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Fillet of Faith

Do You Really Believe?



I’m convinced that the defining issue of our time is Truth. And at least one prominent atheist, of all things, agrees with me.

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Chuck  Colson

The militant atheism behind this month’s upcoming “Reason Rally” on the Mall in D.C. isn’t the only flavor of skepticism these days. In fact, instead of blaming people of faith for the woes of the world, some atheists now are actually speaking out on behalf of religion. But their reasons for doing so are as different as one could imagine.

Alain de Botton, the famous British atheist who challenged Richard Dawkins’s “destructive” attacks on religion, says society needs faith. Now there’s a “man-bites-dog” story.

De Botton explained in a recent interview: “[M]y argument is that…religion is full of useful, interesting . . . consoling ideas that could…appeal even to someone who has…no interest in being a believer.”

In his book, Religion for Atheists, de Botton insists that churches and other places of worship are just some of the many elements of religion unbelievers must incorporate into their lives if secularism is to survive. And he’s proving how serious he is by sponsoring an atheist “temple” in London, a place he says is designed “for ‘love, friendship, calm and perspective.’”

Now, love, friendship, calm, and perspective are all fine things, but how do you get the fruits of religion without the religion itself?

Coincidentally, de Botton’s views sound like an echo of another voice here in the States — retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, a man whose views place him squarely outside Christian orthodoxy. Spong took to the airwaves last month to promote his new book, in which he argues that Scripture was never meant to be read literally. Letting go of rigid doctrines like the Virgin Birth and Divinity of Christ, he says, are necessary if Christians hope to “stop the exodus of people from religion.”

In fact, he says, fundamentalists who get distracted by debates over abortion, homosexuality, and birth control are missing the point just as badly as atheists who reject faith completely.

Well, as nice as it seems that some atheists are favorably disposed toward religion, they can’t have it both ways. In fact, another atheist, who is a homosexual rights advocate in Britain, thinks de Botton and Spong’s ideas are both ridiculous. And he’s right! In a recent Spectator column, Matthew Parris calls religious believers to wake up and realize that their “faith is being defended by the wrong people, in the wrong way.” He warns us: “Beware…the patronage of unbelievers. They want your religion as a social institution, filleted of true faith.”

“To those who truly believe,” he writes, “the implicit message beneath ‘never mind if it’s true, religion is good for people’ is insulting.”

According to Parris, the only valid reason to believe the religion of Jesus Christ is if it’s true! And if it is true, he says, “it must have the most profound consequences for a man and for mankind.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Nor could I have more accurately summed up the core message of BreakPoint: The Christian worldview claims to explain and embrace all of reality. It makes hard-and-fast truth claims. And — as another one-time atheist, C. S. Lewis, argued — does not leave us the option of reducing Christ or the Bible to being “good moral teachers.”

No, religion is only “useful” or “consoling” insofar as it is true. And Christianity, unlike others, is both because it is.

Further Reading and Information

True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenges of Atheism (E-Book)
By Tom Gilson, Carson Weitnauer

Atheist Alain de Botton Insists Society Needs Guidance From Religion
Stoyan Zaimov | Christian Post | February 21, 2012

Radical Episcopal Bishop Spong Seeks to "Re-Claim the Bible"
Kristin Rudolph | The Institute on Religion & Democracy | March 1, 2012

Beware – I would say to believers – the patronage of unbelievers
Matthew Parris | Spectator | February 25, 2012

Who's Calling Whom Irrational?
Chuck Colson | Two-Minute Warning | March 21, 2012

 


Comments:

Kudos to Parris
Having read a few statements from Matthew Parris, i have to sadly conclude that he understands the essence of Christianity better than many professing Christians. Oh, one question for John Shelby Spong: What basis do we have for reading your books literally, including your aforementioned criticism of historical Biblical exegesis?
Faithless religion
Alain de Botton seems not to realize that there's already a religion for people like him. It's called Unitarianism. As George Will once put it, Unitarians believe "there is at most one God." Atheists are welcome; pick and choose what ideas work for you (as long as you don't suggest anything is binding on anyone else). Get together and enjoy the fellowship.

About half a million people worldwide bother to participate. Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, has that many members all by itself.
Truth In Schools
I suggest in all school districts donors set up scholarship funds where $1000 goes to each student who memorizes a Gospel by the 5th grade and keeps it memorized upon graduation by working to do all Jesus did, including the miracles, except claiming to be Jesus. This should fix America's problems eventually.
Francis Schaeffer said...
Francis Schaeffer told a group of Youth leaders that before they taught Christianity as good they needed to make sure they taught it as truth. This is so lacking in all of our teaching and preaching today.