([London] Times) David Meara—Don’t demythologise Christianity

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Richard] Holloway’s powerful account [in His book Leaving Alexandria] mirrors the progressive loss of belief which we see across Britain and Europe today, and it comes hard on the heels of Alain de Botton’s latest book Religion for Atheists, which advertises itself with the question “Even if religion isn’t true, can’t we enjoy the best bits?” It assumes that the supernatural claims of religion are false, but suggests that we hang on to the communal ritual and cultural elements. Holloway makes a similar plea when he says “I don’t any longer believe in religion but I want it around, less sure of itself and purged of everything except the miracle of pity”.

These books leave me with the question: Does this work? Can you have the gilt without the gingerbread? Isn’t there something fundamentally dishonest about those wistful atheists who have taken leave of God and who yet continue to use theological concepts and cling on to religious practices?

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesScottish Episcopal Church* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Scotland* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism

5 Comments
Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm

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1. Ian+ wrote:

How different is what they’re proposing from the functional atheists who still celebrate Christmas and have Easter egg hunts, but who don’t darken the door of a church, and who would fight tooth and nail to keep those days as statutory (paid) holidays?

May 7, 5:13 pm | [comment link]
2. Teatime2 wrote:

Yes, it’s all fundamentally dishonest of them. They want all of the benefit and none of the work or commitment. Their “good without God” claim is a farce, too. Our penal code is based on the 10 commandments and other pieces of religious morality—these things have permeated our society and culture and it’s darn well impossible at this point to think and behave independently of them. Yet, the atheists claim they can act morally and properly without religious influences—not bloody likely and there’s really no way to tell, besides.

The only thing I’m unsure about is how to respond. Is there something in them and in this that is actually longing for God and meaning in their lives? Or do they really think it’s possible to take what they want and discard the rest, and continue to berate believers for following and celebrating with the real intentions in mind? In other words, should we be calling out the atheists’ hypocrisy or using these as teaching and evangelizing moments?

May 7, 5:38 pm | [comment link]
3. Terry Tee wrote:

Teatime, I think that for some of the writers concerned - certainly for de Botton - neither of your approaches would be a good fit, although what would work I am not sure.  De Botton has something close to a sense of mourning for what has been lost with the decline of religion.  Hence his desire for secular alternatives.  It’s not as simple as exploitation of religion for self-centred ends.  (Incidentally he comes from a Sephardic family driven out of Catholic Spain circa 1500.  Not surprisingly he might remember a different kind of religious zeal to the one we would commend.)  Richard Holloway, I fear, is the very epitome of the intolerant liberal blasting everybody else who fails to see things his way, railing all the while against their intolerance.

May 7, 5:44 pm | [comment link]
4. Frank Fuller wrote:

I’m more impressed these days with the observation that atheism—and for that matter, multiculturalism—commends itself in direct proportion to how high you (think you) are on the food chain.  Don’t need any help, supernatural or otherwise?  Let us watch and wait.  We’ll see how that works out… for us all.

May 7, 6:04 pm | [comment link]
5. Charles52 wrote:

Pity is a dramatically destructive and dehumanizing way to relate to the brokenness of this world. perhaps he meant “the miracle of mercy”.

May 7, 10:53 pm | [comment link]


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