Friday, October 12, 2007

religion and life's great questions

Earlier in the week I complained of the reduction of religion to flavor without substance, of speeches that resound in empty catchphrases but offer little insight. This conclusion of this report in the Wall Street Journal on a debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox about G-d caught my eye. The reporter calls attention to the biographical statement each opened the debate with:

…In a brief biographical statement at the beginning of the debate, Mr. Lennox described a childhood in Northern Ireland surrounded by "sectarian violence" in which his parents encouraged him to read everything and "develop an interest in
the great questions of life."

Mr. Dawkins, on the other hand, says he had a "harmless Anglican upbringing." As a teenager, he says he realized that his religion was merely an accident of his birth and soon thereafter gave up his faith. In some sense, it seems he was rebelling less against religion, per se, than against the kind of "harmless" worldview that simply glosses over "the great questions of life." And who can blame him? But if their interest in this debate is any marker, the people in this Birmingham audience did not come out of that tradition.

If religion is robbed of its meaning and intellectual content, what exactly is supposed to keep one committed?

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