Monday, October 10, 2005

It's tag time again

This one was passed to me by Paul Evans, with the following instructions:
1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
Duly done - and the fifth sentence of the twenty-third post is: "Richard Dawkins uses the disaster to question the validity of religious thinking in this context"...

Coincidently topical in the wake of the terrible earthquake in Pakistan and India, he was referring to the Tsunami. While I agreed, of course, that it is ridiculous, crass and hard-hearted to interpret these as the wrath of God for sinful living or whatever, I went on to argue that the thing about religion that people like Dawkins doesn't get is while the theodicy question is a difficult to answer in the wake of such terrible event, the paradox of religion is that one of its key functions is to give meaning to suffering and that it behooves those who live comfortable lives not to sneer.

I was curious to see if I still agreed with what I had written - and in this case, I find that I do. I remember hearing an Auschwitz survivor talking about his religious faith when I was at teacher training college. While I found it difficult to comprehend, it surely would have been grotesque to present him with the theodicy question in a "Here's something you haven't thought of" sort of way? As grotesque as evangelising a Holocaust survivor who'd found their faith incinerated in the furnaces.

Best thing to do when confronted with human suffering on this magnitude is to shut your mouth and not dabble in the stuff of people's souls.

That's why I believe in the separation between church and state so much: it's nothing to do with hostility to religion as such, nor is it to do with 'respecting' people's religious beliefs as such. It's not their doctrinal systems that require respect; only a recognition that faith is a much more strange and subtle phenomenon than is often thought by atheists and agnostics - and the place in the human soul where it resides goes very deep indeed...

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