Saturday, November 07, 2009

In God we Doubt by John Humphrys

It was inevitable that I would get around to reading this book eventually. John Humphrys seems to come at doubt from the opposite side from me - he seems to want to be an atheist, but can't quite get rid of the nagging doubt that "there's more to life than this"...

It is a reasonably interesting book, if - ultimately - pointless. You see, the book begins and ends with the point I made above. And passes through that same point several times. It doesn't actually go anywhere. Along the way we get to see Humphrys's reasons for his disillusionment with the Anglican church - yes, this is a very Anglican book - and his frustrations with some of the more militant atheists (Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are mentioned more times than are probably necessary, although few other atheists are named), but there's no sense that Humphrys was in any way changed by the research he did or the people he spoke to.

In the end he semi-concludes that religion is probably a good thing, even if there probably is no god. Although maybe there is. Frustrating.

So I don't exactly recommend this book. Unless you really do have nothing better to do with your time. There are far more interesting books regarding the theist/atheist debate out there.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fundamentals of... what?

I listened to an interesting podcast interview with John Killinger yesterday. The interview was largely focused on his recent book "The Other Preacher in Lynchburg: My life across town from Jerry Falwell" and gave a few interesting insights into the life and ministry of Jerry Falwell.

But a few things John Killinger said about 'fundamentalists' in general stood out.

His first assertion was that 'fundamentalism' (in Christianity at least) didn't really exist before the early 20th century, and it was primarily a reaction against Darwinism. So when people talk about getting back to the fundamentals of the faith, they don't mean getting back to anything that was actually believed or lived out by Christians for the majority of history since the time of Christ.

And from a few things he said, I realised that what people generally mean by the 'fundamentals of the faith' is a set of (allegedly fundamental) beliefs. Its all to do with what you believe, and nothing to do with what you actually do. Nobody talks about the fundamentals of practice - the fundamental things a Christian is supposed to do (you know, the heal the sick, feed the hungy, love your enemy type stuff).

Jesus didn't go around saying "believe in me" to people, he said "follow me" - this invoves doing stuff...

I don't think faith is just about belief. I'm with James on this one:
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:14-17)