Sunday, December 16, 2007

Writing about religion can make you lose your faith

Stephen Bates of the Guardian:
I never wanted to be a religious affairs correspondent. I had always regarded it as a slippers and pipe sort of a job, to be given to ageing hacks in beige cardigans working their way towards retirement.

[snip]

Anyway, weren’t we all pretty ecumenical these days? Didn’t religious chaps and chapesses think the best of everyone, even those not of a like mind? How wrong I was. This was in the days before 9/11, George Bush’s election and the dawning realisation of the murderous impulses of religiously inspired Islamic terrorism, but I soon discovered there were quite enough feuds to be going on with even in the good old Church of England. The first inkling was when I opened what was to become my favourite religious periodical, the English Churchman, a deeply conservative publication which still calls the Pope the Anti-Christ, publishes the odd article suggesting slavery was not really such a bad institution and argues that Margaret Thatcher’s worst mistake was allowing shops to open on Sundays.

[snip]

The religious correspondent is the one specialist on the Guardian who has to justify his specialism to the sceptics, on the paper and outside (“Why do we have to read this rubbish?”), and to our many religiously inclined readers (“Why are you always so hostile to religion?”). The Guardian actually gives more space to a wider range of religious (and non-religious) opinions than any other paper. That is precisely because religion is important as a philosophical, political, cultural, social and historical motivating force across the world and, despite the best efforts of atheists and secularists – some as fundamentalist in their beliefs as the most dogmatic religionist – will remain so.

Now I am moving on. It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close. A young Methodist press officer once asked me earnestly whether I saw it as my job to spread the Good News of Jesus. No, I said, that’s the last thing I am here to do.

I wonder if he ever reported on the Pastafarians...

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It would have been a lot more fun and tasty than writing about the weirdness of preacherman Huckabee's son, the necessity of Congress in "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith" or the tenets of the Mormon religion....

10 comments:

Michael said...

praise bob and keep the lasagna flying.

just say maybe.

ellroon said...

Ramen!

Steve Bates said...

That is indeed a surprising conclusion for Stephen Bates, the religion writer, to have reached. I've read one of his books (sorry; I can't remember the title, and I resold my copy) in which ultimately he seems to exhibit sympathy for fundies who request, nay, demand, exceptions in American public school systems. For him to have lost his own faith is astonishing to me.

(I suppose everyone named Bates who hails ultimately from British stock must be related, but I know of no relationship I may have to that author. Nor do I know of any family connection to Stephen S. Bates, the Canadian PhD ichthyologist, though he certainly ticks the Google counters a lot more than I do.)

ellroon said...

I confess I paid a bit more attention to the article once I saw the name. I just found it interesting that in rubbing elbows with those who insisted in God's love, he could be so disgusted and offended that he lost his faith.

Maybe it's like seeing sausages made....

Steve Bates said...

Yeah, watching all those veggie guts being ground into veggie sausage really disgusts me. :)

My late mother was Christian, and a brief attempt was made to send me to church (note: send me, not take me). But it just didn't stick. It was 25+ years later that I found I could stand the UUs; in those years, I was as nonspecific... and faithless... as one can be. I still have no faith, only a wide-ranging curiosity about how things work behind the scenes.

(I'm stealing your FSM pic, by the way.)

Michael said...

I call myself Christian but I've only ever been inside a few churches and not for my own prayer. My church is not within buildings of wood or stone.

ellroon said...

Steve, veggie sausages are the wurst! (A bratty thing to say, sorry.) I grew up in a religious household, married an ex-Catholic and have atheist/agnostic children. I think we've covered all bases...

ellroon said...

Michael, I agree with you. The relationship between God and yourself cannot be dictated to nor controlled by a 'church'. You need no intermediary to be honest with yourself.

In the end, it is just God and you.

Michael said...

And there is no actual duality between those last two. Namaste.

ellroon said...

And hugs to you,Michael!