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Discussion 1 to Meditation 338
Let us do it together.

by Maarten van den Driest

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In Meditation 338, John Tyrrell attempts to prove that a literal reading of the Bible can be rejected on logical grounds. He succeeds.

However, it is my view that his logic is of no use when debating orthodox believers. The problem with agnostics trying to get their points across is, so to say, that they need a logical environment in order to survive. It is like the fish on and around a coral reef. A reef offers protection against formidable foes but has its own demands. One of those on the agnostic reef is that there is no thinking but rational thinking, no thought without logic. Obviously, a fundamentalist is totally averse to this. "Damn your logic!", as Captain Kirk might say.

Literalists don't prove anything. They know that the Bible is literally true and without error and they're very very sure because they have it on God's authority. And God's authority is supreme, it says so right there in the Bible.

There is no bridge between these two incredibly different modes of thought. Therefore, the challenge will come to naught. Both sides won't accept each other's base assumptions, let alone more.

The only thing that atheists and agnostics on one side and liberal Christians on the other can do - must do, in my opinion - is stand firm when the literalists go outside of their churches. They have the right to belief any kind of concept in the private domain but as soon as they try to get the rest of society to correspond to their views, they must be stopped. Schools banned from teaching science, tax money to dogmatically inclined charities, letters to the site that say it is wrong... it cannot be accepted.

There is a perfectly valid alternative: liberal Christianity. Or, better still, Christianity. It is a mistake often made to think that non-fundamentalists believe basically the same but are simply less devout. No, there is a big difference. The faith of a freethinking - for lack of a better word - Christian is vastly different and actually combines better with that of a Jew or a Muslim than that of any fundamentalist. They may use roughly the same language but there is a chasm between them and that is the chasm of reality.

Where the fundamentalist ignores the world and/or sees it only through the dark glasses of his dogmatism, the Christian works to have his faith encompass the entire complexity of the world. This is pretty hard and we don't always have the answers but at least we don't close our eyes for trouble. At the same time, standing in the millennia-old tradition makes me a bit skeptical about my own importance and my views at this moment. Times change but the core of Christianity stands: love for one's neighbour, striving for betterment of yourself and maybe more, forgiveness of mistakes and the knowledge that you are accepted as you are and, most importantly, firmly believing, whatever happens, that ultimately we will be able to live in harmony as one humanity.

I do not pretend having given a definition of Christianity, nor do I think I was complete. However, I do attempt to show that a grown-up faith can do a whole lot of good. Atheists and agnostics seem to go very well without but that doesn't change anything.

Fighting against fundamentalism may very well be the test of our times. Let us do it together.