Originally Posted By: Wayne Zeller
At least I've gotten you (DA Morgan) to admit that the the vociferous minority doesn't represent the majority.

...The current climate is so incredibly hostile to anybody with a thinking religion that their voices are drowned out before they even leave their mouths.

A person with a thinking religion is the only kind of person that a Fundamentalist and an Atheist will team up against. I find that sad.


Wayne, thank you for your advocacy of a RATIONAL AND THINKING APPROACH to religion, including Christianity--one in which we can agree to disagree agreeably, and not be judgemntal of one another. How divisive such an approach is, eh?

My wife and I belong to a new congregation called PATHWAYS--It is, BTW, part of the United Church of Canada. It is also made up of people who want to belong to a congreation of people dedicated to a kind of Christianity which encourages progressive and constructive thinking.

For your information, the following item is from the Pathways Forum:

http://www.pathwayschurch.ca/forum/showthread.php?tid=71


James Jensen from via the Internet writes to one of our mentors, The Episcopalian Bishop, John Selby Spong, who answers JJ:

"My name is James Jensen. I read of you through UU World and recently read Sins of Scripture (excellent book, by the way).

Today I ran across an article on Wired entitled "The Church of Non-Believers." The author talks about a so-called New Atheism pioneered by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennet that is quite militant about their non-belief. They accuse moderate and liberal believers of being essentially accessories in the harm done by the fundamentalists and radicals.

They make a few good arguments, essentially mentioning the fact that no politician in this country has declared himself or herself an atheist because it wouldn't be politically safe to do so.

I can also sympathize with the idea that moderate and liberal believers aren't doing enough to oppose the fundamentalists, who strike me as not unlike the Nation of Islam in their approach to freedom and justice. It seems likely to me that this means there is going to be a new consciousness (as you term it) breaking through soon enough, but I am left wondering whether this will be more of a breakthrough in Christian thinking or in atheist thinking. In other words, is this the end of religion, or of atheism? What's your opinion on the matter?

Personally, I am no longer sure what to believe and while I sympathize with atheism, it seems to me that without some basis in faith for proclaiming that life is not only good but right, crackpots are going to start thinking they can "fix"human nature, just like people have thought nature needs to be "fixed"and made more orderly ? resulting, of course, in environmental destruction.

After all, both the experience-affirming Carl Rogers and the utopian-behaviorist B.F. Skinner were chosen Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association"

Dear James,

Thank you for your letter. Religion is for many a vital and confusing subject and it justifies most of the criticism it receives. If religion were really about what the Religious Right proclaims, I would want no part of it. If my only choice was to be a Christian like the Falwells or the Robertsons, I would find atheism a compelling alternative. I believe that Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are expressing exactly that.

ABOUT DAWKINS
I met Richard Dawkins when I did some lectures at New College, Oxford University, several years ago. Just that day I had been reading Dawkins' book, "The Selfish Gene" at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. I found it fascinating. It was even more fascinating to discover that we were seated that night side by side at the High Table. I found the man personable and charming. Every theologian in England wants to debate him. Few come out unscathed.

There is much irrationality in our God thinking and Dawkins loves to point it out. Does that mean that there is no reality in the human search for God? I do not think so. Does it mean that human definitions of God are always doomed to die? Because they are human creation I am convinced that they will. The God Richard Dawkins rejects is the one I also reject. What is in doubt is whether the God to whom I am drawn is real, whether the human yeaning for the 'Transcendent,' the 'Other' is real and whether Richard Dawkins' search for truth and my search for God are in fact the same search, but by different names. That is not so easy to answer.

I have never met Sam Harris. I have read him, read reviews about him and watched him at great length talk about his book and answer questions on C-Span. I think his work has articulated what many people feel. It is difficult for religious people to admit they might be wrong so when Sam Harris points out the flaws he finds in religious understanding, he elicits great hostility. Religious threat always produces religious anger.

I found him to be dead set against the abuses he observes in Christianity. He sees no alternative to those abuses than to attack and rid the world of Christianity. I think a better alternative is to attack and to rid the world of that abusive Christianity, which suggests that ultimate truth has been captured in creedal forms, that God is an angry parent figure in the sky who wants to punish us but relents and punishes the Divine Son instead, and that followers of Jesus have the right to hate anyone who disagrees with them. I have no need or respect for such a religious system or for that abusive deity. That is also not the God that I believe I engage as a Christian when I worship.

So I welcome the Dawkins, the Harrises and the Dennets of the world and believe the Christian Church must be willing to listen to them, to hear their criticisms and to respond to them with the respect that their criticisms deserve. When we do that, I believe we will discover that Christianity can still be a vital and alive force in the 21st century.

My best,

-- John Shelby Spong



Edited by Revlgking (03/26/07 09:50 PM)
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