Wednesday, 3 February 2016

So "more than half of British adults visited

church last year" did they? That's according to a piece in the Guardian - a piece about the government helping to fund the upkeep of churches and other places of worship. Some people think it should be done, that the heritage found in such places is worth saving.
There are people who think otherwise of course - and some of them duly had their say on the Guardian website. I had my say too - because of Dave.
Dave is an atheist - and Dave would be all for preserving such heritage. He's a great believer in history. He's also a great believer in Christianity - but not for religious reasons. Ask Dave and he will tell you that "Christianity has given all of us some great music, great literature, great art and great architecture, much of the law and community sense we live by". 
Is that worthy of our support? If we took out everything that was even remotely related to the Christian tradition I don't think there would be too much past culture left in our Judaeo-Christian society.
I said that on the Guardian website - and, naturally, people argued with me. They tried to say that we would still have these things, that music, art and literature would still exist. It would, according to them, "just be different".  
But, think about it. Someone argued that greater change came with the Age of Enlightenment and that the building of something like the Clifton Suspension Bridge has nothing to do with the Christian tradition. No? I suspect Brunel, Barlow and Hawkshaw studied things like cathedrals and churches as they were learning. At very least they probably went to schools based on a religious tradition. They moved on from that, of course they did - but does it mean that it had no influence at all? I doubt it. Were people like Newton and Gallileo not influenced at all  by Christianity? Of course they were.
As I was thinking about this someone else said to me, "Well it has all stopped now. It hasn't influenced people since the time of Dickens."
Oh - no "Jesus Christ Superstar" then? No John Rutter? No Blake Prize for Religious Verse/Art? No Coventry Cathedral? And has law ceased to be influenced by religion? How could it be when the vast body of legal cases which influence the way today's judgments are made have been made in accordance with the Judaeo-Christian tradition since the time they were written down - first in Latin because that was the language of the church and thus the judiciary? 
Of course other religious traditions have had great influence - and often great influence on Christianity and the cultures which have developed from it. There is good - and bad - in all such things. 
Has the "Communist" tradition brought the same sense of the spiritual to people? I don't know enough about it although I have talked to Russian and Chinese writers who have told me that they have sometimes felt something was missing from their society. Is it that, even if people don't believe in something themselves, they need to live in a society which at least allows other people to believe? 
I suspect it is entirely wrong to suggest that we would still have developed all the great music, art, architecture, literature and the like without at least some people believing in the mystical and the divine.  It need not be Christianity but perhaps it does need to be a "something other than ourselves" belief?
Does it matter if we now lose these things because many people have ceased to believe? Does it matter if we lose these things because there is no money for the upkeep of architecturally worthy buildings and the traditions inside them? Does it matter if we do away with those emotional responses and concentrate "just on reason". I suspect it does. "Who am I?" and "Where did we come from?" are not just reasoned questions. They are emotional questions. In the end isn't it emotion that brings about creativity - however much we might want to believe it is reason? We might just be in danger of losing creativity with it - and so much depends on creativity.

4 comments:

jeanfromcornwall said...

I call myself by the same label as the writer John Mortimer used - "an atheist for Jesus"
I feel uncomfortable in church, since I am an unbeliever, but it would be a sin to abandon the great language of the King James Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer. And then there is the music - from some of the most sublime to the grand sing-along of so many hymns - particularly with the Methodists. It is all part of our history. We celebrate plenty of festivals that have hung around from pre-Christian times - Christmas for one.

catdownunder said...

The King James version of the Bible was described to me as "poetry, written by a committee". Have to agree that some of the passages in it are magnificent.

virtualquilter said...

To me the most important area of influence we have from the Christian church is the rules of life found throughout the bible, though I have to admit my study of the bible finished when I grew out of Sunday school. In modified form they are reflected in our laws, but also in everyday life in the form of good manners. The bible simplified to me simply tells us to treat each other well, or expect to be punished.
Beyond that, it seems that the Christian church was the first patron of high arts ... music, art, architecture ...
And going back to Sunday School, where would we be without education fostered by the church, not just the great colleges and universities, but the schools in underprivileged areas of rich countries, and poor countries, from kindergarten to universities?

catdownunder said...

That Judy is an argument that some on the Guardian website would find very inconvenient indeed!