I didn’t write this review last week, because I was busy. Here is what I was doing.
Attended the Spark One UnConference at Snell’s Beach. This is a voluntary, free conference without an agenda. It is sponsored by Spark, by invitation only, with about 70% Spark attendees and 30% “interested partners”. These are great feedback and networking opportunities. The agenda is set on the first night by the participants.
I was invited by an atheist to enter into a dialogue about “The relevance of religion in the world today.” This was a fantastic invitation, too good to pass up. I let him start and set the terms of engagement. It was, in his words, “a chance to find hear from the other side, with respect.”
I started by giving two competing definitions of the word “religion”:
- Dogmatic adherence to a set of man-made rules in a vain-glorious attempt to earn enough Brownie points to gain a place in a mythical heaven.
- A living, vital relationship with my Higher Power, who loves me and wants the best for me.
Obviously, I was attempting to bridge a gap by agreeing with the atheist that the first definition is bad and wrong. So did Jesus, when he confronted the Pharisees. Unfortunately, I chose to give two current examples of the first definition:
- Climate Change
I got a bite on the second example. This was going to be fun!
Straight away, after my introduction, in which I explained that I had converted to Christianity as an adult, the first question from the audience was, “why did I change?” Well, thank you for asking me to give my testimony. So I did. My 5 minute summary of the paucity of evidence for apes-to-man transition and the amount of faith it requires to believe in it.
The second question from the audience was “How do you know you aren’t (a) god?” In which I gave my incredulous response, “because I can’t create a new primary colour.” A minor exchange with huge implications. We aren’t evolving towards god-head. I haven’t merely forgotten my exalted place in the universe. God is God and I am not, and I need Him; He doesn’t need me.
The third question from the audience (which were starting to get predictable) was, “how can you chose to follow such a sadistic god which allows such suffering?” A variation on “Why do bad things happen to good people?” My answer was that the reason the child is dying of starvation has nothing to do with the provision of food. The planet is perfectly capable (and does) provide plenty of food. The problem is distribution, which is controlled by corrupt Mankind. We are the reason why the child is dying, not God.
The atheist (and others) tried to bring the conversation back “on track” to what is the relevance? My response was the second definition (of religion) puts me in place with the rest of creation. It calls me up to a higher point of view. It means I’m not the centre of the universe. It calls me to treat others with the respect they deserve as fellow creature created in the image of God. Specifically, while I concede that other religions may have variations of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” only Christianity has the words of Jesus, “Love your enemies.” The reason why reasoned debate is permissible in Western Civilisation is because of the huge debt our culture has to our Christian Heritage. Hospitals, Universities, Freedom of Religion, the scientific method, are peculiarly allowed within a Christian worldview, because our God is a God of order, not chaos. If evolution is true:
- We are all just rearranged bags of pond scum, with no moral centre;
- Rape cannot be morally defined as always wrong;
- Why should we expect a random universe to exhibit rational rules?
All in one hour. Choice.