Friday, October 11, 2013

you GOTTA believe!

Author and Anglican theologian Charles Williams once put these words in the mouth of one of his fictional characters (sorry, I don't remember which metaphysical thriller it was):
People believe what they want to believe.
If this is true -- and it is certainly on my short list of useful observations -- then it is not so important what anyone believes. What is important is that they want it and what anyone wants is a matter of personal responsibility... a personal responsibility worth investigating. Trying to get others to believe something or to believe something else is not so important as the implications of and fallout from wanting and its concomitant responsibility.

-- In England,* an American biblical scholar is due next week to offer a lecture on his theory that "Christianity was a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire" ... that "the story of Jesus Christ was 'fabricated to pacify the poor.'" Given the widespread impact of Christianity, Joseph Atwill's appreciation is likely to excite some excitement. Humanists may delight. Christians may be outraged or cranky. Either way, Atwill's "Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus" will probably make some money. But isn't one aspect of whatever kerfuffle erupts the fact that some will agree and some will disagree... and that that's what they want to do?

-- Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by a Taliban that is hell-bent-for-leather to make sure women know their place, is not universally regarded as a burning bush of worthwhile human values. 
(Reuters) - For many of her compatriots, Malala Yousafzai is a stooge of the United States and a CIA agent, a symbol of the West's evils and a global conspiracy to bring down her native Pakistan....

The Taliban have issued repeated threats to kill her.
"She says she does not want to live like an illiterate person in a walled compound and deliver children," said Shahidullah Shahid, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman.
"Her mother and grandmother used to live in walled compounds and deliver children, so by saying that she didn't even spare her mother."
-- And in New York,*
Three rabbis and seven other men allegedly conspired to kidnap and use cattle prods, among other methods, to force Orthodox Jewish men into divorcing their wives, authorities said.
Certainly people who shoot others or beat the crap out of them as a means of enforcing their beliefs are deplorable and impoverished, but I sometimes wonder how many other believers -- those not employing arms -- are much different. The poverty of their beliefs -- or mine -- can be seen in the necessity they feel to enforce them. Were such beliefs founded in more than a wobbly doubt, what need would there be to enforce them?

Whatever the case, whether open-minded or closed, violent or benevolent, still I think it is important to take the next step and investigate the wanting that invariably accompanies any belief. I do not think of this as some sort of moral imperative, but rather as a means of grounding the peace and happiness anyone might seek.

*With thanks to the emailer who pointed out these stories.

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