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Tradition and belief

Posted by Tim on Sunday, January 07, 2007 | Permalink

I apologise in advance for the fact that this is highly likely to turn into a semi-drunken rambling rant on what is really a social issue (apologies also to Steve - no disrespect to his wife intended). I should point out that this post is about Christianity in England - things are obviously very different elsewhere.

From the Pub Philosopher -
Having a history degree, she [his wife] also knows that the world could not have been made in 4004 BC and she has studied enough science to know that much of what is written in the Bible cannot possibly be true. But, just as she likes to take the decorations down on Twelfth Night, she also likes to go to church, sing hymns and read the Bible. As with many other perfectly sane and intelligent people, the mix of an attachment to tradition and a vague feeling that human reason may not be able to quite explain everything, keeps her observing these rituals. Many of us are reluctant to jettison our attachment to old beliefs completely. After all, you can never be sure, can you?

I find it difficult to understand how obviously intelligent people can believe in God - however I am convinced that most of the people who follow these rituals don't actually have a genuine belief in God. The "attachment to tradition" is the problem. Too many people believe that if something is traditional it is, by default, worthwhile - yet if you ask these people what is so great about tradition and they will merely define the term ("because these are things our fathers did, and their fathers before them ...")

The church is a big part of many traditions. People marry in church. They have their children christened - despite having no intention of bringing them up "within the faith". They fight to get their kids into church schools. There will probably be a service in a church when they die. These people are culturally Christian.

Steve is unfortunately right when he points out that as scientific knowledge has not been able to kill off religious beliefs so far, it is unlikely to do so any time soon. There are just too many people unwilling to accept what they know to be true. To quote Winston Churchill: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened".

My view is that it is this cultural Christianity more than anything else that allows religion to survive when it should have died out a long time ago. It is responsible for the misguided opinions about religion being a good thing - whether any gods exist or not. It is what halts progress and allows fundamentalism, with all its ignorance and bigotry, to continue.

What do other people think?

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