe that I am called to be in relationship with that divine other. I also believe that I am called to live that faith out in community. I am not a nut, and I not willfully deceived. I understand mythology and I have found truth in it. I do not live for a pie in the sky heaven or fear a burning hell, but I believe we are on a pilgrimage of grace that will not end when we pass on. My faith is not physics, it is a life structure that gives meaning to who I am and what I am called to be.