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So, I started reading this a while ago, and then picked it up not long after finishing Ruth Roberts book… and do you know what, they ask some remarkably similar questions, but come to rather different conclusions…

Much of this book is funny, some of it misses the point, and some of it makes me uncomfortable … but one thing you can’t accuse Marcus Bridgstocke of is of picking on any particular religion (or non-religion). Though he’s – at the moment – decided on secular humanism … non of the main faithss, and atheism itself, escape his wit and humour (nor does his middle-class-ness).

As I’ve been looking at ways to engage graciously with other Christians (or anyone to be honest – there’s lots of things we can disagree over) … this bit particularly struck me (although there’s often a deeper theological reason for disagreements, but we just don’t seem to be good at expressing it):

Religious people will fight over almost anything. In a loving and forgiving way, of course. Take two people born in the same community, educated in the same school: they go to the same places, drink in the same pubs, they attend the same church, they read the same Holy Book. But crucially, one of those books is printed in Arial font, the other in Times New Roman, and that’s it. There’s a schism. A fight over the font, which I’m certain must be blasphemous. There then follows a thousand years of bloodshed. ‘Don’t talk to them, they’re Times New Roman Catholics’. This is war. They all say ‘Oh, no, ours is a peaceful faith built on charity and forgiveness,’ and they mean it too. Until they meet almost anyone who doesn’t agree with them and then it’s fighty, smashy, kicky, punchy all the way. ‘Did you come in the side door of the church and sit near the altar? Die, heretic.’

Makes me think back to what we were talking about at Spring Harvest. Going back to ‘the source‘, and focusing on what’s important, rather than the many small things that we argue about!

3 Responses

  1. “Religious people will fight over almost anything. In a loving and forgiving way, of course.”

    I think MB is funny and a genuinely nice guy. However…

    You wouldn’t have thought that he had spent most of his adult life actively supporting the liberal left – who are, if anything, worse at this kind of divisive behaviour. “No; we’re the Judean popular people’s front” etc.. My student days were full of that kind of divisiveness and squabbling.

    It also puts me in mind of his rant against religious people on The Now Show, where he said “the relationship between religion and warfare is like the relationship between Ant and Dec. You could have one without the other but I don’t think most people could see the point.”

    Er, Marcus: Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot? The 20th Century?

    So, yes, he’s got a point, but let’s not beat ourselves up too thoroughly. It’s a *human* trait whenever people really passionately believe stuff.

  2. Everybody splits over everything. We live in an anti-orthodoxy age. Unless you are a Liberal, Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon. I’m glad I am not one of these three!

    Ever tried to be a pro-life, pro-God, pro-marriage or pro-the-poor Liberal? They are as closed-minded a bunch of heretic-burners as you’ve ever met in any conclave.

    Would anyone print a book by Marcus which attacked the New Atheist Liberals? I doubt it …

    1. I think we tend to cluster our beliefs to correspond to the tribes we have already emotionally affiliated ourselves to. Thinking outside of the ‘package deal’ is hard – and that includes Christians.

      We like to think we come to opinions rationally. We don’t.

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