we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part
Benign Creator and unhappy subjects.
Here is a good description of how things actually are, followed by
the equally valid question, “Why does such a
belief not make its adherents happy?” He recounts the celebrations
he has experienced in many Christian churches which reflect this state
description at the beginning of the chapter is exactly how it is.
Unfortunately that is not a description that most world religions
go along with! The author goes on, in the next paragraph, to testify
to the celebrations that match this belief that he has experienced
in many Christian churches.
Greek Orthodox Archbishop & Jewish rabbi.
These two men are cited for their apparent moral failures. Religion
should create people working to be good, but this side of death they
will always some skeleton in the cupboard, hopefully only minor, but
sometimes not so. Major things disqualify; minor things create humility.
Not an excuse, just an observation.
The Crusades briefly mentioned.
I suspect that if we took any of the leaders of the crusades alongside
modern believing Christians, they wouldn't stand up very well. Perhaps
some of them weren't Christians (in the real sense) at all. A lot
of superstition and bad teaching or even lack of teaching, abounded
in those days (and today?). Not excuses, just an observation. For
more on this look at Appendix 2 – Church and History.
Evangelism and power-seeking associated in his mind.
Of course Christians who believe they have found something wonderful
will want to share it. Politicians want to share with everyone; why
shouldn't faith-filled believers who believe they have something infinitely
more wonderful? If you don't like it you can either turn off the TV,
shut the front door, or simply say, “Can we talk about something else?”
I don't have a problem gracefully turning politicians away from my
front door. Why should the author? And power-seeking? What's that
all about? OK, it may be in some big churches or denominations in
America , but most church leaders I know, realise what a burden it
is being a leader, not what a power position it is!
Divorce, the Irish Republic and Divorce laws.
I think most of page 17 is meant to be a knock against Mother Teresa.
So here was a little lady who almost achieved sainthood in most people's
eyes for working in the slums, a staggeringly graceful lady I'm told.
she happens to believe that divorce is not something to be easily
given away? Easy divorce has been a primary means of social disintegration
in Western societies in recent decades and we are reaping the fruits
of it, as anyone working in local communities knows. Yes, there will
always be bad situations such as the wife-beating drunk husband, but
wouldn't it be better to have legislation and social help to sort
him out rather that totally deprive the kids of a dad?
Mother Teresa acted in a political manner to seek to bring about an
outcome she felt concerned about? Thousands of other activists do
the same. So she had the grace to accept that Diana lived in a different
culture where divorce was already available? That doesn't sound like
a rich girl, poor girl divide, much more a pragmatic acceptance of
the situation. One situation was about holding a society together
(as perceived) and the other was about gracefully helping an individual.
Dennis Prager and a question about feeling safe if
faced by a group coming from a prayer meeting. What actually gets
lost in the author's argument and the illustrations that take up a
large part of this chapter, is the simple assumption that Dennis Prager
made about the good behaviour he expected from a group of Christian
men from his country.
question clearly supposed that in his country you would have nothing
to fear from such a group. I can think of hundreds and hundreds of
Christian men that I have met and would feel totally confident meeting
in a group on the streets. However, and this is where the author is
ingenuous (not ingenious!) because he will know that in many cities
in the States and elsewhere you would feel distinctly unhappy about
seeing a group of men together in the evening on the street – and
the odds are (and you know it) that there is nothing religious about
these men. In what follows, this is a canny bit of arguing by distorting
the truth and avoiding the obvious implications which actually shows
up Christianity in the West in a favourable light!
– Irish sectarianism!
Yes, here was a whole society that got dragged into a violent morass.
Yes, it leaned on Catholic authority versus Protestant freedom to
bolster it up and accentuate it horribly, yet without doubt it was
a political, nationalistic foray from the outset and at the ending.
Please note that it was “Catholics” versus “Protestants”, NOT Christians
versus Christians. This was probably one of THE classic examples in
the last century of using religious labels to ferment upheaval. I
don't actually believe that there was anyone wielding a gun or any
other weapon of violence, who had a living relationship with God through
Jesus Christ – though I don't expect the author or any other atheist
to believe and understand that.
– multi-faiths being
used for political purposes. I think all else that has been said about
attaching religious tags to political situations applies here. Not
much else to say.
– nationalistic Hinduism
at work. Knowing some Christians in Bombay
who have been persecuted, I
can understand this one.
