Saturday, January 07, 2006

Questioning the question mark? (click for audio)

Anyone who listens to Jeremy Vine on R2 is used to hearing lively debate and stimulating conversation and listeners weren't let down recently when Jeremy turned his attention towards religion.

I was always told never to discuss religion or politics as arguments are never far behind so the battle lines where drawn when Jeremy introduced Professor Richard Dawkins, the 'pope' of atheism. The topic was religion, is it really the root of all evil?

From a war on terror which rightly or wrongly includes Islam at its core to hard line Christians who seem intent on destroying anything they don't agree with, one could be forgiven for initially thinking that this may be an open and shut case for the prosecution. In fact, I have lost count how often I have heard this said by people who are generally irreligious themselves.

It seems that in this age of mass globalisation and consumerism, religion may be bearing the brunt of critisism towards problems which consistently 'nag' at the worldwide community. But despite lots of pretty damning evidence against faith full stop, I'm not convinced its an open and shut case.

It's my opinion that fundamentalism promotes intolerance. Its also my opinion that 'hard-liners' often mistake understanding with acceptance. Surely its possible to understand something and then tolerantly choose not to accept it? Maybe people of faith feel the need to protect their beliefs no matter what the cost? After all, if they don't stand up for what they believe in, who will?

If I was to end my blog at this point, even as a person of faith myself, I would have to concede total defeat. It would appear that if faith is of fundamental importance (and it can't really be 'moderately' important) then anything which seems to question its message would be a threat and worth fighting against. Its this exact pattern that has blighted the Christian Church many times during its 2000 year history but that isn't the end of the blog, or the issue.

Equally intolerant as people of faith can be those with none. There are those who ignorantly dismiss the notion of God or Spirituality with one or two flippant comments which not only show a complete ignorance of the issue but also a complete intolerance to faith and the faithful. In a complete dichotomy, its quite possible to be religiously atheistic.

The problem then, would seem to be common to both camps. Those with faith in something and those who faithfully believe in nothing. Both can feel the need to defend their position and both can feel threatened by those who don't believe what they do and its into this mix that Jeremy Vine along with Professor Dawkins and some evangelical Christians decided to thrash out the issue before the nation.

The more I listened to what everyone was saying, the more I thought that just as Professor Dawkins showed little interest in considering the good things that religion has accomplished (countless schools, hospitals and charities) so the Christians showed a complete ignorance of the Professor's valid arguments towards the dangers of faithful intolerance. In the Midst of all this was Jeremy Vine who tried to officiate appropriately.

Of course, you may listen to this for yourself by clicking on the title of this post (please be patient, its a big file!) but I wanted to leave this post on what I see as a positive.

I firmly believe that my faith demands me to 'love my neighbor' and this means that even if my neighbor chooses to hate me and my beliefs, my beliefs shouldn't change. An Almighty God can fight his own battles, he doesn't need me to do it for him.

It may seem like the Christian God does need help. After all Didn't he come to earth in Christ and heal and teach? And wasn't he a victim of hatred, betrayal and religious intolerance himself? Didn't it cost him his life? The Christian God certainly would need men to bear arms against unbelievers if the story ended there.

But it doesn't.

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