tsunami on Dover Beach

The Archbishop of Canterbury – a thoughtful character – says that the awful suffering, and the 200,000+ dead, caused by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean must cause many Christians to question their faith in God. It’s hard to disagree – if I was a Christian I’d certainly be having terrible pangs.

But perhaps that’s why I’m not a Christian. Since the sine qua non of the religion is a confession of belief in an improbable victory over mortality 2000 years ago, I thought the whole point was that death is not the end. Moreover, Christians are supposed to believe that if you have made your confession of faith and lived to a certain standard, you’re guaranteed a slot in the good hereafter when your time’s up. So, even if it would be a bit tasteless to say so in public, shouldn’t true Christians be, well, at least unconcerned that so many people have been rewarded early?

As for the grief of those who have lost everything or nearly everything, stout Christians of centuries past wouldn’t have allowed that to sway their convictions; they would have argued that this life is a vale of tears, and that although those who survive are bound to be desolate, at least they can take consolation in knowing their loved ones who were killed have been released from the suffering of this life into a better world.

So it’s hard not to conclude that this religion has lost its bearings quite badly when its chief practitioners admit they find themselves in the same muddy slough of uncertainty as those of us who only know that we don’t know. The positive side is that a lot of them do a great deal to help the victims of disasters, with no strings attached – though Christian belief is by no means a prerequisite for that. And their confusion and doubt are certainly far preferable to the blind ignorant conviction of the fundamentalists, Christian or otherwise…

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