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Do I Agree with Dawkins or Not?

May 26, 2015

Once again, I find myself nearly agreeing with Richard Dawkins. In his relentless crusade against all things supernatural, he tries to make the point that attacking religion is not racism, since “something you can convert to is not a race”. That is obviously true: race is in your genes, reinforced by your cultural upbringing; religion is basically a belief system. Neither Christianity nor Islam qualify as “race” in the technical meaning, and criticising them as belief systems is obviously not racism.

On the other hand, Dawkins doesn’t get the whole picture here. The truth is, there is “faith” and there is “religion”, and although they overlap, they are not really the same.

Most people have an inherited religion, which tends to depend on place of birth, parents’ religion and – yes – race/ethnicity as well. One may practice it with more or less commitment and involvement, but it is rarely a matter of choice: most people do see it as part of their ethnic/cultural/racial identity – as when politicians talk about Britain’s Christian heritage even though they don’t actually practise Christianity.

Faith, on the other hand, means wholehearted commitment to a particular god or philosophy, usually by personal decision (whether you choose to commit to your parents’ faith or something else). Faith is definitely separate from culture and race: it requires conversion and commitment.

In order to understand the difference, let’s use the recent UK parliamentary elections. “Faith” is like a party activist who has read and agreed with the Manifesto, trusts the party leadership to make the right decisions, and then gets involved with canvassing, leafletingI etc. “Religion” is like a person who has says “well, my family always voted party X so I guess that’s what I’ll do” – and that’s the extent of their interest in party X!

Obviously there are positions in between those two; just as there are people who are somewhere between personal faith in Jesus and just adhering to their inherited religion. The difference is, God matters more than party politics – so don’t just leave the matter there! Religion might make you feel part of a certain community; putting your faith in Jesus will make you a true member of the people of God, regardless of inherited race, religion or regional accent. This may require some readjustments, but it’s definitely worth it. Remember: nations, religions and cultural traditions will disappear; the people of God is the only community that will last forever.


From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

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