Updated from the original blog entry
The Anti-Candidate's Position on FAITH & FAMILY
We put these two items together because both are important to us, but it's okay if one or the other isn't as important to you. For us, they go together.
"Faith of our fathers," the old hymn goes. It took us awhile to accede to the faith of our parents -- we thought we were too intellectual and sophisticated when we were younger -- but having accepted it we did our best to pass it on to our children. And for one key reason: because faith provides an anchor in troubled times, and lifts our vision beyond our current situation and limited circumstances to consider the wider world and our proper place in it.
Other people seem to be able to look beyond themselves without faith. Some people of faith seem unable to do so. Faith itself, then -- that is, a person's profession of faith -- is an imperfect measure of how much a person will focus on themselves to the exclusion of the rest of Mankind.
When we were in college, a well-meaning young fellow would stand out in the plaza in front of Harcombe Dining Hall and yeach -- by "yeach," we conflate "yell" and "preach" -- at everybody as they walked to and from their dorm rooms. We don't remember anything he yeached, and we wonder if he might have had more impact if he had been a little gentler, a little more willing to meet people where they were and try to address their hurts instead of hurling invective at them like stones. As Christians, we're not supposed to be as in favor of stoning as we once were.
We wish the whole "religion" debate would settle down a little. On the one side, we wish the radical atheists (or Atheists, for those who wish to capitalize it) would quit trying to assert their intellectual superiority over everyone. On the other side, we wish more people of faith would accept the fact that not everyone is going to have a conversion experience or be convinced to follow their particular creed. As we said to our Air Staff colleagues a few years ago, we are not so much in favor of religious tolerance as we are of reciprocal religious respect.
We read with interest a few months ago an Economist item on "Explaining Religion," a project to study the phenomenon of religion scientifically:
Religion cries out for a biological explanation. It is a ubiquitous phenomenon -- arguably one of the species markers of Homo sapiens -- but a puzzling one. It has none of the obvious benefits of that other marker of humanity, language. Nevertheless, it consumes huge amounts of resources. Moreover, unlike language, it is the subject of violent disagreements. Science has, however, made significant progress in understanding the biology of language, from where it is processed in the brain to exactly how it communicates meaning. Time, therefore, to put religion under the microscope as well.
We wonder, though: if science demonstrates a physical component to religion, so what? If science categorizes religion as a hunger in the mind as opposed to the body -- since science cannot prove or disprove the existence of the soul -- so what? The underlying purpose seems to be to obviate the need for religious expression, to prove that men do not need God, but we don't expect it will work that way. Science can explain the hunger in our bellies, but that doesn't mean we can stop eating.
Science and religion need not stand opposed, just as society and religion need not stand opposed. Jefferson imagined a "wall of separation" that need not exist, especially if we understand rightly what is meant by the first clause of the First Amendment. As Richard John Neuhaus wrote in The New York Sun Online back in February:
In discussions of the Religion Clause, it is common practice to speak of an Establishment Clause and a Free Exercise Clause. In fact, both grammatically and in intent, there is one clause with two provisions -- no establishment and free exercise. The first provision is in the service of the second: The reason the government must not establish a religion is that having an established religion would prejudice free exercise by those who do not belong to it.
In other words, the First Amendment is meant to protect those of any religion -- or none -- from the excesses of a government that would mandate a particular religion. If there is a wall separating the two, it is a wall to protect religion from the government, not to keep religion safely and securely locked away from the rest of public life.
In the end, I do not begrudge you your expressions of your faith or of your denial of faith, except where those expressions create a danger to me or to society, and I do not want the government to tell either of us whether or how we must worship or not. In the same way, I hope you will not begrudge me mine.