Ed Farrell writes,
I greatly enjoy your blog and read it often.
I think your latest post (Mature Religion: More Quest than Conclusions) misses the mark. For the believer of a revealed religion (I'm a Christian) the issue is not so much quest or conclusions as commitment. It's true we can't know God in the sense you're speaking of but we can have faith that the biblical revelations are true as far as they go, which is to say in defining our relations to God and the terms of our reconciliation with Him. The faith that's required here is not tentative but committed, because it will require action and probably sacrifice. In this arena quest is put behind although theology may remain a kind of quest, for elucidation if not for the meaning supplied by faith.
Thanks for all your thought-provoking posts.
Thank you for writing, Mr. Farrell. You too have a very interesting website.
You are right to point out the important role of faith. I agree that faith, if it is genuine, must manifest itself in action and sacrifice. Faith is not merely a verbal assent to certain propositions but a commitment to live in a certain way. Where we seem to disagree is on the question whether a commitment can be tentative. You write as if commitment excludes tentativeness, whereas I tend to think that a faith-commitment can and indeed must be tentative. A living faith, one that is not a mere convenience, or merely a source of comfort or psychological security, is one that regularly examines itself and is open to question. A living faith is one that needs ongoing examination and renewal, with the possibility left open that the faith-commitment be modified or even abandoned. But that does not imply that one does not act on one's commitments while they are in place.
The point of my post was that religion needs to be rescued from both the despisers and the dogmatists. I expect that you'll agree that the nincompoops of the New Atheism with their flying spaghetti monsters and celestial teapots have no understanding of religion. But neither can religion be reduced to doctrinal formulae that finitize the Infinite. The spirit of my post is adumbrated in these sentences from Simone Weil's Gravity and Grace in the chapter, "Atheism as a Purification": "Of two men who have no experience of God, he who denies him is perhaps nearer to him than the others." (103) "Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith: in this sense atheism is a purification."