The bejesus

Since I became an avowed humanist in my long ago adolescence, I haven't really thought about religion much. I fear it, as the Christian crusade and the Islamic jihad hint a regression back to medieval, inhuman violence—threatening to become the two frozen poles of the next Cold War. I think about that aspect of religion all the time.

But not of religion in relation to my own spirituality. I derive my spiritual sustenance from canto and verse and interlocution, not from gospel or surah.

I was thinking about God last night though, because I was reading about a scientific application of Bayes' Theory to the dilemma of the existence of God. Just so you know, there's a 67% probability that He/She exists. According to a guy who is 95% sure He/She exists. Read that how you will. Also, bookies are currently offering 1000 to 1 on the second coming of Christ, which despite my atheism seems like not bad odds. I'd put a fiver on it for sure. Anyway, I'm a complete sucker for percentage signs, so I was temporarily seduced by this (rather ridiculous) analysis. For a moment, uh, it put the fear of God into me.

Jesus on my wall. I also thought about God last Tuesday. I was putting up a picture of Jesus in the living room. I only thought about God for a moment, wondering whether visitors would interpret the presence of the picture incorrectly. I decided they wouldn't, or shouldn't, and I stopped thinking about God. My friend Eldar was kind enough to take a photograph of my living room wall, which occupies the space to the left of this paragraph. (If you want to do some cheap home-decorating of this sort, check out the Rasterbator. I guarantee you'll never see it on Burke's Backyard.)

So anyway, I could never be a Christian again, I'm pretty sure of that. The likelihood of me converting to anything else is even slimmer. But I profoundly respect religious people; their faith confounds and astonishes me. My uncle is a Catholic priest—in fact he baptised me—and conversing with him, I begin to understand that (at least for him) religion is less about God and more about people. Which isn't far away from my perspective at all. My folks grew up Catholics at the time of the Second Vatican Council, and they have both occasionally mentioned it as an invigorating time to be a Catholic, when some outmoded mentalities were finally discarded and the Church belatedly acknowledged the passing of the Dark Ages. Both are now wholly irreligious in the best sense of the word, if I interpret them right. But the way they have described the atmosphere around Vatican II struck me forcefully.

What's my point? I guess I'm fumbling to say I admire people and movements who ask their faith questions—pressing, probing questions—in the face of some of the most powerful forces of inertia on Earth.

My best guess is that most regular m-b.o visitors are, like me, not subscribers to one religion or another. Hang about for a moment, you guys, I've got a question to ask you in a sec. But I presume a number of readers are religious. I know of two who also blog—I've noticed that one of the interesting facets of the blogging phenomenon is its rapid adoption by people interested in exploring their faith openly. Which makes perfect sense; blogging is peculiarly adapted to collective introspection. One of these bloggers is Maryam, a Muslim mother and student who links here in her sidebar and who is not sure of my faith (here's your answer, Maryam!).

Another is Darren Rowse, who is also one of m-b.o's precious correspondents. Darren is a Baptist minister, and a Melbournian. He blogs at Darren is confronting (my word) the National Board of an unspecified Christian church this weekend, which he says is beginning to acknowledge "the church in Australia is in some trouble and is in need of some fresh approaches."

He wants to know what I would ask national church leaders.

Well shit, I'm kinda stumped, so give me a hand here please. It seems like a great opportunity. What would you ask them? Answers can range from the ridiculous to the political to the sublime.

Joseph | 22 Mar 2004

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