Do we need God?

Since the 1940s Canada has witnessed a significant decline in the number of people who attend religious institutions. Specifically, it is young people who are pulling farther away from traditional religious behaviours.

What has led us to question our faith? And should we be concerned by this disillusionment?

For the next three issues of The Uniter, Rev. Jack Duckworth will argue the case for Christianity, coinciding with a number of dialogues he is holding here at the university.

In response, a variety of guest and regular Uniter writers will try to show the wide ranging and passionate opinions that arise when questions of faith are brought to the table.

We want to know how you feel about the social implications of religion. Are we losing something integral to our culture by pulling away? Do we need God? E-mail your ideas to [email protected].

Christians aren’t deluded but they screw up

by Jack Duckworth

A religion scholar asked Jesus, “Which is most important of all the commandments?”

Jesus said, “The first…is, Listen… The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy. And here is the second: Love others as well as you love yourself. There is no other commandment that ranks with these,” (Mark 12:28-31 The Message).

The Christian faith is simple: concern yourself with the presence of God through faith in Jesus Christ and the needs of others. Yet faith extends beyond finite thinking because a Christian responds to what God has done on their behalf (John 3:33-36). Why then, do Christians screw up?

First, the substance of faith is true. The Bible is open, free and honest for all to read, believe, or doubt. So whether we like or dislike what the Bible records, it is important to hear what it says because the words direct Christians to grow learn, and do the purposes of God (Hebrews 11).

Second, to limit our worldview to mere human intellect caps our capacity to understand the Christian faith. Scripture opens our minds to the presence and power of God over and against limited human arguments. The presence of God is never out of reach but full, complete and beyond comprehension to those who are faithful to him (Rom 8:38).

Third, faith in God through the life, work, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a fable (John 1 and 21:25). Stories with quaint moral outcomes can be had anywhere (1 Timothy 1 3-7). Faith in God is not a trendy figment of our imagination. Instead faith is built upon what was done on our behalf through Jesus Christ (John 10:14-15).

Life without God deludes the human soul and offers a spiritual vacuum (Romans 1:20-24). Instead, the answer to our purpose in life is found outside of our finite thinking. Training in academic disciplines equips us for our profession, but knowing and serving the just and loving God gives us our vocation. Christians live an expression of what God has done on their behalf.

So, why do Christians screw up?

They are vulnerable and flawed like everyone else. However, when we love God and our neighbour we live the prime motivating factor for life’s calling. We do what we read about in the Bible intentionally expressing why we are servants of Christ. So like or dislike the Christian life, it is a choice to respond to the call of God (Eph 1:11-14).

Jack Duckworth is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church Winnipeg and is available as volunteer chaplain at the U of W Thursdays from 12 to 3:30 p.m. He will be conducting a series of dialogues on Christianity during the free period from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. for the next three Wednesdays, Jan. 18, Feb. 4 and Feb 11. Look for posters in the university indicating the room in which these lectures will be held.

The case for scepticism

Amalia Slobogian

If there is one thing that leaving a fundamentalist Christian religion has taught me, it is that doubt is not a bad thing. It’s OK to admit that you don’t have all of the answers. Doubt is humbling and leaves one open to the truth. When it comes to the big questions in life, admitting we just don’t know can be a lot more intellectually honest then claiming to understand it all.

This notion of accepting that there are things we simply cannot know beyond a doubt is incongruous with what most religions teach their followers.

Religions make claims to absolute truth and assert that they have the answers to life’s biggest questions. These answers can seem tantalizing. Who wouldn’t want to know the meaning of life or the reason we die or whether there’s an afterlife? Unfortunately, like any offer that seems too good to be true, this one has a big catch. The majority of “answers” which religions such as Christianity offer cannot be proven. In order to benefit from the answers which religion offers, one must ultimately put one’s reason and intellect on hold and rely solely upon unfounded faith.

Accepting Christianity means accepting answers which under any other circumstances we would find impossible to logically or rationally accept as true. Such as the explanation that God created a woman out of a single rib or that Noah was really able to fit every single species of animal onto the ark. Not all Christians still believe in the literal truth of stories such as these – they may dismiss them as allegorical. I find this puzzling: how can you claim that some of what a sacred text teaches is allegorical while others are absolute facts and not see an inconsistency in that?

It isn’t just the miracle stories that set off a logic alarm in my head, it is also the idea of voluntarily worshipping a god who has no problem annihilating entire nations of people who refuse to pay him homage (Exodus 34:11; Leviticus 26:7) or who claims to be forgiving and yet holds all of humanity accountable for the actions of the first two humans who went against his wishes (Romans 5:12), as the Christian doctrine of original sin teaches. I cannot accept any of the explanations given for why a supposedly perfect, loving and just god would vengefully hold generations upon generations of people accountable for a single error made by their ancient ancestors.

By demanding that we accept claims which are unverifiable by relying solely on faith, Christianity attempts to bypass our natural filter of reason by asking us to put our intellect and logic on hold. Like many other religions, Christianity asks us to have “faith” but gives little ground for such a weighty request. I believe in having faith – sometimes you do just have to take a leap – but I refuse to put my faith in a religion which offers nothing I find to be authentic, real, or true.

Instead of settling for the easy way out of metaphysical quandaries, I take an agnostic stance, viewing everything with a healthy dose of doubt and scepticism.

I haven’t stopped asking the big questions, but I have stopped expecting to find easy answers. I’d rather have no answers at all than ones which require me to put my brain on hold in order to believe in them. I don’t believe that humans require religion in order to be happy, peaceful, or ethical – the contented existence of numerous agnostics and atheists demonstrates this.

Amalia Slobogian is an English major, who dabbles in philosophy and metaphysics. She is a former Jehovah’s Witness.

Published in Volume 63, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 22, 2009)

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