Cardinal: be tentative in faith

14 May 2008

by Pat Ashworth

LIFE in Britain cannot become a God-free zone, said the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, in a lecture at Westminster Cathedral on Thursday of last week.

The privatisation of religion has led to a “spiritual homelessness”, in which people had a sense of being in exile from faith-guided experience. They thought that faith was no longer an option for them, the Cardinal said in the final lecture of a series on modern faith and life (News, 11 April).

“Religion comes to be treated as a matter of personal need rather than as a truth that makes an unavoidable claim on us,” he said. “You cannot banish religion to the church premises, and I am unhappy about the various attempts to eliminate the Christian voice from the public forum. Our life together in Britain cannot be a God-free zone, and we must not allow Britain to become a world devoid of religious faith and its powerful contribution to the common good.”

Social currents in Britain today want to isolate religion from other forms of knowledge and experience, in order to marginalise it, the Archbishop suggested. “Many of our ‘new atheists’ seem unable to cope with the notion of an intelligent, reflective Christian faith. But the Catholic tradition is characterised by a close relationship between reasoned understanding and religious faith.

“As always, the interesting question about atheism is ‘What is the theism that is being denied?’ Have you ever met anyone who believes what Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe in? I usually find that the God being rejected by such people is a God I don’t believe in either. I simply don’t recognise my faith in what is being presented by these critics as Christian faith.”

Those without faith should be regarded with “deep esteem” because God was also active in their lives. “We should remember that the proper response to God is that of faith, not absolute certainty,” he said. “If Christians really believed in the mystery of God, we would realise that proper talk about God is always difficult, always tentative. . . We as Christians need to examine what we might have done to give people a misleading idea of God.”

Comment, page 12

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