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It’s not surprising in an age of fast food to find that our theology & philosophy have taken on the mood of a supermarket checkout, certainly not any hint of danger there, convenience is what this is all about: service with a smile. All good if you are looking for a lettuce, but what if you are looking for a smidgen of philosophy or a useful little god thingy—something not too expensive and kinda pretty? Yes, you can even get that too, on your way out to the street at one of those stalls. Done: a Buddha on the coffee table and a 'Cheat's Guide to Philosophy' on the shelf.

So there we have it. Same old, same old, throughout history. Most people have been into a religion or a philosophy because it satisfied their superstitions, took away their fear of death, gave them a comfortable social circle and an opportunity for doing good deeds. Whether or not their beliefs stood the test of intelligent criticism was not an issue. So whether they were Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or Hindus was just an accident of culture, not an intelligent decision made by an informed mind.

Yes, I know I am sounding like an atheist at this point, and Michael Onfray, in his recent book Atheist Manifesto, uses what I have just been talking about to build an entire thesis around the assumption that people have created monotheism out of some neurotic need to fill a gap (rather than discovering it out of a healthy curiosity and often against their preference—my comment on his). He says, 'Most of humanity have been infected with this strange neurosis.'

He has a point, and it is embarrassing that so many, instead of surrendering to a living, honest and vulnerable walk with God, shirk reality and indulge in what can only be described a childish superstition. Someone has said that 'Those who have religion for their god will not have god for their religion.'

The irony is that Christians (of all people) are misguided if they believe their faith is primarily about their own health and wellness. Jesus—the founder—said, 'Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone but if it dies it bears much fruit.' CS Lewis once said that 'the desire for personal security is a mortal's greatest enemy.' And another great Christian writer, Studdert Kennedy, said: ‘This universe has no use for those will not gamble.’

Even a superficial reading of one of the gospels makes it quite clear that following Jesus the Messiah was a dangerous occupation. And it still is in this world where 465 believers are martyred every twenty four hours. And yet the myth remains that personal security is a major reason for following Jesus the Messiah.

This myth can survive in the comfortable, tolerant and wealthy western world, but it is shown to be unfounded when we look at the majority of the Christian population, which lives in the other part of the world. A further problem for Onfray and the other pop atheists is that the neuroses and fears of believers prove nothing about the existence or non-existence of God, they merely tell us a lot about human beings. This pop atheist habit of building a man of straw, eg: fundamentalism, is beside the point: just because a lunatic believes the world is round does not mean that it is not.

I debated an atheist along these lines once and concluded by asking him: 'Do you believe that your deepest longings will be fulfilled in this world?'

'Yes!' he replied as I looked hard into his eyes to see if he really meant it.

'You can't believe that!' I said.

'Yes I do,' he said.

'I don't believe you,' I said and then our plane landed at an airport and he followed me out to the arrivals lounge, walked outside and began furiously smoking a cigarette.

CS Lewis said, “If I find in myself, a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”1

 

Longings, like the ones we feel in adolescence and puberty, suggest that another stage of life is coming our way and fire up our curiosity. And in the case of our longing for 'eternal love', 'friendships lasting for ever' etc, which cannot be fully realised in this life, it makes sense that there must be some sort of beyond natural/supernatural world waiting for us. Hence the curiosity, which by the way, is present (but frequently denied) just as much in the 'religious' person as the non-religious.

 

Suggested Reading: Psalm 90

Mere Christianity 3:10 CS Lewis

 



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