Face to faith
By DAVID BRADNACK - THE GUARDIAN
Added: Fri, 05 Sep 2008 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Linda Ward Selbie for the link.
Face to faith
The Christian creed is full of bad science that makes it a religion of deception, argues David Bradnack
'Had I but served God as diligently as I have served the king, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs," said Cardinal Wolsey.
Had I but tried to understand mankind as diligently as I tried to understand your God, I would not in my grey hairs be given over to such bitter anger about the spiritual and intellectual energy that in my teens and 20s I put into trying to believe what I thought I had to believe for the salvation of my soul. My salvation finally came when, well into adulthood, I found that there was at least one intellectually respectable way of explaining that whatever happened about AD33 was not a resurrection as understood by the pious, and that the gospels are not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I think I remember my reaction on first being confronted with the creed, but I have only fairly recently been able to put it into words, because only fairly recently has "So what?" become a current expression.
The creed is arranging the deckchairs on a fantasy ship, concerned with who sitteth at the right hand of whom and who had - or did not have - relations with whom, not the icebergs ahead.
You can deduce little or nothing from the creed on how you should live. As you believe in the holy Catholic church, you must do what the Roman Catholic church tells you to do - or if you have been taught to interpret catholic not as Roman Catholic but as universal, then you must do what the universal church tells you, but what does the universal church agree on?
The creed is your mission statement, but for all the guidance in it, our common enterprise could be burning heretics and stoning adulterers, marching to an unjust war, one in selfish hope of everlasting life for ourselves and one in enforcing intolerant doctrine upon others. It is left to a hymn-writer to add: one in charity. Much as I deplore Paul's theology, charity is a better rallying cry than belief in Mary's virginity and in Jesus surviving after death. Though you believe in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Creed of St Athanasius, and have not charity, you are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Though you have all faith in the virgin birth, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, and have not charity, it profiteth us nothing.
Obviously some believers are very good people, but this is a placebo effect. They have been persuaded that faith will make them better, so it does. Their goodness lies in their attitude to other people, not in their faith in the resurrection.
The resurrection is a gimmick to catch the attention of the gullible. It does not prove that your sins have been paid for. If Christ paid for your sins by dying, and was subsequently made alive, the payment is fraudulent. It does nothing to show us that we shall survive death, let alone do so for all eternity. Manifestly we do not flit around in some semi-corporeal form for 40 days after our death as Jesus did in the gospels, and if Jesus could only manage 40 days, what hope of eternity is there for the rest of us?
Overcoming physical death confers no moral authority. It does not prove the divinity of Christ - other people have survived execution or been found to be alive after being pronounced dead, and no new religions have been started in their names.
Teaching the virgin birth and the resurrection is irresponsible bad science, preventing us from understanding the real world, just as opposing Galileo and Darwin was bad science and astrology and homeopathy are bad science.
The creed makes Christianity the religion of deception. Either you deceive yourself into believing in the virgin birth and the resurrection as literal fact, or you know they are a metaphor, but you mouth the words to deceive the gullible that they must believe them. I wish I could lay on those responsible the iniquity of it all.
· David Bradnack is a retired teacher
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