Change is afoot

An interesting article/book review the Guardian (UK) – see below.  Some may say what is described in the review isn’t an encouraging phenomena, but for me I see it as the continued, subtle change beginning and progressing within the culture.  The realization of the eventual outcome is still years off, I think.

As I continue to watch the forward movement of our culture (in all its current horrendous and glorious states), I can’t help but notice subtle changes in the persistent assumption by so many is that religion is doomed, that it is only truly believed among the uneducated and emotionally challenged, or some such assertion. I can’t help but notice signs that counter these anti-religious attitudes.

Taking a long view of history and trying to learn from it, there is always a waxing and waning of religious belief and action that involves that bastardization of and reclamation of honest Christian belief and practice.  In places like the “Western” world, the active belief in and practice of religion in on the wane – we are in the midst of a period of bastardization of the Faith that has progressed in earnest over the last 100-years or so., and profoundly so in the U.S. over the past few decades. Much of the misgivings among the general population toward organized religion is the fault of those who claim to believe, even as their example fails terribly, say, of Christ’s call to believe and live a certain kind of life reality.

Yet, here and there there are signs that this is changing, not because suddenly the example of Christians in places like the United States have suddenly become all virtuous and full of integrity – at least in this country we are at the height of religious hypocrisy and disingenuous-ness – but because people are beginning to look beyond the ridiculous people who claim they perfectly embody the Faith that God dictates.  They are looking back to the historical figures of Faith who lived out lives that do seem to be examples of the kind of life and belief that Christ calls us to. They seek out current figures who strive to live out such lives, even as they don’t gain headlines and notoriety. The current leadership in most Christian denominations, and this is a generalization, are now irrelevant to the furtherance of the Cause of Christ in the United States.  The institutions will be reformed, but by the force of the “market place” – by which I mean people will vote with their feet and will be drawn to that which is authentic and real. Once the people leave and all the money is gone, things will change.

So, I came across this book review in the Guardian (UK) by entitled, “Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton – review: A banal and impudent argument for the uses of religion”. While the presumption of those who deign to the supposed usefulness of religion, yet do not believe, gain a little more attention it is a sign to me that the crass anti-religious force is waning. In its place will be a slow realization among many that religious faith, that the Christian Faith, may have something to offer other than social control of the masses.  Anyway, here is a couple paragraphs from the review:

“God may be dead, but Alain de Botton‘s Religion for Atheists
is a sign that the tradition from Voltaire to Arnold lives on. The book
assumes that religious beliefs are a lot of nonsense, but that they
remain indispensible to civilised existence. One wonders how this
impeccably liberal author would react to being told that free speech and
civil rights were all bunkum, but that they had their social uses and
so shouldn’t be knocked. Perhaps he might have the faintest sense of
being patronised. De Botton claims that one can be an atheist while
still finding religion “sporadically useful, interesting and consoling”,
which makes it sound rather like knocking up a bookcase when you are
feeling a bit low. Since Christianity requires one, if need be, to lay
down one’s life for a stranger, he must have a strange idea of
consolation. Like many an atheist, his theology is rather conservative
and old-fashioned.

“De Botton does not want people literally to
believe, but he remains a latter-day Matthew Arnold, as his high
Victorian language makes plain. Religion “teaches us to be polite, to
honour one another, to be faithful and sober”, as well as instructing us
in “the charms of community”. It all sounds tediously neat and
civilised. This is not quite the gospel of a preacher who was tortured
and executed for speaking up for justice, and who warned his comrades
that if they followed his example they would meet with the same fate. In
De Botton’s well-manicured hands, this bloody business becomes a
soothing form of spiritual therapy, able to “promote morality (and)
engender a spirit of community”. It is really a version of the Big
Society.

“Like Comte, De Botton believes in the need for a host of
“consoling, subtle or just charming rituals” to restore a sense of
community in a fractured society. He even envisages a new kind of
restaurant in which strangers would be forced to sit together and open
up their hearts to one another. There would be a Book of Agape
on hand, which would instruct diners to speak to each other for
prescribed lengths of time on prescribed topics. Quite how this will
prevent looting and rioting is not entirely clear.”

(Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton – review: A banal and impudent argument for the uses of religion by of the Guardian UK.)

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