Intruding on a Sacrament

This morning’s Guardian gave me plenty to think about:

  • Justin Cartwright writes about the meaning of life or, rather, its meaninglessness. Religious belief he sees as somewhere between pathetic and pernicious. What strikes me? I think its the tone of the piece: it sounds like its pointing out the obvious to those who should know better. It’s another sign of the intellectual marginalisation of belief in the UK — for which people of faith must bear the responsibility. The measure of the shift underway (or almost over?) is that the non-theistic perspective of belief is no longer seen as belief at all but as background knowledge.
  • Maybe that why I winced especially at the report on the collection of religious jokes being assembled to test proposed anti-hate speech legislation. I think the legislation is misguided but couldn’t help feeling profoundly saddened by the implicit view of my profession. Bring back Dave Allen!
  • I was moved, in contrast, by an article about the testimony of emergency workers in New York on September 11. Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman in particular struck me:

    “Somebody yelled something was falling. We didn’t know if it was desks coming out. It turned out it was people coming out, and they started coming out one after the other … we saw the jumpers coming. We didn’t know what it was at first, but then the first body hit and then we knew what it was. And they were just like constant … I was getting sick. I felt like I was intruding on a sacrament. They were choosing to die and I was watching them and shouldn’t have been. So me and another guy turned away and looked at a wall and we could still hear them hit.”

2 replies on “Intruding on a Sacrament”

  1. Mark commented:

    Justin Cartwright’s argument, while certainly articulate, to me seems to betray its conceit in the final three sentences: it’s really a sort of injuction for ’secular liberal’ fundamentalism. I’m foxed; how can it be plausible to assert the mutual exclusivity of liberalism and religion? That, after all, is the very same conceit perpetuated by the US right!

    I went through a period of feeling as he does; locally, it was just too easy to blame the difficulties of growing up in Belfast in the 80’s and 90’s on religion, because of the feeling of living in the clutches of tribes, really, identified by our churches. But there comes a point when the laziness of that line of thought starts to become itself exhausting to bear. Don’t you sense Justin’s fatigue in the article?

    I ‘awoke’ on an October walk on a beach at Malin Head in Co Donegal several years ago. Looking around, I thought: of course there’s an explanation for the form and function and beauty of the landscape, the weather – and for my wonderment!

    Rob, I want to thank you most sincerely for this site – I’ve already added it to my bookmarks. Thanks also for the advice on the shoulders – it was most welcome!

  2. Crystal commented:

    I’m having trouble posting comments for some reason – a glitch? – but I’ll try one more time …

    Cartwright writes … we behave morally and responsibly not because God commands us to do so, but because it is in our nature and because it makes profound common sense to do so.

    I’m a fan of existentialism but I think Cartwright is wrong … we behave morally for many reasons and doing so doesn’t always make sense – and I think our “nature” would tend to send us in the opposite direction of what’s moral/resonable, if our history of violence is any indication.

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