DON CUPITT

 

Is it possible for people, and even for a whole society, to lose faith in God? ... [If] it happens, [it is] not primarily because something they used to think existed does not after all exist, but because the available language about God has been allowed to become too narrow, stale and spiritually obsolete ... the work of creative religious personalities is continually to enrich, to enlarge and sometimes to purge the available stock of religious symbols and idioms ... (The Sea of Faith, 1984)


DENNIS NINEHAM

 

... people of different periods and cultures differ very widely; in some cases so widely that accounts of the nature and relations of God, men and the world put forward in one culture may be unacceptable, as they stand, in a different culture ... a situation of this sort has arisen ... at about the end of the eighteenth century a cultural revolution of such proportions broke out that it separates our age sharply from all ages that went before (The Use and Abuse of the Bible, 1976)


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It's Sitting In Our Driveway
by Paul Walker

There seems to be a lot of fear about. Will we be killed by suicide bombers? Are we going to get mugged on our way to the shops? Will our children be abducted by a homicidal paedophile?

These are genuine worries that can affect us all. But we also know that if we are to die a violent death, in all probability the most likely cause is currently sitting in our driveway. Another likely cause is presently heating our houses and another is cooking our dinner.

So why are we scared of things that are highly unlikely to happen while at the same time not being frightened of cars, or household gas, or electricity?

Far more people are killed every year by global warming than by global terrorism. Yet the urgency with which the war on terror is being waged is almost matched by the lethargy with which we fulfill the Kyoto agreement. Apparently in Britain people are more likely to install burglar alarms than fire alarms. We tell our children to be wary of strange men, while uncomfortably knowing that the man most likely to abuse them is their father.

Human nature is perverse. It is almost as if we would rather fear the exciting than the mundane. If you�re going to worry about dying you might as well think about a suicide bomber rather than a boring old stroke. I�m always amused to listen to heavy smokers worrying about how little fruit they eat.

Of course the real reason behind this might be that we don�t want to do anything. Suicide bombers, muggers, paedophiles are all somebody else�s responsibility - not our own. Stopping terrorism is the job of the head of state, not you or I. On the other hand, whether, how and what we drive is our responsibility. Protecting children from family members, rather than strangers, raises difficult and embarrassing questions.

I wonder whether this is rooted in the dependency encouraged by much of our traditional religion. Human beings have always been helpless and aware of their helplessness. The result has been to project our hopes and fears on a God whom we see as omnipotent. If we are not responsible for our own destiny because the forces of nature take such a toll, we pray to one who is above nature. Even those who claim no religious allegiance tend to cry out, �Oh God, help us!� when all seems lost.

The problem in today�s world is that as our knowledge has increased, so have we learnt that a great deal that happens is our responsibility. Drought may often be caused by global warming. Many diseases are caused by poor lifestyle choices like smoking or obesity. Some untimely deaths are caused by our insatiable need to travel.

So we know that much suffering is the result, not of blind fate, nor of an incomprehensible God but of human action.

If the world ends tomorrow it will not be with Jesus coming down on a cloud, but with a filthy cloud of our own making. The human race is the master of its own destiny, and it is about time we took responsibility for that destiny. I still believe that Jesus� message of a kingdom within us and within our grasp is possible - but not if we expect a distant God to rush to our aid.

Rather, it will come if we listen to the God within us who constantly reminds us that things are not right and encourages us to act.

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