A recent interview on the BBC World News website (accessed 2 Apr 2013) discusses ideas that remind me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s observation that “the world is coming of age” and is becoming religionless, no longer feeling the need for the “tutelage” of a god.
The BBC program is called “HARDtalk.” The interviewer is not named. He is clearly committed to the idea that the theory of evolution is the proper interpretive grid by which we are to understand all manifestations of life on earth. Evolution, in other words, is no longer the subject of study but is the tool by which all other studies are enabled. That is an increasingly common phenomenon in our culture.
The person being interviewed is Daniel Dennett, identified only as “professor and cognitive scientist.”
Interviewer: It seems to me you posit the idea that religions are evolving and that in essence they are evolving in a way which is going to leave them extinct. They are no longer necessary or useful for human beings. Am I right?
DD: Well, first of all, even if they are no longer necessary or useful, they might not go extinct. The common cold is not necessary or useful [but] it’s not going extinct, is it? . . . . There are lots of symbionts and parasites that thrive on us. . . .
Int: In the intellectual sense, in the idea sense, religion is bad for us and therefore we need a cure. Is that what you are saying?
DD: Yes indeed. I think a lot of people are really afflicted by their religion and I would love to see them cured.
My first thought when hearing such critiques about religion is that I agree. Religion is a human construct which we have used to give us feelings of security, meaning, purpose, and belonging. It is often a great hindrance to clear thinking, integrity, and love.
My second thought is that religion, even the “Christian” religion, has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. I am a follower of Christ, not of Christianity. Jesus was and is a revealer of the Creator, not a religious teacher.
There are two fundamental ideas that seem to govern the thinking of contemporary science. One is the Big Bang Theory, positing the creation of the universe as we know it in an explosion. What science can’t explain, however, is what went bang? The second idea is evolution, positing all life as developing from simple organic matter. On what basis, I often wonder, might one conclude that the Big Bang Theory and Evolution disprove God, rather than simply describing how the Creator has designed the universe?
Whatever one makes of such ideas, this interview and many others like it certainly demonstrate that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was giving an accurate description of the trend of the human story. We each must ask not, Am I religious? but, Am I faithfully and honestly responsive to God?