Primary Education News

12 Jul '14

News Leading a decent, purposeful life isn't the sole province of the religious | Hari Kunzru

In our lazy contemporary conversation about faith, the faithless such as myself are rarely heard. We are assumed to be too spineless to stand up for anything. I couldn't disagree moreOf all the jargon words that get thrown around in British political discourse, "faith" may be the one from which I feel most alienated. If you listen to politicians, "faith" seems to be a nebulous goodness, a state of mind that leads citizens to behave in certain convenient ways. The faithful perform charitable works, like running food banks or homeless shelters great for reducing the departmental bottom line, or indeed for shifting the burden of dealing with the poor (not to mention the weak, the halt and the lame) from government altogether. The faithful lay down rules for their sexual relations and have prohibitions against socially problematic behaviour such as stealing things or (up to a point) being violent. In general, "faith" makes people much easier to govern after all, they're already being governed by God, who has panoptical security cameras and already knows what's in everyone's browser history. No wonder politicans line up to praise it. If only everyone possessed this salutary quality!None of this seems to have anything to do with the actual experience of faith, which I have been struggling to understand since I was first exposed to organised religion as a child. I'm not talking about the kind of religious adherence that's mainly a badge of belonging. Going to a holiday service or getting married in a church or temple is, for many people, no more than a way of asserting their identification with a tradition or their membership of a cultural group. For me, coming from a family that includes both devout Hindus and Anglican Christians, that kind of allegiance was never straightforward, and the assertion of a religious identity was left up to me. Belief would have to come, not as a comforting experience of group belonging, but as an individual choice. As a child, I waited for faith to make its necessity felt in my life. It never did. The plethora of contradictory rules and prohibitions in the major world religions appeared at best confusing, at worst absurd. Why did God care what I ate or how I dressed or who I slept with? Not everyone's book could be divinely inspired. Someone had to be mistaken. Continue reading...

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