Friday, December 17, 2010

On Reverence and Religious Education

I've a piece on the ABC today, 'The marvels of what is'.

I'm arguing that religious education has no monopoly on spirituality.

In particular, I'm suggesting that kids - like Nikos - who avoid Christian Religious Education need not be starved of reverence. A sample:
Secular worldviews are diverse and subtle, and cannot be easily hung on a single philosophical hook. But it’s clear that humanistic, scientific or ecological philosophies can have their own spiritual messages. They might not be overtly about divinities, but they have that profound, powerful mark common to all religions: reverence.
Reverence is not easy to explain, partly because it’s as much a feeling as an idea; as much a quality of perception as a belief. Nonetheless, it can be given a broad brush-stroke portrait: reverence is gratitude for existence. Not simply for one’s own life, though this is part of it. Rather, reverence is thanks for the fact of anything at all. It combines astonishment, awe, humility and curiosity, but it’s chiefly an intelligent appreciation of that strange and wonderful thing: creation.
(Photo: ExplicitImplicity)

4 comments:

Greg said...

Reverence is not easy to explain, partly because it’s as much a feeling as an idea; as much a quality of perception as a belief. Nonetheless, it can be given a broad brush-stroke portrait: reverence is gratitude for existence. Not simply for one’s own life, though this is part of it. Rather, reverence is thanks for the fact of anything at all. It combines astonishment, awe, humility and curiosity, but it’s chiefly an intelligent appreciation of that strange and wonderful thing: creation.

You know I read an article you wrote about not needing Jesus to have Christmas. I at first was upset at the title then decided to read to see where it led. That another atheist is raising his children to not believe in Our Lord and to think they are getting through life on their wits and luck and skills, saddens me.

I read on thinking you might actually make a point, since I have not seen one decent argument made while reading your brethrens' article either.

You bump against decency by enjoying the holiday and taking the time off (and most while getting paid, instead of "running away from it")

The answer, if you are looking for it, is simple. It is FAITH. No miraculous sign is going to come to you, although that does happen from time to time. It is believing in something you cannot see, touch, smell or hear. The thing I have often wanted to ask an atheist, is who are you going to call on, on your death bed? When it is almost too late? The joke amongst people with faith is...... What is the last thing an atheist says before he is about to die? God Help me.

I pray for you sir, along with your children (who were not given to chance to decide what to believe) and your wife (if you have one). You are going to have a long painfully sad life, without knowing Our Lord and the favor and blessings and wonderment that He can bring into you and your families lives.

God Bless you and may you find the truth and the Word.

Brendan said...

Greg,

if Damon's children were not given the chance to decide what to believe (which just means their beliefs are different to yours, of course), how does forcing them to believe in God really equate to a better option? Simply because that's what you feel they should believe, and because you're a Christian, you believe you have THE answer.

I've sat around with Damon and his family, drinking wine, eating good food, playing bocce - and not once did any of us feel that our day would be improved by embracing God. Yet we all try to live moral, compassionate lives - without God. Is that something you can understand?

Brendan

danielsmith said...

Greg,

Some comments (split into two posts to circumvent technical shortcomings):

"That another atheist is raising his children to not believe in Our Lord and to think they are getting through life on their wits and luck and skills, saddens me"

It saddens me to think of children being brought up to not be proud of their achievements as their own, but to instead have to tithe their talents to a fictional being. More perversely, to think of people divesting responsibility for their actions by attributing them to god(s), and to see people down on their luck as being part of a divine grand plan.

"You bump against decency by enjoying the holiday and taking the time off"

As I'm sure you've heard before, midwinter style festivals predate Christianity by in some cases thousands of years; the piggy-backing of festivals does not rest with Jesus at its base. If to recognise this is to deny some fundament of Christian thought, then so be it. I can understand if the use of the word "Christmas" grates with you in its often Christ-free setting, and I would welcome alternatives, as I see this as the only legitimate complaint a Christian can have about people celebrating with their families every December.

"The answer, if you are looking for it, is simple. It is FAITH. No miraculous sign is going to come to you, although that does happen from time to time."

Well, which is it? Will there be no miraculous sign, or maybe from time to time? How can you say that there won't be a magical sign, but in the same breath avow their general existence? Whence is your authority here? Ironically, I think we both have roughly the same definition for (religious) faith: Believing in something you cannot see, touch, smell or hear (let's add taste here for completeness, unless I've really been missing something all this time.) Our point of departure is that you see this faith as a virtue, and I see it as a failing; as a denial of the world we access through our senses. Outside the sphere of religion, this pattern of behaviour is rightly seen as a sign of mental illness, albeit often harmless. I find no difference in either case.

danielsmith said...

Part 2:

"The thing I have often wanted to ask an atheist, is who are you going to call on, on your death bed? When it is almost too late?"

Glad you've asked, and glad to answer. But you're begging the question: Presuming someone needs to be called on at all, for any purpose. Since we don't believe in afterlives, dualism, reincarnation etc., there's simply nothing and nobody required, and no "too late" because we have no further pressing engagements. We die, our fleshy shells are interred or incinerated, and what's left behind are our contributions to the world, perhaps some children, and the memories of us that others carry.

"The joke amongst people with faith is...... What is the last thing an atheist says before he is about to die? God Help me."

More clever and subtle was Voltaire, when asked on his deathbed by a priest to renounce Satan: "This is no time for making enemies".

"I pray for you sir, along with your children (who were not given to chance to decide what to believe)"

And they say atheists are smug. Once again you've got it completely backwards: On what I can see, the author's children are presumably being brought up to investigate and question their world, and perhaps even form opinions in opposition to those of their parents (gasp!) Can the same be said of a Christian child, brought up to fear a wrathful god? To be told that miracles happen (but not to them, or perhaps just from time to time)? That their deeds in this world are not of their own making, but beholden to an imaginary being? That the blind acceptance of the existence of said being, in the presence of no evidence whatsoever, is a virtue and not an error in thought? And finally, perhaps most perversely, that this life is a trial run for an ill-imagined eternity in the company of a judgmental, genocidal creator?