Hawking Up Hairballs

Friday, October 17, 2008

No Faith For Me

I often watch Book TV on CSpan2. They have their share of right-wing troglodytes, and more than their share of speeches and interviews from places like the American Enterprise Institute, but they have some interesting ones as well. Unfortunately the focus is on non-fiction, so they rarely feature a novelist, and I don't recall a poet ever appearing.

Anyway, I was watching this past weekend when this professor from some Protestant seminary in the Northeast came on. He was a moderate evangelical Christian who has written a book of political philosophy that is based upon the Scriptures. He was apparently distressed that Christian evangelism has become identified with the hard-core right, and he was proposing a centrist political philosophy. For example, he criticized the pro-choice left for its failure to understand that, once the egg is fertilized, it is a potential human being. On the other hand, he also criticized the pro-life right for supporting capital punishment and for its lack of concern for the impoverished of the world who are dying of hunger and disease.

I watched this guy with a kind of morbid fascination. As though it really matters whether or not one's political positions are validated in the Bible. Don't get me wrong. Whether or not there is a God, and I'm inclined to think that there isn't, not in the sense in which the Christians, Jews and Muslims understand the concept, there is definitely a spiritual dimension to human existence, and I can understand people grounding their spirituality in Christian teachings and tradition. Love your neighbor as yourself; blessed are the peacemakers; judge not that you be not judged. I try to live my own life by many of the same principles embraced by Christians, but I can't understand why they need the fairy tales.

Christians contend that the Bible is the word of God. Some of them take that metaphorically, as meaning that it is the source of their spirituality. That I can respect. I'm in favor of finding meaning for one's life in whatever tradition most appeals to one. On the other hand, there are those Christians who maintain that the Bible is quite literally the word of God. They believe that their God guided the hand, the mind, or whatever of those who penned the Scriptures, so that they are his word. What can one say to that, except that it's patent nonsense? That's not intolerance either, it's intellectual honesty. Likewise, Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead after moldering in the grave for three days. That sort of thing just doesn't happen.

Of course, when criticizing such beliefs, beliefs that are contrary to reason and empirical evidence, one is told that they are matters of faith. What is this faith then, but a stubborn adherence to that which is patently untrue? I don't call that a virtue.


Blogger David Matthews said...

Well said.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Barbara T said...

If you haven't read Poisonwood Bible I recommend it.

I always want to ask folks who are devoted to parsing the Bible which version they read. Anyone familiar with the Greek version knows that it is an entirely different book.

Molly Ivins used to laugh about a woman from the Texas Board of Education who argued against bilingual training in public schools by pointing out that if English was good enough for Jesus it was good enough for the school children of Texas.

I suppose in that woman's case we could be grateful if she reads anything.

1:08 PM  

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