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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In the Long Run
by Paul Walker

A few years ago realised I was fat and unfit. As part of a bet which I had lost, I was persuaded to take part in a half marathon.

The training for this event began exhaustingly, but gradually improved. After a year my life was transformed. I had lost weight and become much fitter. I ran the thirteen miles of the half marathon in just under two hours. To my complete amazement I enjoyed running and still do it. It has even helped me stop smoking.

I�ve now begun training for a triathlon - that is, a swimming, cycling and running event. A few years ago I would have considered a person like myself to be mad.

Although getting fit is very hard work, it is equally rewarding. Yet the way modern society works somehow mitigates against fitness. Obesity in the West is reaching epidemic proportions. People would rather drive their children 500 metres to school than walk them there. Sport has become something to watch, not to play.

Ironically there is probably more money spent on exercise devices and diets than ever before. Yet we continue to get fatter and lazier. In the end many people prefer surgery. It is easier to lose fat under the knife than by hard work. We live in a society dominated by the quick fix. The idea of giving years, let alone a lifetime to something, is inconceivable.

This is not only true for exercise. When I recently asked a group of people if they�d read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, only two out of thirty said yes. Most of the rest said they�d seen it on television. Similarly, fewer and fewer people are learning to play the piano. More money is spent on eating in high class restaurants - but fewer know how to cook.

Is it then surprising that a similar attitude seems to affect our view of religion? Many people give religion a quick try, either by thinking about it for a few minutes or even by turning up at a place of worship. But they find the experience boring or incomprehensible and so they conclude that it has no value.

Others find the world incomprehensible. In religion they find very simple answers. And so with little effort they take religion on board. In a world of quick fixes it is hardly surprising that the Churches which seem to be successful are those that say that all you need to be "saved" is a simple act of giving your life to God. The act of repentance turns out to be a lot easier than a lifetime of effort.

Yet I believe people are spiritual beings. By this I mean that most people seem to have a yearning to make sense of the world at a level other than that of scientific explanation. Our minds benefit from being stilled, from meditation and prayer. But such practices are a form of exercise. They are hard work. They are not stimulated by entertaining worship, or by simple books, or by watching gruesome films - but by being quiet away from the television.

In another article I wrote that I do not pray. I am not here contradicting myself. Personally I get little from trying to contact an outside being. Yet I am aware that the more time I spend in quiet, trying to empty myself of the noise that everyday life throws at me, the more I feel at peace.

Again and again I find it hard trying spend such time, just as I find it hard to give time to running. But the more I do so the more at peace I am.

I have a long way to go, for this is the work of a lifetime. But one thing I do now firmly believe - there are no quick fixes. There are no easy ways to make sense of my existence and consciousness. There are no easy answers.

A lifetime spent contemplating the questions has got to be more worthwhile than watching inane television shows, singing inane choruses or pretending that there is no question in the first place.

You may wonder how on earth I fit in the time. First, I hardly ever watch television. Why don't you try that? And second, I have found that stilling my mind is done most effectively while exercising.

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