I really didn’t want to get into commentary and debate again, but a story in today’s newspaper compelled me to write.
The Sydney Anglican Church is renowned for its ultra-conservative evangelical stance, even to the embarrassment of fellow Anglicans. Sydney’s Archbishop, Peter Jensen, began his tirade against atheism on Good Friday with the following:
“As we can see by the sheer passion and virulence of the atheist — they seem to hate the Christian God — we are not dealing here with cool philosophy up against faith without a brain,” Dr Jensen told the congregation at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral.
“Atheism is every bit of a religious commitment as Christianity itself.
“It represents the latest version of the human assault on God, born out of resentment that we do not in fact rule the world and that God calls on us to submit our lives to Him. It is a form of idolatry in which we worship ourselves.”
These comments are stupid enough to warrant no reply. They are ill-informed and reflect an extremely biased view, and as such merely attract scorn. It’s what followed that disturbed me.
An absence of faith invites an inward focus and undermines human relationships, Dr Jensen said in his Easter address at St Andrew’s Cathedral this morning.
“I have emphasised human loneliness this Easter because that is what expert observers of our society are saying is a real problem,” Dr Jensen said.
“It is what we would expect to occur given the secularist philosophy we have embraced.
“This philosophy emphasises the individual and individual rights, it invites us to invent our own lives and it undervalues commitment to other human beings.
“It is a recipe for loneliness and the path to a very lonely old age.”
I’m no stranger to loneliness. My experience of it is partly influenced by the existential crisis that came when I left the faith that I had spent most of my life constrained within. However, it is far more complex than what Jensen suggests – I was lonely at the highest points of my time as a Christian believer. Involvement in a church and belief in deities are no guarantees of happiness, despite what opinion polls tell us (just ask the multitude of ex-Christians).
Additionally, the very philosophy that Jensen derides was very much promoted within the congregations that I attended! For starters, commitment to human beings took less priority than commitment to God and church. The values of both the clergy and the congregation were identical to those in the general community, and in fact in my experience the congregation tended to be amongst the more middle-to-upper class in society, well-to-do by virtue of business, investment, and political interests.
So Peter, do you seriously expect me to believe that the cure for my loneliness is to join your church and take your faith? If your god kept me locked in loneliness and depression over the years while I attempted to live my life by faith, how on earth will I be saved now?