There was a recent citywide referendum here in Berlin that was over the question as to whether students should be allowed to have a choice between an “Ethics” class or a “Religion” class. Historically in Berlin there has been only one option: Ethics. This proposition was overwhelmingly defeated, and Berlin students will not have to be confused by two classes which differ only in name; an interfaith “religion” class being nothing more than Ethics with a deus ex machina I’ve been watching all of this unfold recently and was sort of indifferent to the whole issue until I saw this protest sign: NO, and it got me thinking. This sign is inadvertently prophetic, because the clear message in “dialogues” like this is never against “religion” broadly defined–(not incidentally) from the Latin–religare: to bind–but always against the message of the Cross.
I was reminded of this distinction while reading a recent article about David Hume entitled Divine Irony, which opens with the statement, “I suspect that many professional philosophers, including ones such as myself who have no religious beliefs at all, are slightly embarrassed, or even annoyed, by the voluble disputes between militant atheists and religious apologists.” There is no doubt this article delighted the dozens of David Hume fans out there, and perhaps would be a helpful primer for those more familiar with Desmond; nevertheless, what I’m most interested in his statement made in this opening claim to “have no religious beliefs at all.”
When defined as “a belief in God or something divine” (as this recent survey–in which you can participate–of the state of “religiousness” in Europe did), then perhaps this claim to a-religiosity could stand. Without that caveat, however, and when “religion” is allowed to be understood by any of its other definitions–(2) A particular system of faith and worship; (3) a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance–then it doesn’t matter whether the object of your religious fervor is Jesus, god, the Beatles, human potential or Zorgab (see below:)–everyone is religious.
When framed this way, the claims of an Agnostic, Polythiest, Monothiest, Cryptotheiest, Deist, Panthiest, Athiest, Taoist or Me-ist all serve as manifestations of expressly religious devotion. And while one hopes that for the sake of world peace, there can be some common ground established between all of these different religions upon which a global society can exist–my bet is on some sort of Bonobamaism–the Gospel actually proclaims the end of this sort of religion.
This type of religion presupposes a ground of hope as the object in which we have faith and towards which we direct our lives. Whether its getting your brain downloaded into a computer or the “experts view of heaven” (thanks Dusty), it is this very slavery to this active concept of religion as opposed to the passive reception of the Gospel–this view of ourselves as subjects working to secure or maintain the objects of our hope rather than as passive objects resting in the hope revealed–that is the blind and self-deluded bondage from which the message of the Gospel frees us, and one that we need to hear day in and day out.
Mk 10:45: the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
But what do I know, I’m just an old-fashioned kind of guy:)