The fundamentalist nuts in this country leave us goggling aghast at the lunacy they propagate, but man, some of the in-betweeners are almost as creepy—and I get to pick on somewhere other than America! This page on the “noble lie” brings up the Straussian hypocrisy that many confused pro-religion people are supporting in the UK — we have to support faith to keep the masses placid.
Many of those who support religious belief agree with Plato. It is not important that religion is a lie – the important point is that the people believe in it and that this belief maintains social order and moral behaviour. This is why English schools are obliged to have religious education in their syllabuses – because the government can see no alternative to religion to maintain some sense of social order and moral behaviour amongst the masses. individual students can opt out of religious education – not for the benefit of atheists, but to allow Moslems to provide an alternative syllabus for their children without the negative influences of other religions.
The article then points to a weird group called Sea of Faith, which sets itself a mission “To explore and promote religious faith as a human creation.” These are church leaders who admit that they have rejected most of the tenets of their religion, and are now wallowing in a Sea of Self-rationalization. It’s painful to read—it’s such earnest vacuity.
We can no longer convince ourselves, let alone others, that our religion story is the “true” one, or that our political ism is the “correct” one – and we marvel that our culture ever had the arrogance to make such plainly nonsensical assumptions. In this sense, Sea of Faith embraces postmodernity and is postmodernist.
SoF neither abandons the many faith traditions nor seeks to create yet another competing sect. Its members are to be found in the parish church and the synagogue, in the Quaker meeting, and at the Catholic mass, as well as in all the varieties of secular life. But they know their religious practices and “truths”, like everyone else’s, are socially constructed, made by human communities and not laid down by gods or ghosts or denizens of a supernatural realm. So, since faith systems were man-made, created to fill certain needs at particular times in specific places, we know we can remake them for our needs, our times, our place. We can ordain gays – or abolish the priesthood: create “green” rituals – or abandon ritual: make God female – or re-fashion him/her as the symbol or imaged incarnation of wholly human values such as mercy, pity, peace and love. We see that even if the churches are crumbling, religious expression, alongside the arts, remains a valid means of rejoicing and mourning, celebrating and imagining, and firing-up the inspiration required to remake ourselves and our society. In this sense, Sea of Faith is religious.
I tried digging into some of their other literature, and it’s awful stuff. Basically, they seem to be arguing that everything is religion — yeah, all those atheists are deeply religious — and have managed to produce a Sea of Mush. I think I can capture the essence of their folly with one example: they have the worst religion quiz ever on their page for first-timers. It’s multiple choice, and it’s only 11 questions, so I tried to take it — I could only answer three of their questions. The others aren’t hard or demanding of esoteric knowledge, it’s just that I reject all of their answers. Here are two examples:
Which of the following divine qualities do you think most important?
1. knowing all (omniscience)
2. all-powerful (omnipotence)
3. undying (immortality)
4. being (existence)
5. in all (omnipresence)
Which of these statements best expresses the truth of the Doctrine of the Resurrection for you?
1. Jesus rose up and pushed the stone away
2. God raised Jesus from the Cross
3. Jesus is alive today
4. The disciples of Jesus re-evaluated their faith in his life
5. A new and exciting Reality arose Phoenix-like from the dust
Supposedly, if you answer all “5”s on this test, you are ready to join the Sea of
Wankers Faith. I’m relieved to say that no, I’m not ready. I’m not anywhere near what they want. It looks like it’s really for people who are clever enough to see the absurdity of religion, but too gutless to walk away from it.