I have just listened to the debate on religion on radio 4 between Tony Blair (convert to Catholicism, former prime minister, invader of Iraq, possible war criminal) and Christopher Hitchens (writer, journalist, atheist, cancer sufferer).
They debated the proposition that ‘religion is a force for good in the world‘- you can listen again here.
I found myself in agreement with much of what Hichens had to say. He was witty, erudite and thoughtful.
Hitchens described faiths’ view of mankind as-
“…victims of a cruel experiment, in which we are created sick and then ordered to be well. Over us, to supervise is installed a dictatorship- a kind of celestial North Korea… But there is a cure- salvation at the low price of the surrender of your critical faculties.”
Blair was Blair- earnest, persuasive, but at the same time repetitive, on message, but a message that is degraded by our recent shared history. He spoke of the good that faith pours into the world, and how bigoted fundamentalists exist both within and without our institutions of faith.
Hitchens won the debate hands down for me- but that was more because his moral authority and his intelligence won against Blair- who is yet to be re-invented by history as many politicians are in the years after power.
I was left to reflect on my own faith- which has had to find a place within the powerful critique that Hitchens uses, but somehow still survives- is stronger even.
I am not alone. Many of us who have grown up trying to reconcile the irreconcilable have found that if you let go of trying to hold together the absolute truths- to stop the desperate defence of positions on Biblical authority, atonement, sexual sin etc etc- then we rediscover the hope that God is bigger than all of that.
And we turn again to Jesus.