Talking About Religion

Yesterday, Professor Burgess-Jackson posted the following quote from Richard Swinburne’s Faith and Reason.

If religion is false, it matters greatly that children should not waste their lives in prayer, worship, and evangelism, and in conforming to moral codes which derive their point from religion. If religion is true, it matters desperately that children should learn to practice it in order to attain deep and permanent well-being. Very little could, I suggest, override the obligation to ascertain the truth about religion and to hand it on to those whom we greatly influence, in particular to our children.

I agree with Swinburne that it is important to ascertain the truth about religion. What I have found troubling though is that quite a few theists don’t seem that interested in thinking about religion very much, if at all.

When I was in college, I spent about a year attending services at an Episcopal church on campus. I was already a pretty committed agnostic by this point, but I suppose I went mainly to try to find a reason to believe. Unfortunately, I was hard pressed to find anyone there willing to discuss any of the questions I had about religion.

This has been the reaction (or lack thereof) I’ve found elsewhere as well. People just don’t like discussing religion. I have always found this a little strange. Religious beliefs are supposed to be at the very core of a religious person’s life. It is part of who they are. So why wouldn’t you be interested in thinking about something that is supposed to be so critical to your life? If it is really that important to you, shouldn’t you want to make sure that you are thinking about it as clearly as you can? I would think so, but it seems that a lot of people disagree with me.

As an aside, I suppose it could be that people just don’t like discussing religion with ME. I try to avoid being combative when I ask people about religion, but perhaps people think I’m attacking them regardless. And while I was in college, a couple of students from the Campus Crusade for Christ stopped by my apartment. There was a pretty bad thunderstorm going on at the time, so I asked them if they would like to come inside to talk, which they did. I can’t remember exactly how long they stayed, but I do recall that at some point they looked at their watches and said they had to go. You can make of that what you will, but I prefer to think they had somewhere they had to be rather than they preferred rushing out into a thunderstorm instead of chatting with me.


  1. Okay, I was going to say Episcopalians are never very demonstrative about their faith, and if you really want a religious discussion, go find some CCC folk on campus, and yowza, you already scared some off.

    You must be tough! But if you wait long enough, Jehovah’s Witnesses and/or Mormon missionaries will come to your door and discuss religion with you for as long as you want.

    I don’t know how we can ascertain the truth about religion, or even know that we’ve done so. Faith isn’t something you can analyze and quantify. It breaks down under scientific investigation. (Remember the old line: “it is our capacity to reason that is the universal solvent.”)

    I do believe we’ve been so eager to remove religion from all curricula that most of this generation does not understand how Christianity, Judaism and Islam shaped western and middle eastern civilization; everything from geography to science to art, not to mention all political decisions for almost 2000 years. I think that’s a shame, not to mention somewhat dangerous.

  2. It is definitely sad that people can manage to be considered educated while remaining mostly ignorant of religion. Metaphysical truth aside, religion has been one of the driving forces in civilizations for thousands of years. So one should have at least a passing knowledge of the major religions.

    What we need is a catchy little phrase similar to “Those that do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

    I would suggest, “Those that remain ignorant of religion are a bunch of doofuses”, but I’m not sure that’s catchy enough.

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