Pete sent this along recently. It's a great statement on integral role of religion in democracy.
It somehow reminded me of another airplane conversation I had as I sat next to a cop from Belfast on a flight to London a year or so ago. His newspaper had an article about several police officers from Belfast that had been injured in sectarian violence the day before. He also worked on the riot squad and regularly puts his life on the line trying to keep the peace between warring factions of god-fearing Protestants and Catholics.
Needless to say he was very down on religion. Although he was brought up in a religious home and attended church regularly as a child, he had lost any appetite for organized religion. He assured me that he was a good person, but now lived without the restraints of religion. He considered all religion bad.
When it was my turn to chime in, I commented about the integral role that my faith and my religion play in my life. To my own astonishment, I challenged him on his contention that religion was all bad by simply pointing out that his religious upbringing was inseparably connected to who he was now. He had just finished telling me that his formative years were dominated by the principles taught by organized religion . . . how his parents were wonderful people and how he had a fantastic upbringing. I pointed out that his argument that religion was all bad was fatally flawed. Whether he now chose to believe the tenets of his faith or considered himself a part of his childhood religious tradition, was not the point. His historical religious tradition and upbringing had defined him and helped make him the man he was. It certainly was not the only thing that defined him, but it's role could not be ignored.
I have friends who, becoming disenchanted with the church for their various reasons, lose their ability to objectively see it for what it is. There are certain things that are problematic in the church; yet there is so much more that is very, very good. Why does the latter become so hard for them to recognize?
To his credit, my friend from Belfast conceded my point. I conceded to his that intolerance in the name of religion is a very dark stain on those who purport to be men of faith. It is something that every church-goer needs to work on.
I wrote down these quotes from Brennan Manning a long time ago. They seem to sum up the feelings of my friend from Belfast rather well:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
“The litmus test of our love for God is our love of neighbor.”