Saturday, May 14, 2011

The church where God is not required

Reverend Gretta Vosper is an avowed atheist and minister of the United Church in Toronto. Now if that doesn't sound like a contradiction I don't what does.
An article in the National Post today highlights that story, and discusses the issues around the title of this posting.
It has been common knowledge for a long time that the United Church in Canada is one of the most liberal of all religious organizations in the country. It was instrumental in legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada six years ago. Today it supports causes ranging from "climate justice" to the perceived plight of the Palestinian refugee, and other issues that make it among the most "progressive" of all churches. One of the ministers, frustrated with the Churches progressive stand on issues of the day is quoted as saying:

“In the 1960s and ’70s we became embarrassed about Jesus. And so we distanced ourselves from Jesus, and the point is without Jesus there’s no point in having a church. iTunes has better music and the NDP has better policies; everything else we do now somebody else does way better. The only thing we can do is this Jesus thing.”
Well, maybe iTune does have better music, but I know the NDP is not known in my circles for good policies, but they are progressive too. I'm not so progressive. For me the reality of this story has nothing to do with this church, though I do admire its liberal stand on many issues, I'm not really concerned with its survival as the Post article illustrates. The article highlights (without saying it) the question: What is the purpose of a church? Obviously it fulfills some human needs, whether rational or not, churches would not exist otherwise. Personally I don't think it is rational, however, I don't think gambling is rational, or binge drinking, or smoking, or doing drugs or any of the behaviours people can do in a voluntary way. Many people are irrational for a part of their lives, at least.
Which brings me to: churches are not going away. Once, as a youngster with Objectivist ideals, I thought (hoped) religion would go the way of the Dodo bird. Today I see religion for what it is, a social club, a fraternal society, a sorority of the like-minded; and as long as it stays voluntary with no coercive impact on government, then we can all get along. But they need to be watched.  

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