Alister McGrath: A system of belief should not involve point scoring

For example, Christians believe in God; the “New Atheists” believe that there is no God to believe in. In 1948 the United Nations “reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights”. The statements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights cannot be proved, logically or scientifically. This doesn’t fit the “New Atheist” mantra of “all faith is blind faith”. But that’s just the way things are. As the literary critic Terry Eagleton points out: “We hold many beliefs that have no unimpeachably rational justification, but are nonetheless reasonable to entertain.”

All of us want to celebrate our beliefs. Yet can we do this without condemning the beliefs of others? It is an important question in contemporary Britain. The threat of social fragmentation is easily worsened if interest groups, secular or religious, lash out against others when justifying themselves. A rhetoric of dismissal and ridicule plays well to a populist gallery. Yet a robust civil society is fostered by a culture of respect and civility rather than derision and censure. Neither of these civic virtues seems to be much in evidence at the moment.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture