And today is Sabbath. And I’m not sick. And the sun is already so hot outside that everything’s all bleached and wobbly-looking, as if the whole world was just an overexposed home movie God was showing Jesus up on their living room wall. And whenever it’s really hot Elder Babcock’s sermon — even if it starts out being abut some nice quiet thing like the poor or meek or weak — will sooner or later twist like a snake with its head run over to the unquiet subject of heaven and hell, and who all is going to which, and how long you’ll have to stay, and what all will happen to you when you get there, and he goes on so loud and long and the air gets so used up and awful that bit by bit you lose track of any difference between his heaven and his hell and would gladly pick either over church. Then the sermon ends, and the long prayer after it, and it comes time to belt out the big hosanna that means it’s almost time to go home. Except that last hymn always has about fourteen verses. And when you stand up to sing it you discover your blood has got stuck down in your feet. And all through the sermon every grownup in the place has had their mouth clamped shut trying not to yawn, so when the glad voices suddenly upraised this tidal wave of pent-up halitosis comes swashing out of them and up your nose and all through the parts of your head where the blood that’s in you feet should have been, till your brain feels like it’s going to barf.
Faith and Criticism addresses a central problem in the church today — the tension between traditionalists and progressives. Traditionalists want above all to hold fast to traditional foundations in belief and ensure that nothing of value is lost, even at the risk of a clash with “modern knowledge.” Progressives are concerned above all to proclaim a faith that is credible today, even at the risk of sacrificing some elements of traditional doctrine. They are often locked in uncomprehending conflict. Basil Mitchell argues that, not only in theology but in any other serious intellectual pursuit, faith and criticism are interdependent. A tradition which is not open to criticism will eventually ossify; and without faith in some established tradition criticism has nothing to fasten upon. This interdependence of faith and criticism has implications for society at large. Religious education can be Christian without ceasing to be critical, and a liberal society can espouse Christian values. ~ Product Description
The words "liberal" and "fundamentalist" are used today not so much to identify oneself as to label the enemy. From one side comes the accusation that the mind of the fundamentalist is closed, shuttered against the possibility of doubt and therefore against the recognition of hitherto unrecognized truth. From the other side comes the charge that liberals are so open to new ideas that they have no firm commitments at all, that every affirmation of faith must be held only tentatively, and that every dogma must, as a matter of principle, be challenged. There are terms of moral opprobrium that each side employs to attack the other: the fundamentalist is arrogant, blinkered, and culturally illiterate; the liberal is flabby, timid, and carried along by every new fashion of thought. From the point of view of the fundamentalist, doubt is sin; from the point of view of the liberal, the capacity for doubt is a measure of intellectual integrity and honesty.
Any church that will not accept that it consists of sinful men and women, and exists for them, implicitly rejects the gospel of grace. As Hans Kung say, “it deserves neither God’s mercy nor men’s trust. The church must constantly be aware that its faith is weak, its knowledge dim, its profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which it has not in one way or another guilty of. And though it is true that the church must always disassociate itself from sin, it can never have any excuse for keeping any sinners at a distance. If the church remains self-righteously aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God’s kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Intellectual ambiguity can be very uncomfortable. It is always easier to be sure of something. A religion that neatly provides all the answers saves you the frustration and anxiety that inevitably accompany a struggle with difficult questions. Fundamentalism is especially dogmatic and detailed in describing a grand scheme. The Bible is offered as the inerrant word of God, revealing the path of history, a plan of salvation, and predictions about the future. Reasons and justifications are given. And for questions that still remain, there is the ultimate comfort that comes with trusting that a benign father God had everything under control.
In conservative Christianity you are told you are unacceptable. You are judged with regard to your relationship to God. Thus you can only be loved positionally, not essentially. And, contrary to any assumed ideal of Christian love, you cannot love others for their essence either. This is the horrible cost of the doctrine of original sin.
