Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Stories to Tell

This is a clip of Richard Dawkins for whom I have a huge respect and in whom I acknowledge brilliance beyond my own.

As I listen to the noise out there about Christianity and about religion in general I can hear lots of stories. The vast majority of these stories seem to tell us that Christianity, the church, and religion in general are decremental to society and are the mother of conflict. The Crusades, Christian Antisemitism, the American revolution, the German Church's marriage to the Nazi Party and it's relative responsibility for the Holocaust, the racism between Jews and Palestinians, the War in Iraq, the bombing of abortion clinics, and the homophobia of the American church. These are true stories, that must be understood. We can't pretend these things didn't or don't have religion at the heart of them. But the way these stories are often told is often presumptuous. People often tell these stories in order to refute religion in general as though there is indeed some realm beyond religion--as though we can get to a place where we don't have a religion. We will always do things and we will always have reasons for doing them... this is religion. As long as there are people who do things and believe things and have reasons for doing and believing the things they do and believe there will always be religion.

As long as people do bad things and have reasons for doing them, religion will be at the heart of every conflict. As long as people believe anything at all, those beliefs will have something to do with how they live. The adverse is true as well, as long as people do things they will have beliefs that have something to do with those actions. No one is free from this, no one is without a religion, just some people have bad religion. There is no realm in which our beliefs and our actions can be separated.

Therefore, I think we have some stories to tell. What about the stories of people giving of themselves to others? What about the stories of those who love without reservation with Jesus as their example? What about those who end hunger, slavery and poverty every day because they believe that God has not given up on the world? What about the stories of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu, Pope John Paul II, and Bono--all of whom have religion at the heart of their actions.

It's not that we have a choice between religion or no religion. Rather, our choice is between religion or ignorance of religion and religion or bad religion.

After thought: religions and post-enlightenment science (and I am not excluding the notion that science may be a religion in itself) may in fact only be different in what evidence they require before a change of mind is considered necessary. For example, a scientist expects empirical evidence while a Christian expects evidence of a more spiritual nature, all the while, more often than not, both parties assume their evidence is "objective." Science, after all, does not have a much better moral track record than religion does. How do you think they invented the Atomic bomb? Perhaps science just makes the bomb but the only thing that has the power to either drop or refuse to drop the bomb is religion.

2 comments:

rdugall said...

Dawkins? Just like Bill Maher's new movie coming out this week, he exposes his own "religious" bias by upholding his non-religious views. Just because you are not religious in a traditional sense doesn't mean you are not religious. Dawkins religion is himself and his ability to be angry and distorted about anything that has to do with spirituality. Good video clip...glad you posted it. Have you read "god delusion"?

WES ELLIS said...

Robin,
No, I haven't gotten to it but I am adding it to my list. I saw when he was on Bill O'Reiley's show talking about it. I think that much of my respect for Dawkins spawns from my having seen him on O'Reiley's show. O'Reiley talked down to him though he obviously knew what he was talking about. I think Dawkins is brilliant, though I disagree with many of his presuppositions. At least he caries himself well. I can't say I don't think he has a good reason to hate religion.

Thanks for the comment Robin!