wrestling with faith

So, lately, I’ve been viewing faith (and specifically faith in Christ) from the perspective of an “outsider” or skeptic.  Why would anyone believe this stuff?  What is “good” about the Good News?  How does faith make life today any better than life with no faith?  Are the faithful really more ethical than your average humanist?

And on and on.

Helping me along this path is Sam Harris, author of the 2004 New York Times bestseller The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.  An outspoken atheist and humanist, Harris is actually one of the more civil voices coming out of the “new atheist” camp. (juxtaposed against the vitriolic Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens, among others)  I am not too far into the book, but already Harris is raising some really good points about some of the problems with religion.  I hope to share some especially meaningful passages on this blog in the coming weeks.

For the record, I am positively still a Christian, and an active one at that.  I just think it’s important — especially in a day when so many people simply do not accept our traditional “proofs” for the existence of God or relevance of faith — to begin to see things from other side of the fence instead of demonizing that side.

If you haven’t heard, comedian and HBO talk show host Bill Maher has a new movie called “Religulous.”  It’s a scripted, documentary-style comedy asking questions of and mercilessly poking fun at every major religion.  If you’ve seen Maher’s stand-up act or watched his show, you’ll know he pulls no punches.  But behind the slapstick and downright meanness, Maher has some real issues with religion, and we’d be smart to take heed when he says something of substance.  Remember, this is the guy who said this a few years ago:

It’s a shame that Christianity has gone so far from the teachings of Jesus. I don’t know anyone less Jesus-like than most Christians.

The other night, in an interview on Larry King Live about “Religulous,” Maher made a good point:

One thing I don’t like about religion is — and ask any of the truly devout — it’s not mainly about doing the right thing or being ethical, it’s mainly about salvation.  It’s mainly about getting your butt saved when you die.  And that’s why I think they’re less moral than ethicists.

Is this a fair critique?  What do you think?

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Hey steve,
    Nice post. I have a love hate relationship with Mahr, but I want to see his movie.

    I can only speak about Christianity, I don’t know as much about other religions. I think he has a point. Although I don’t know if Christianity is any less moral than ethicists.

    When concern for the after life is your primary focus it means there are sometimes alternative motivations behind the things that Christians do.

    Reply

  2. Posted by reibwo on August 27, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    On the last quote: I do think it is a fair critique…sad, but true.

    Reply

  3. […] Apologetics (Part 5) Picking on up a comment by Bill Maher on HarvestBoston: I saw the interview where Maher made this comment and it struck me as accurate and important. Not […]

    Reply

  4. Posted by Kevin Williams on August 27, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    For many salvation is the only thing at stake, and if that is the case then morals are going to be lackluster. The kingdom of God discussino seeks to help the church understand salvation as here and not yet, thus, making our call to restore not to hang on here for dear life at the end.

    Reply

  5. […] on Bill Maher’s critique of Christians “Wrestling with Faith“. Maher is correct, and we need to do something about […]

    Reply

  6. Posted by miller on August 28, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    regarding the first quote, many have said much the same thing. Gandhi said pretty much the same thing.

    i think you’re on to something steve, it’s not a tack i would have taken but i think you can pull it off.

    maybe…

    i’m just not sure that intellectualizing spirituality is a good way to win anyone. it doesn’t seem to have worked at all since…

    well, ever.

    wha’d’ya think?

    peace

    Reply

  7. Great comments, folks. Miller, intellectualism in faith is fine as long as it is counter-balanced with practicing the real claims of faith. In fact, where I live, it seems that most people don’t have a problem with living in a Christ-like manner, but they DO have a problem with the story they’ve been told accompanies those actions. I have a problem with that story as well. It’s the heaven and hell, go to church, do this do that story.

    What I’m hearing from guys like Sam Harris is that there is still a need for those of us living in the way of Jesus to give an answer for the hope that lives in us. Oftentimes, that answer is going to differ (sometimes wildly) from the answers given by pop-Christianity. I want to explore some of these potential re-tellings in some future blogs. (you still want to cross-post some of that with me, dude?)

    Reply

  8. Posted by miller on August 28, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    ahh… but then they aren’t the same thing are they? intellectualizing spirituality and intellectualism in faith…

    this is the problem i’ve seen, people like to think they are the same thing… people on both sides of the cross!

    i’ve just been in a relationship where the non-christian criticized the “intellectual” nature of christianity as she knows it but really relied on primarily intellectual reasons for her position and spirituality.

    i think we need to greatly lessen the degree to which we rely on the intellectual and begin to rely more on experience and get OK with mystery.

    Reply

  9. Posted by eddy on August 29, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Two primary reasons people are not Christian:
    1. They have never been around Christians and witnessed the working of Christ.

    2. They have been around Christians and never witnessed the working of Christ.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Landon on August 31, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Steve,

    Just wanted to say hi, because…well, I miss you, and also, I’m working to join the 26.2 club. So, I thought that might excite you. April 5th is the target date: http://www.texasmarathon.com

    I’ll start a 16 week training program in December. Right now I’m working on a good base. I’m at 20 miles a week (4 miles, 5 days a week), but going for 25 for the next couple of weeks, then hoping to get it to 30 a week for a couple of months before the training starts.

    Email me sometime. Or you can talk to me on my wife’s facebook — she’d let me know.

    God bless your ministry. Hope to hear from you soon.

    Landon – your brother in God’s Kingdom and his service; and soon to be part of the 26.2 brotherhood.

    Reply

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