vestryview

A view backstage at Beverley Minster

One day you’re going to die – and what will you do then?

Religious debate is nothing new – so let’s have one.
Hey, it’s the summer holidays already. Haven’t really planned anything for the kids yet so let’s see if we can find them somewhere where they can have a great time.
Hmmm, this one in Somerset sounds good, offering: traditional camp pursuits such as trekking and tug-of-war plus lessons in moral philosophy and evolutionary biology as well as debates on otherworldly activities such as crop circles and telepathy.
And it’s subsidised too, by Richard Dawkins no less so it’s great value.
Yes, fresh from paying for posters on lots of buses around the country the philanthropic atheist is underwriting a few days in the country where teenagers can debate science versus religion.
To give matters a nice anniversary-related theme, this camp is being run to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. This was the man who famously described what are now generally accepted as the mechanisms of change that create new species – in other words, the theory of evolution – in 1859.
This was taken as a serious challenge to those who believe that God created the world in seven days round about 4004 BC – probably starting on a Monday. Since then some people, including the rather self-satisfied Mr Dawkins, have taken this as the first shot in a battle to erase ‘superstitious’ religions.
In fact Mr Dawkins bangs on about this all the time as though it was the definitive marker between clever scientific thinkers like himself who married a former TV actress, and bigoted, blinkered idiots like me who dribble. It’s virtually an article of faith to him – which is ironic when you think about it.
However, whenever I hear him expostulating on this great divide in ‘The God Delusion’ it makes me genuinely laugh because I, as a Christian, have no problems with Darwin at all.
Fair enough. I realise I’m going to be a bit controversial here, not least with some of my fellow Christians, but I don’t need to twist my head around every strange statement in the Bible (of which there seem to be billions) to have a firm belief in God and Christ.
I’ve never bought into this supposed division of science versus religion – for goodness sake Darwin himself was a Christian and, although he was completely aware that his observations contradicted some of the tales in Genesis, he remained a Christian to the end of his life.  
Yes, it’s true that some Christians are literalists and argue that dinosaur bones were left in the ground by God to confuse us, but there are many other Christians who think that these fundamentalists are fundamentally wrong in this.
That’s what Dawkins gets wrong all the time – he lumps us all together as one mass of brainwashed simpletons who’ve all mindlessly accepted the same stories without question.
That’s as rude and simplistic as saying that all scientists are pig-headed twits who can’t argue logically, won’t  accept empirical proof that they’re wrong and persist in courting controversy for reasons of personal vanity, I, in the interests of fairness, am perfectly prepared to accept that this description is only valid for a few of them.
Each Christian brain is unique, and we arrive at our belief in Christianity via many different routes.
To prove my thesis, in a way that is externally verifiable, and therefore scientifically acceptable, I offer you the case of the five individuals who were confirmed as adult and mature Christians in Beverley Minster last Sunday.
A confirmation service is always a special event in the Anglican church because it marks the date on which individuals make their own personal and public statement that they believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Now four of these five people were teenagers while one has reached retirement age, and previous services have seen people of all ages and from all walks of life go through the same procedure, allowing the Bishop of Hull to put his hands on thei head.
It’s a swine for him if they’ve used a lot of hair gel.
Now I know that at least two of those being confirmed do not believe in the literal truth of the creation story in Genesis – either of the different creation stories, actually – I can’t speak for the other three. And, do you know what – IT DOESN’T MATTER.
What does matter is that we believe that, in whatever way it happened, God kicked off the entire creation thing and continues to take a loving interest in every single one of us, from now until we die – and Christ came on earth to explain this to us.
For those bits that science can’t yet, or never will, explain we have faith and, in some cases, personal knowledge of what Christianity proclaims.
We also believe that, after we die, we will be in heaven – whatever that will be – with God and the ones that we love and have loved.
What will you do the day after you die, Mr Dawkins?
First published July 2009

  

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