vendredi, octobre 27, 2006

Are you a saint or a ghoul?

This guts of this post is stolen from the London Institute on Contemporary Christianity- if you haven't heard of them yet, they are a wonderful group of hip Christian writers and speakers. You can subscribe to their meditations, which appear to come out once or twice weekly. A prerequisite is liking the British, of course, because they do have a UK-immersed point of view. A couple of things one might want to consider when reading this meditation on atheism and Christianity-why does Richard Dawkins get his knickers in a twist about Christianity, when it is no longer even a particularly potent cultural force in Great Britain (although Tony Blair is apparently going to convert to Catholicism when he isn't PM anymore)? And what do we make of General Sir Richard Dannatt's ideas about Christianity over here, in a nation whose people would still overwhemingly say that they are Christians?Let alone our President (I hardly dare wonder about VP Cheney-that guy sometimes appears to bat for both sides). My feeling about President Bush is that he uses his faith as a cover for his prejudices-the result is that he has managed in so many ways to make Christians here in the United States appear fundamentalist morons (other countries that claim Christian histories have also done really bad things in the name of democracy or monarchy or conversion, would always like to think we'd do better as small "d" democrats than the colonialists of the 19th century). The point made in this essay remains accurate, though-judge Christian ideals by the words and life of the man Christians profess to follow as Savior, not by how well we actually follow them. Sometimes I wonder whether Christians are more comfortable with Halloween than with All Saints Day!

The Two Richards
Whatever we may think of the appropriateness of what General Sir Richard Dannatt said to the Daily Mail last week, his honesty is welcome. His remarks about the invasion and occupation of Iraq overshadowed some other comments on the ‘moral and spiritual vacuum’ in Britain today. ‘Our society’, he said, ‘has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind. … It is said we live in a post-Christian society. I think that is a great shame.’
Richard Dawkins would emphatically disagree. His recent bestselling book The God Delusion puts forward the extraordinary opinion that people in post-Christian secular society are far more moral than those who lived (or live) under the code of one of the world’s religions. Passing over the monstrous evils perpetrated in the 20th century by atheist regimes, the Oxford professor of the public understanding of science delights in describing the horrors carried out in the name of God.
The evidence does not support him, however. In a better-informed discussion of the issue, in his book Is Religion Dangerous?, Keith Ward, former professor of divinity at Oxford, argues that, although religion has been used to justify hatred, envy, greed and fear, no faith has such anti-human values at its heart. ‘Religious institutions’, he writes, ‘can be used by authorities to support their own cause, and the rhetoric of religion can then be used to enlist loyalty to very ambiguous policies, for which the use of violence can seem to be … justified.’
Of course, like all belief systems, different religions embody different worldviews, and these find expression in different values. The core values of the post-Christian West today have been defined, by David Selbourne (author of The Losing Battle with Islam) in the Times, as the ‘doctrines of market freedom, free choice and competition’. Is this threadbare, impersonal vision all that the mighty West has to offer? Small wonder, then, that people are looking elsewhere for a moral compass. What happened to the great Christian principle that we should love our neighbour – of whatever race or creed – as we love ourselves?
Thank you, Richard Dannatt, for the reminder. It’s over to us, now, to help our society to rediscover the transforming message of Christ.
Helen Parry

religion has been used to justify hatred, envy, greed and fear, but no faith has such values at its heart
what happened to the great Christian principle that we should love our neighbour as ourselves?

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