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Religion (or not)

September 12, 2010

I, like others I guess, have been concerned about the book burning threat in the US. I gather Terry Jones has withdrawn his threat to burn the Koran/Qur’an, but why did he feel driven to even contemplate it?  Why does religion drive some folk to act in such an uncharitable way?  I suppose I am, at bottom, asking how anybody can be so certain about such an intangible matter?

And why is there such a trend to fundamentalism? I heard recently that some followers of Hinduism (a religion I have always admired for its diversity of expression) are beginning to form fundamentalist movements.

Some have hypothesised that it is a psychological reaction against all the uncertainty in the world. Faced with so many confusing and contradictory claims and events, so many options, some people cannot cope with/tolerate the uncertainty of modern life and, consciously or unconsciously, are attracted to something offering certainty. Maybe, but I would hazard that they would be up in arms if it were suggested that they were not somehow up to the demands of life.  This is interesting in itself. Why are we driven to claim universal competence? Is it about having some control?

I have an odd relationship with religion. I became a christian initially by default. My mother was one and my father, although turned from all belief by his experiences in WWII, still put CofE on the census form! So I assumed, as a child, that I was the same and, when I joined a church youth club, I went through the whole process of confirmation and so on. 

I was aware that I felt that the spiritual side of my personality was “real” in terms of its influencing my thoughts and decisions but I was open to all the usual influences that a person of my time met. I flirted with Vedantic Hinduism, thanks to the Beatles; I read up on Buddhism, thanks to a number of TV programmes; I had a fair number of atheistic/agnostic phases and, generally, I began to take philosophy into account and look for some degree of consistency in any system of thought or belief I might consider.  I even got as far as embarking on the process of becoming a minister. This was when I realised that my beliefs were too radical for the Anglican church.  

I became a quaker, for any number of reasons which are too numerous to recount here – and their lack of need to  challenge me on my theology made me feel at home – and probably kept me thinking I was christian.  It is only recently that I took stock and realised that I was so far away from mainline christianity in my views that I should resign the status. 

So what do I believe? That’s worth a whole new post but I  can say what I don’t believe, [I think 🙂 ].

I don’t believe Richard Dawkins is right. And I don’t believe his certainty is any better than that of fundamentalist christians.

I don’t believe in the god of the monotheistic religions. They have never adequately dealt with the question of theodicy,

I don’t believe, given the nature of the subject and our human frailty, that any religion has  “the truth”, all neatly packaged up, correct and infallible.

I don’t believe any label, belief or dogma makes me superior, saved, or otherwise apart from my fellow human beings.

This world is a mess, we humans made it so, some may be more to blame than others but that solves nothing. We could spend eternity in the playground tactics of “She started it”, “They did this or that a century ago” and so on. That sort of game is endless, and fruitless. We do not really have time to get into all that, We need to put our differences aside and work together – and if religion  gets in the way, it is religion, in my view, that has to give ground.  That is idealistic; that is a romantic notion, that may never work. But I’d rather be that than burn books, just to get at or hurt others. That way lies the end of civilisation.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 6:12 pm

    There is an inherent “wrongness” in the simple act of burning books that makes me shudder and agree with your statement that “that way lies the end of civilization”
    Gandhi was once asked what he thought of western civilization and he remarked that he thought it might be a good idea.

  2. September 12, 2010 11:24 pm

    I agree totally with you Viv, and I like the Gandhi quote. I wish I was a sgood at off the cuff remarks

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