Can One Be Christian Without Being a Theist?

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 15 June 2005 0 Comments
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Why do others such as Tim LaHaye and certain church groups, who I presume are well educated on biblical matters, insist that every word in the Bible is inerrant. Have they never been introduced to Biblical criticism? Could they be afraid to question?


Religion is a strange and sometimes even an irrational thing. People have an amazing ability to compartmentalize learning so that various things never have to interact in their minds. So it is that apparently educated people can actually suspend their thought processes and reject evolution for "creation science," seek to deny that homosexuality is a given rather than a chosen way of life or even believe that miracles occur whenever they pray for them. It is not that their minds are closed so much as it is that they cannot allow anything into their minds that threatens the core of their security-giving religious faith. As I get older, I am impressed by two constant truths

  1. It is not easy to be human. Anxiety and mortality have to be embraced by self-conscious creatures and that is what makes our humanity so unique among the creatures of this earth.
  2. Religion is primarily a search for security and not a search for truth. Religion is what we so often use to bank the fires of our anxiety. That is why religion tends toward becoming excessive, neurotic, controlling and even evil. That is why a religious government is always a cruel government.

People need to understand that questioning and doubting are healthy, human activities to be encouraged not to be feared. Certainly is a vice not a virtue. Insecurity is something to be grasped and treasured. A true and healthy religious system will encourage each of these activities. A sick and fearful religious system will seek to remove them.

--John Shelby Spong

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