Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
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Robert McKinney is an intelligent man. If he wasn’t then he would not be able to write as well as he does, and he does write well. But Jennifer Kim writes well also, and her March 17 response (“Odd condemnation of religion”) to his March 14 letter “Giving compassion a chance” is a spot on critique. A life of religious faith does not mean a life of unquestioning acquiescence to a set of delusional and foolish intellectual propositions or beliefs - beliefs that atheists condemn variously as primitive and preposterous, backward, stupid and contrary to proven knowledge, and even evil - but a life of trust, steadfastness and intellectual engagement. Religious faith is an intelligent destination of the human journey representing millennia of profound struggle with and reflection on our experience. It is not the only destination, but it is an honorable one.
Stupid and evil people cannot be prevented from doing stupid and evil things in the name of their service to a higher authority. No one is perfect and neither is religion, which is a human affect. We all live and die within a spectrum of development towards true personhood and, unfortunately, some people never progress very far within the spectrum. That is what gives us religiously sincere fools. Sadly, there are many of those.
The thing about atheism, and anti-Christian polemics especially, is that it does not match my experience of religion. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are entertaining and informative writers, for example. But the Christianity they attack bears no resemblance to the Christianity I know. Maybe Hitchens had particularly bad experiences growing up with maltreatment from pointedly obtuse churchmen, and then as an adult got carried away with vendetta.
Much of the contemporary attack against religion relies on vengeful outrage against selected or misrepresented facts. Not a paucity of facts, mind you, but a truly horrible accumulation of awful facts, none of which disqualifies religious faith. The problem is not so much one of too much religion in contemporary life as too much bad religion. Bad critique of religion is a poor prescription.
Published on Thursday, March 21, 2013 as “Honorable human destination.”
I should not have described a life of religious faith as a human destination. Instead, I should have called it a “path.”