– nationalistic sectarianism
at work. My understanding of this is that this is the equivalent to
the Irish problems.
This was a funny section. It was as if the author couldn't find anything
to quote about Christians and violence at Bethlehem, so went into
quibbles about the virgin birth. The fact that there are stacks of
such beliefs around the world shouldn't detract from the real thing.
The comments there about the crusades pick up my comments from page
17 above. The following discussion about Israel and the Palestinians
is clearly, from those in the know, a political and nationalistic
issue rather than a religious one. My sources tell me that a large
percentage of Israel is non-religious. it is obvious, however, that
religion is used to bolster the cultural and social conflict. It shouldn't
be, but it is.
and Iraq invasion. My
understanding of the Iraq situation was that Saddam Hussein played
the religious card whenever it suited him. Perhaps Iraq more than
most religious or even semi-religious countries helps the slogan,
‘religion has poisoned everything' but I think that is an issue for
Islam to answer.
His acknowledgement that there were some good religious leaders but
it wasn't religion that made them good, is a prejudged position simply
taken because it suits him. My comments about those who purport to
be religious adherents but are in fact secularists, bears more on
his comments here. Most of us would agree at the outset that the failure
of religious leadership to condemn violence is ‘disgusting'. That
may be a rather simplistic conclusion though which might bear considerably
more thought and comment by those who knew the details more fully.
Salman Rushdie's death sentence.
I can but agree with his
sentiments in this section.
York & 9/11.
The difficulty, I have found with this section, is that I am not sure
how accurate it is. It speaks of the occurrence of 9/11, comments
of the attorney general and the president, and then later by two conservative
Christian (I believe) spokesmen. My question over accuracy arises
in what follows because there comes a somewhat derogatory series of
comments about Billy Graham, a man who has been known over the years
for his integrity (not perfect I'm sure!).
reference was made to a sermon he gave at the National Cathedral in
“His absurd sermon made the claim that all the dead were now in paradise
and would not return to us, even if they could.” Later he added,
“And there is no reason to believe that Billy
Graham knew the current whereabouts of their souls, let alone their
posthumous desires. But there was also something sinister in hearing
detailed claims to knowledge of paradise, of the sort that bin Laden
himself was making on behalf of the assassins.” Now I bother
to detail this because it highlights a particular problem, what the
Bible calls the blindness of ungodly men (and the author by definition
the reason I say this and raise this query is that I looked up the
text of this sermon on the Internet and the appropriate bit reads,
“And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right
now. And they wouldn't want to come back. It's so glorious and so
wonderful.” Now you may think it insignificant but the key word that
is different to that portrayed by the author is the word, ‘many'.
This throws a totally different light on what was being said, from
what the author wrote was said. I have incidentally, as a response
to these comments in this chapter carefully read that sermon through.
To describe it as absurd shows a callous blindness to the gracious
pastoral concern that was being so well expressed in a manner not
designed to upset any other belief system. Staggeringly good for a
man well over eighty years old!
appears a tiny mistake but it actually reveals a tremendous prejudice
that is unable to hear just what is being said, and so twists and
warps it to sound like something totally different. Because, sadly,
this atheistic author is so blinded by his rage, he is unable to see
the simple truth of what Billy Graham was actually saying. His claim
that ‘many' of those who died would be in heaven, is a simple acknowledgement
that on average somewhere between 40 and 50% of Americans claim to
be Christians. This would suggest that possibly, working on averages,
a little over one thousand Christians joined their Saviour that day.
He explained why they would not wish to return: “It's so glorious
and so wonderful” and he said that on the authority of the Bible.
If you don't want to believe it, that's your choice, but Billy Graham
was simply explaining Christian belief on the basis of the Bible.
Absurd? Perhaps the author is not so gracious as he tries to make
have to say that the tone and inaccuracy in this section completely
undermined any credibility he appeared to have and I'm not even going
to bother to comment on any more in that section which could be equally
suspect. One thing I have observed over many years watching the media,
even on one occasion being at an event that received national coverage,
is that not only are there often inaccuracies in reporting, but there
is also slanted and biased reporting so that apparent truths told
are, in fact, very different from what actually happened. It's a sad
fact of modern life.
A final illustration.
The illustration at the end of
the chapter about seeing a bunch of coloured track repairmen is a
good point but still completely evades the implications of the original