Although I obviously take violent exception to his description of ‘the Adam and Eve fable’ as ‘one of the most despised modes’ of the SF genre, I was interested by this article by Adam Roberts in which he argues that atheism is, as it were, ‘the new Christianity’.
‘Moses brought 10 commandments; Jesus replaces them with two — to love God, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself,’ Roberts writes. The stripping away of rules and structures and outward forms is a constant theme of the Jesus of the New Testament, and this does indeed make it rather ironic that Christianity has crystalised into a religion of ‘beliefs’. (And of course a religion which has put many, many people to horrible deaths for not having exactly the right ‘beliefs’.)
Roberts is particularly interesting here on this thing called ‘belief’, which means something entirely different in a religious context from what it means in everyday life. And he concludes with a paradoxical argument that actually makes some sense to me, which is that ‘believing’ in God actually has the effect of putting distance between a person and God.
Supporting evidence for this, I think, is contained in the article by Ken MacLeod in the same magazine, which I discussed here. He describes how as a child he didn’t recognise a spiritual experience when it hit him smack in the face (my words not his), because, although he accepted the ‘beliefs’ inculcated in him by his religious upbringing, they had led him to think of entities like God as being something remote and out there, ‘like Australia.’
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It’s interesting how selective ‘belief’ is. All this fuss about about women bishops and gay priests, when the gospels contain no instructions on either matter (but do clearly set out the above general principle that there are no commandments other than loving one’s neighbour and God). And yet the actual sayings of Jesus about the need to give up material wealth in order to enter the kingdom of heaven seem not to be taken seriously at all!