Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Christian religion is not a rational construct

I often think that if we were to sit down and try to construct a religion, taking as our first base simply that there is one God and working into it generally accepted religious practices, we would come up with something very similar to Islam.

Christianity on the other hand, notwithstanding its own claims to be a rational religion, is not one which could perhaps have been formulated simply by starting from rational first principles. Spengler, writing in the Asia Times, in his September 19 article "Jihad, the Lord's Supper, and eternal life", points out that there is nothing remotely rational in the belief that a piece of bread and a cup of wine could become the body and blood of an individual who lived and died 2000 years ago just by having certain people say certain words. Likewise, as Islamic scholar Aref Ali Nayed has written, the ideas that God could become man or that one God could be three persons, are perhaps not ideas that commend themselves as being the most reasonable.

Christianity acknowledges that its primary source for articles of faith and morals is revelation. Nevertheless, Christianity has always defended (on the basis that truth is one) that these faith and morals are not contradictory to reason, that is, they are reasonable even if they do not primarily a rise from rational reflection. Moreover, given the "deposit of faith", revealed truths may be developed through rational reflection in new situations. This is done for instance, in the Catholic doctrines of sexuality and the dignity of human life.

Therefore if one is to argue about the rationality of the Christian religion, it is necessary to establish that it is rational to believe that God (given the fact of his existence) should be able to, desire to, and actually reveal himself to his creatures.

In arguing with somebody like Richard Dawkins this is of primary importance. I have read several reviews of "The God Delusion", but the only one that I have read that has made a major point of the revelation of God through the incarnation of Jesus Christ is by Terry Eagleton, the (Anglican?) professor of English literature at Manchester University (whose latest book is "How to Read a Poem" -- from the reading of which Professor Dawkins could perhaps benefit!).

Here are some snippets:
Dawkins holds that the existence or nonexistence of God is a scientific hypothesis, which is open to rational demonstration. Christianity teaches that the claimed that there is a God must be reasonable, but that this is not at all the same thing as faith. ... This is not to say that religious people believe in a black hole, because they also consider that God has revealed himself: not, as Dawkins thinks, in the guise of a cosmic manufacturer even smarter than Dawkins himself (the New Testament has next to nothing to say about God as creator), but for Christians at least, in the form of a reviled and murdered political criminal.

Dawkins [does not] understand that because God is transcendent of us (which is another way of saying that he did not have to bring us about), he is free of any neurotic need for us and wants simply to be allowed to love us. Dawkin's God, by contrast, is Satanic. Satan... is the misrecognition of God as Big Daddy and punitive judge, and Dawkin's God is precisely such a repulsive superego. This false consciousness is overthrown in the person of Jesus, who reveals the Father as friend and lover rather than judge.

2 Comments:

At Wednesday, November 22, 2006 12:44:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Eagleton’s review is brilliant, and merits close reading and careful reflection even by people who couldn’t care less about what Richard Dawkins has to say.

For the record, Eagleton is a Catholic. Or, possibly, was. Or, possibly, is again.

 
At Wednesday, November 22, 2006 5:19:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Thanks, I was guessing on Eagleton's background. Another interesting essay (which is at times puzzling, but I think I can see what he is getting at) which I read today also speaks approvingly of Eagleton's review, is by Peter Sellick on Online Opinion at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=5101

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home