A story of Faith and Doubt

At the tender age of fourteen, Richard Holloway left his hometown of Alexandria, north of Glasgow,
and travelled hundreds of miles to be educated and trained for the priesthood at an English monastery.
By the age of twenty-five he had been ordained and was working in the slums of Glasgow.
Through the forty years that followed, Richard touched the lives of many people.
He rose to one of the highest positions in the Anglican Church, as Bishop of Edinburgh.
But behind his confident public faith lay a restless heart and an inquisitive mind.
His inquiring, unsatisfied mind opened windows of reality that conflicted with
the strict bounds of doctrinal conformity demanded by an Evangelical church.
Eventually this led to fatal division and his discard of his priestly role
as Primus of the Scotiish Episcopal church and Bishop of Edinburgh.

The Sabbath was Made for Man (p144)
The role of institutions is often seen as conflicting with the good of individuals.
We need institutions for they are vehicles for human flourishing, which is an intrinsic good,
yet religions institutions imagine that their laws and regulations have a transcendental authority.
It is an idea that Jesus challenged, with: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath"

This concept can be universalised:
The State was made for man, not man for the State. The Law was made for man, not man for the Law.
Religion was made for man, not man for religion. God was made for man, not....

However this flexibility undermines the human need for order and continuity.
Most people do prefer certainty and a planned future.
However flexibility opens the doors of progress, for
progress only comes through challenges to the status quo.

According to Nietsche
"It is upon the individuals who have fewer ties
and are more uncertain morally and spiritually
that spiritual progress depends."

Pursuit or Possession (p151)
The romantic, or seeker, is always in pursuit of truth,
whilst institution claims, and overclaims, that it possesses truth.
Institutions come to believe more in their own existence than what initiated their creation.
They begin by longing for mysteries beyond description, but end by claiming excusive descriptive rights to them.
They segue from the Ardour and Uncertainty of seeking to the confidence and complacency of possession.
Yet this what people want. Not the wilderness of doubt, but the promised land of certainty.
It is a desire that relgions are quickand eager to fulfill,
for Supreme Conviction is an innoculation against doubt.
Yet, when threatened, it can turn nasty; is dangerous.

The Resurrection (p157)
However sincere the storyteller and whatever the motive,
we know that dead bodies do not resuscitate themselves.
We also know that humans are credulous and superstitious and
history is full of bogus, or wishful, miracle stories.

Yet something happened to change the deserters of Good Friday into men of courage and conviction.
Somehow we have to resolve the conflict, for the evidence lies in the existence of our religion.

We do know that the Bible tends to replace real-world events with a spiritual camouflage.
Maybe Resurrection becomes a symbol of change at the personala group level.
Believing in the Resurrection becomes a way of living, not of speaking.

Willing to Believe (p169)
Willing yourself to believe, when you know that you do not,
does not provide confident arguments when speaking with unbelievers,
or even when arguing with over-confident believers.

Many offer a surface belief to remain within the religious family,
but it does not equip them for a battle in the hustings of religion.
For that you need all the confidence of the true believer
to defend and support every line of the party manifesto.

Hatred as a Lack of Pity (p177)
Pity is a sorrow at someone else's pain, but
that pain can not be felt without imagination.
Hatred comes from a failure of pity, of imagination.

Pity is such an identificatio with another that we feel their pain.
It is this identification that is the antidote the evil that is hatred.
The evil person lacks the imagination to identify with another's humanity.
To torture and kill, or even attack verbally, we have to dehumanise the other.
(Thus the fighting soldier will normally refer to an enemy in impersonal terms.)

Certainty (p184)
All religious systems, and their claims, are fragile.
Religious faith is based on a massive, unquantifiable, hunch.

Christianity, and other religions, have shifted from the hypothesis of God
to hard historic claims about God's nature and actions in time.
Faith has been redefined as acceptance of those claims.
Yet the opposite of Faith is not Doubt, but Certainty.

Believers are not encouraged to take the plunge of Faith,
they are called to swear to the Certainty
of the claims of religion.

Such an approach is driven by the fear of doubt.
The best cure for doubt is fundamental conviction,
over-confidence; a refusal to give ground or pity the other.
What best convinces others is always dramatic conviction.

The Charismatic Movement (p208)
THe history of religion is full of revivals
attempts to experience God in new ways and whip-up enthusiam.
Behind this longing for a divine experience lies the frustration
at our failure to meet God, to be inspired by the mystery.
We long for the joy of finding the God within us;
to be lifted out of our earth-bound lives;
to escape into ecstasy.

It does not take long for such release from the norm
to morph into something darker, more fundamental;
to become the certainly that guards us from fear;
our fear of losing the presence of divinity.

The End Times (p210)
From the beginning Christianity claimed to be a religion
of redemption from the forces of evil and suffering.
The suffering of oppressed people transposes itself
into a conviction that God is about to act.
He won't delay. He will come soon.

Human history is full of poignant hope for supernatural rescue.
In the 1970s, this morphed into a conviction that the end was near.
To the Neo-Pentecostal movement, the signs were clear!
We should "use it before we lose it", was their cry.
They welcomed signs of the degradation of the planet
and ignored the resultant turmoil for humanity.

No Room for Truth (p222)
In times of true tragedy, we can only take refuge in faith,
but, whilst that may ameliorate the situation,
it can not clear the foundational problem.

We make feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
but the heart of the problem is still there.
Maybe "sorrow" is the heart of the human condition,
maybe the everlasting striving for we know not what.

God needs to be accused, not excused or crawled to on bended knee.
Maybe religion is a way to gather people around the reality of suffering.
Maybe the story of Jesus was a picture of tragedy, that helps us to endure.

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