It is important for Christians to understand how their religion is viewed by others and where the greatest friction exists between Christianity and the faiths accepted by billions of our fellow humans. I found it best, as a Christian, to take this material in small bites. Due to its very nature, the majority of the contents of this book are in direct opposition to the Christian faith. A believer should not be too unsettled by reasoned assaults on what they purport to have absolute faith in. That said, it is naturally unnerving to be confronted with worldviews that are directly opposed to aspects of the thing a person has the most faith in. In order to get the most use out of a work like this, and it has much use for Christians, is to read one or two of the pieces at a time and mull them over with an understanding and objective mindset. Remaining somewhat objective and keeping ones passions at bay will allow there to be a great deal of value taken from this book. The best way to find out what you believe, how much you really believe it, and why you believe what you do is to allow your beliefs to be honestly and rationally challenged. This book also shows areas in which much of the friction between religions and cultures is based on miscommunication and misunderstanding. The various world religions should respect each other’s differentness, but it is better for all parties is everyone is well informed. This book will definitely help any Christian be more informed about the religious views of others and to better form his/her understandings of his/her own faith. ~ jwoodward at Amazon.com
The Ages of Faith, which are praised by our neo-scholastics, were the time when the clergy had things all their own way. Daily life was full of miracles wrought by saints and wizardry perpetrated by devils and necromancers. Many thousands of witches were burnt at the stake. Men’s sins were punished by pestilence and famine, by earthquake, flood, and fire. And yet, strange to say, they were even more sinful than they are now-a-days.
Habits of the Heart is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how religion contributes to and detracts from America’s common good. Describes the social significance of faiths ranging from "Sheilaism" (practiced by a California nurse named Sheila) to conservative Christianity. It’s thoroughly readable, theologically respectful, and academically irreproachable. ~ Michael Joseph Gross • First published in 1985, Habits of the Heart continues to be one of the most discussed interpretations of modern American society, a quest for a democratic community that draws on our diverse civic and religious traditions. In a new preface the authors relate the arguments of the book both to the current realities of American society and to the growing debate about the country’s future. With this new edition one of the most influential books of recent times takes on a new immediacy.
Some people construct a Christianity which consists entirely of a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and has virtually nothing to do with the church. Others make a grudging concession to the need for church membership, but add that they have given up the ecclesiastical institution as hopeless. Now it is understandable, even inevitable, that we are critical of many of the church’s inherited structures and traditions. Every church in every place at every time is in need of reform and renewal. But we need to beware lest we despise the church of God, and are blind to his work in history. We may safely say that God has not abandoned his church, however displeased with it he may be. He is still building and refining it. And if God has not abandoned it, how can we?
Others may protest that intellecutal discussion can neither build Christianity nor destroy it. They may feel that religion is too sacred to be thus bandied to and fro in public debate, too sacred to be talked of — almost, perhaps, too sacred for anything to be done with it at all. Clearly, the Christian members of the Society (Oxford Socratic Club) think differently. They know that intellectual assent is not faith, but they do not believe that religion is only ‘what a man does with his solitude’. Or if it is, then they care nothing for ‘religion’ and all for Christianity. Christianity is not merely what a man does with his solitude. It is not even what God does with His solitude. It tells of God descending into the coarse publicity of history and there enacting what can — and must — be talked about.
The funniest book ever written about why your religion is false! Whether you're a Christian or a Jew, a Muslim or a Hindu, a Rasta or a Jain, an Environmentalist or a Cheondoist, a Scientologist or a Giant Stone Head Worshipper, your religion is false. But don't feel bad — so is everyone else's! When you want to know what not to believe, this is the only book you need. In addition, you'll learn: Why "god" doesn't exist; Why there's no such thing as a "soul"; How to find "meaning" in a religion-less world; Which of your religious heroes are pedophiles; Why "religious tolerance" is a terrible idea. And, as a bonus, the greatest religious joke ever told. You can't afford not to read this book! ~ Product Description. Editor's note: Though the Table of Contents looks promising, be sure to preview this book before purchasing to determine if you can find any humor or insight here.
It seems that there is a general rule in the moral universe which may be formulated “The higher, the more in danger”. The “average sensual man” who is sometimes unfaithful to his wife, sometimes tipsy, always a little selfish, now and then (within the law) a trip sharp in his deals, is certainly, by ordinary standards, a “lower” type than the man whose soul is filled with some great Cause, to which he will subordinate his appetites, his fortune, and even his safety. But it is out of the second man that something really fiendish can be made; an Inquisitor. “It is great men, potential saints, not little men, who become those who are readiest to kill for it”. For the supernatural, entering a human soul, opens to it new possibilities both of good and evil. From that point the road branches: one way to sanctity, love, humility, the other to spiritual pride, self-righteousness, persecuting zeal. And no way back to the mere humdrum virtues and vices of the unawakened soul. If the Divine call does not make us better, it will make us very much worse. Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.
