Well, probably not, because I agree with almost everything that you say. But I still consider myself a Christian and a person of faith.
Do you mind if I ask you a question? Faith in what? Faith in the resurrection?
The way I believe in the resurrection is I believe that one can go from a death in this life, in the sense of being dead to the world and dead to other people, and can be resurrected to new life. When I preach about Easter and the resurrection, it’s in a metaphorical sense.
I hate to say it—we’ve hardly been introduced—but maybe you are simply living on the inheritance of a monstrous fraud that was preached to millions of people as the literal truth—as you put it, “the ground of being.”
Times change and, you know, people’s beliefs change. I don’t believe that you have to be fundamentalist and literalist to be a Christian. You do: You’re something of a fundamentalist, actually.
Well, I’m sorry, fundamentalist simply means those who think that the Bible is a serious book and should be taken seriously.
I take it very seriously. I have my grandmother’s Bible and I still read it, but I don’t take it as literal truth. I take it as metaphorical truth. The stories, the narrative, are what’s important.
But, then, show me what there is, ethically, in any religion that can’t be duplicated by Humanism. In other words, can you name me a single moral action performed or moral statement uttered by a person of faith that couldn’t be just as well pronounced or undertaken by a civilian?
You’re absolutely right. However religion does inspire some people. You claim in the subtitle of your book that “religion poisons everything,” but what about people like the Berrigan brothers, the Catholic priests who were jailed over and over again for their radical protesting of the Vietnam War? Or Bishop Romero, the nuns and priests who gave their lives supporting…
They’re all covered by the challenge I just presented to you. I know many people who…
Yeah, but these people claim to be motivated and sustained by their faith. Do you deny that?
I don’t claim. I don’t deny it. I just don’t respect. If someone says I’m doing this out of faith, I say, Why don’t you do it out of conviction? I don’t like the Barogen brothers anyway. They’re fanatical and they’re pacifists who believe in the non-resistance to evil, which is itself an evil doctrine. And if Bishop Romero got as far as being an archbishop in El Salvador, he achieved the prestige carved out for him by an institution that has made El Salvador into an oppressive slave society.
That’s true, but he did change.
Well good for him. He needs to change a bit more. I know many, many, many people in El Salvador who have no religious faith of any kind who stuck up for human rights much longer, more consistently, and more bravely than he did. His prestige as an archbishop was meaningless to me.
Well, I can’t argue with that.
As it is for Martin Luther King. For example, he would’ve been much better off not invoking the nonsense story of Exodus, a story of massacre and the enslavement. He left us with a legacy where any clown or fraud or crook—Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, our new president’s favorite priest in Chicago—who has the word reverend in front of his name can get an audience.
I would just say that this shows the fallen nature of people or, in secular language, the selfishness, egocentricity of all human beings. People are imperfect. But have you observed any redemptive aspects to religion?
No, in the sense of the challenge I made: any good action by a religious person could be duplicated or matched, if not surpassed, by someone who didn’t believe in god. And I would add the corollary question: Is there a wicked action performed by a religious person in the cause of their faith? And of course, you’ve already thought of several examples.