Stephen Plant: Trinity Sunday helps us to see the real dangers of bad faith

The first few years of this century are turning out to be busy ones for anti-religious polemicists. Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion and, soon to appear, Christopher Hitchens’s God is not Great revive a tradition of impassioned criticism of religious belief and of what people do in God’s name.

The reason for the relative quiet in the closing years of the last century is plain enough. As long as religion had seemed to have little to do with anything important ”“ such as politics or war ”“ committed secularists were spared the bother of arguing that religion is bad. It is only when people do bad things in the name of their religious beliefs that atheists need to get evangelical about their creed.

Personally, I don’t feel any desire to leap to the defence of Christian faith against this renewed assault. This is not because others are doing the job well enough, but because, Christian though I am, I have some sympathy with the view that belief in God can be dangerous.

If God is not to be abused, it seems important to me to recognise that religious belief can be dangerous for individuals and for society. The fact that most of the time religious convictions in practice make believers good neighbours and good citizens does little to lessen the scandal when God is invoked to justify tyranny or terror.

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Theology

6 comments on “Stephen Plant: Trinity Sunday helps us to see the real dangers of bad faith

  1. azusa says:

    Another article in which the writer can’t bring himself to say ‘Islam’. It wasn’t Methodists who brought down the twin towers or threatened JFK airport. What the writer failed to do was to spell out that it is precisely the trinitarian doctrine that underwrites the claim that ‘God is love’. Pure monism by itself means power and will.

  2. Br. Michael says:

    And I don’t suppose committed secularists don’t have a worldview that they seek to impose on everyone else? It is as much a religion as any other, it just elevates humans as God and imposes its own morality. It has its own presuppositions and assumptions. And, as we are seeing, it is implacably hostile to other worldviews when they become effective challengers. It is our public religion. Others may be tolerated as long as they are ineffective and private.
    Not really any different from pagan Rome.

  3. Timothy Fountain says:

    #1 Gordian great comment!
    The words in the article that caught my attention were

    …evil has a knack of deliberately mimicking the good in order to cause confusion. Evil, that is, is often at its most effective when it dresses in religious clothes.

    Yes, I think Mullahs. But I also think TEC – not for violence and terror, but for causing confusion while parading about with Christian symbols. And no, I don’t just mean gender confusion, but confusion about who God is and how God is, has been and will be.
    By depersonalizing the Father, removing the divinity of the Son, and presenting the Holy Spirit as an independent entity that rejects the revelation of the Father and overturns the words of the Son, TEC confuses people and points them to lesser, passing things – things that wither like the grass and fade like the flower.

  4. BrianInDioSpfd says:

    I liked the reminder of Dante’s vision of the Trinity. I am reminded of what William Temple said:

    If we believe in God at all, what we believe about Him matters more than anything else in our composition. To believe in God falsely conceived may easily be worse than to disbelieve in Him altogether. For we tend to become like that which we worship. The good influence of a true faith and the bad influence of a false faith pervade all life; in a thousand subconscious ways faith moulds or checks both thoughts and desires. …. If the idea of God with which you fill your mind is that of a proud Being, or capricious, or vindictive, your own character will be more marked by pride or caprice or vindictiveness in proportion as your worship is genuine and deep. Personal Religion and the Life of Fellowship (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1926), 2-3

  5. Words Matter says:

    By the numbers, evil dressed as nationalism and ethnic identity is much more effective than when dressed as religion. The Spanish Inquisition killed fewer people over 200 years than Pol Pot managed on a slow afternoon.

  6. Paula Loughlin says:

    Words Matter,
    Another important distinction is this. The great sins of Christians in the name of religion have ended because other Christians have shown them i their beliefs go against Scripture. At the heart of Christian teaching is the belief in human dignity by virtue of our being created in the image and likeness of God. We are worth more than any system no matter how just that system may be. With that we must conclude that an unjust system should not be allowed to stand against a person’s God given dignity. So slavery topples, despots fall, and tyrants tremble before godly men preaching Truth.

    Could any Stalinist, Maoist, National Socialist go back to the source of their doctrine to show error was committed in the mass killings, terrorist acts and other atrocities? No they could not because in all these systems the person is secondary to the goals and power of the System. Remove the dignity of the person from a system and you plant the seeds of tyranny.

    When the Christian abuses his brother he is abusing the Word of God, both written and incarnate. He demeans God. He sins. It is no only our knowledge of human dignity that moves us to stop abuses . It is also our knowledge of sin and the damage it does to the Body of Christ that compels us to stop abuses.

    The servant of tyrants has no such knowledge. Anything done in the name of that tyranny to achieve its goals is considered right. There can be no sin, no personal responsibility and no repentance.
    And how can I change if I do not repent?

    Yes evil is done in the name of religion. Islamic terrorists come to mind. But there are Islamic clerics ( far too few) who are speaking against such acts and using the teachings of the Quaran to do so. Maybe one day their voices will rise above that of the fanatics and the Islamic world will unite in its condemnation of terrorism.

    Meanwhile the wicked will continue to do wickedly. So we pray.