Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Annoying Quotes

Read two good page-turners last week, both of which had engaging story-lines but the same level of theological knowledge you'd expect from popular fiction. That both have been greeted as worthy successors to The DaVinci Code says it all. Yet they serve some sort of purpose in revealing with great clarity some modern conceptions of religion and Christianity.

In which spirit, here are some quotes I intend to shoot down at the appropriate moment in talks on these sorts of subjects... The reason that they are useful is that they are so mainstream, and thus cannot count as straw men.

Sam Bourne The Righteous Men
'I don't know if you're a man of faith or not, Will, but this is how faith operates. We have to believe in God even when we have not the barest inkling of what he has in mind for the universe. We have to obey rules that seem to make no sense, simply because we believe. Not everyone can do it, Will. It takes strength to have faith.' (189-90)
Raymond Khoury The Last Templar
'The unification of the three faiths ... just imagine it. Christians, Jews and Muslims - all joined in one faith. And why not? We all worship the same God, after all. We're all the children of Abraham, aren't we? ... Think about it. Imagine what a different world we'd be living in if that were the case. An infinitely better world... Think of all the pain and bloodshed we would have avoided over the years - today more than ever... No inquisitions, no holocaust, no wars in the Balkans or in the Middle East, no planes plowing into skyscrapers...' (298)

"I was like you, once. I didn't question things. I took them on as a matter of ... faith. I can tell you, though... once you start digging for the truth... it's not a pretty picture."
"What you need to realise ... is that the early days of Christianity are just one big scholarly black spot, when it comes to verifiable, documented facts. ... None of the four gospels that make up the New Testament was written by contemporaries of Jesus. The earliest ... is thought to have been written at least forty years after Jesus's death. That's forty years without CNN, without videotaped interviews, without a Google search..."
(the argument about the different gospels goes on a bit more here)
"What I'm telling you, Agent Reilly, is that basically everything Christians believe today and have believed since the fourth century ... none of it was part of what the immediate followers of Jesus believed in. It was all made up, it was all tagged on much later". (311-16)

Having found Jeshua of Nazareth's diaries, which prove him never to have claimed divinity, the 'scholar' then decides to hide the evidence: "You know, as long as I can remember I could only see what was wrong with the Church. the bloody history, the greed, the archaic dogma, the intolerance, the scandals of abuse... So much of it has become a joke. I still think a lot of it could use one hell of an overhaul, without a doubt. But then, nothing's perfect, is it? And if you look at what it does when it works, when you think about the compassion and the generosity it inspires... That's where the real miracle lies." (428)

Tim Chester on Giving

Some really good moments here.