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The Crucial Question

Over at the Mennonite Weekly Review’s The World Together” blog, writer and activist Bert Newton has written a really thought-provoking piece on “the crucial question” when it comes to religion. So many debates and conversations on the nature of religion and irreligion focus on “belief in God” or its absence. Newton helpfully probes the common assumption that this is the central question, and asks us to ask harder and more honest questions about how and why we invest in the formation and maintenance of the views we hold about the world.

It’s a short article and well worth the read, but here are a few of the quotes that jumped out at me this afternoon:

Belief and non-belief are dispositions that humans adopt regardless of their stated intentions.

For example, we Christians claim to believe in a God of love, but most of us daily place our trust in financial security in a worldly economic system based on greed. We are functional materialists.

Similarly, many people who claim not to believe in any transcendent reality, who claim to be philosophical materialists, actually believe in more than a strictly material universe. If you believe in love, if you believe in ethics or the sanctity of life, you have already departed from materialism. A strictly material universe does not provide for any of this….

The question for us is not whether we will believe, because we will believe in something, in some sort of God. The question for us is what sort of God will we believe in, and where will we find this God, what story will inform our faith and what sort of practices will form it.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paul Johnston #

    “Come, as you are”…

    -Kurt Cobain.

    The first question is intensely personal. Who am I?

    February 17, 2012
    • Ah, but is not “who am I?” intimately bound up with “who/what is God?”

      (Nice to hear that we share at least some of the same tastes in music!)

      February 17, 2012
  2. Paul Johnston #

    Ah, but is not “who am I?” intimately bound up with “who/what is God?”….ultimately, yes. But if there is an existential truth, than that truth is immutable….”the whole truth and nothing but the truth” as the testimony goes. The first issue for me then, isn’t with the seen but rather with the seer. It seems to me that before any of my understandings are relational I ought to have as clear and as honest an understanding of myself as I can.

    To context it crudely, I believe I have done more harm to myself and others with my own bullshit, then any lie somebody else has told me.

    As for the music, we probably have more in common then I infer. I sometimes get intoxicated with emotion and rhetoric at the expense of reason and courtesy….in case you hadn’t noticed 😉

    February 17, 2012

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