There were large attendances at the services of the Week of Prayer. It must not, however, be assumed that in normal times the townsfolk of Oran are particularly devout. On Sunday morning, for instance, sea-bathing competes seriously with churchgoing. Nor must it be thought that they had seen a great light and had a sudden change of heart. With regard to religion – as to many other problems – plague had induced in them a curious frame of mind, as remote from indifference as from fervor; the best name to give it, perhaps, might be “objectivity.” Most of those who took part in the Week of Prayer would have echoed a remark made by one of the church goers..: “Anyhow, it can’t do any harm.”
The people who have the deepest reason to be loyal to this country in its conflict with the powers of darkness abroad are the Americans of German descent who had previously espoused the cause of their Fatherland. Their piety has been dishonored, their confidence has been abused, their defence has been discredited, and their faith has been undermined. They had a reverence for what was great and noble in the land of their fathers; they refused to believe in the reports of baseness; above all, did it seem absurd to suppose that the people whose kindness and truth they knew, could be guilty of the immeasurable savagery and unlimited falseness with which they were charged. It has all been abundantly proved; the half has never been told. The details of treachery which have lately been exposed, of insidious hypocrisy on the part of her highest representatives, sicken the mind and make faith in human nature tremble. To find one’s highest and surest trusts crumbling to dust blown by the wind to discover illusion in the greatest certainty, is reason for turning right about face. Germans most of all will profit by the restoration of truth and good will in their government.
Here it is that the religion of Deism is superior to the Christian Religion. It is free from all those invented and torturing articles that shock our reason or injure our humanity, and with which the Christian religion abounds. Its creed is pure, and sublimely simple. It believes in God, and there it rests. It honours Reason as the choicest gift of God to man, and the faculty by which he is enabled to contemplate the power, wisdom and goodness of the Creator displayed in the creation; and reposing itself on his protection, both here and hereafter, it avoids all presumptuous beliefs, and rejects, as the fabulous inventions of men, all books pretending to revelation.
Love is the state in which man sees things most widely different from what they are. The force of illusion reaches its zenith here, as likewise the sweetening and transfiguring power. When a man is in love he endures more than at other times; he submits to everything. The thing was to discover a religion in which it was possible to love: by this means the worst in life is overcome — it is no longer even seen. So much for three Christian virtues Faith, Hope, and Charity: I call them the three Christian precautionary measures.
One must be careful not to fall back on opaque black — on deliberate wrong — and even more one has to avoid the white of a whitewashed wall, which means hypocrisy and everlasting Pharisaism. I must tell you that with evangelists it is the same as with artists. There is an old academic school, often detestable, tyrannical, the accumulation of horrors, men who wear a cuirass, a steel armor of prejudices and conventions; Their God is like the God of Shakespeare’s drunken Falstaff, le dedans dune eglise [the inside of a church].
Now to revert to the fact that I told Father it was wrong that two years ago we quarreled so violently that I was locked out of the house afterward. And what does father say to this? "Yes, but I cannot take back anything of what I did then; what I have I have always done for your good, and I have always followed my sincere conviction." To this I replied that it may happen that a person’s conviction is at complete variance with conscience; I mean what one thinks one should do may be diametrically opposed to what one ought to do. I told Father that in the Bible itself maxims can be found by which we may test our "convictions," to see whether they are reasonable and just. There is no need for Father to say that he committed an error in my case, but Father should have learned what I learned in these two years — that it was an error in itself, and that it should be rectified immediately, without raising the question of whose fault it was. Look, brother, in my opinion, Father is forever lapsing into narrow-mindedness, instead of being bigger, more liberal, broader and more humane. It was clergyman’s vanity that carried things to extremes at the time; and it is still that same clergyman’s vanity which will cause more disasters now and in the future.
We have passed midnight in the great struggle between Fact and Faith, between Science and Superstition. The brand of intellectual inferiority is now upon the orthodox brain. There is nothing grander than to rescue from the leprosy of slander the reputation of a good and generous man. Nothing can be nearer just than to benefit our benefactors. The Infidels of one age have been the aureoled saints of the next. The destroyers of the old are the creators of the new. The old passes away, and the new becomes old. There is in the intellectual world, as in the material, decay and growth, and ever by the grave of buried age stand youth and joy. The history of intellectual progress is written in the lives of Infidels. Political rights have been preserved by traitors — the liberty of the mind by heretics. To attack the king was treason — to dispute the priest was blasphemy. The sword and cross were allies. They defended each other. The throne and altar were twins — vultures from the same egg.
Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition that needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not so that man will wear the chain without any fantasy or consolation but so that he will shake off the chain and cull the living flower.