Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Are you religious?

I was trying to write a post on Christology, but five days with non-stop migraine have temporarily put paid to that. Mouse put up an interesting post yesterday, at http://churchmousepublishing.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-poll-from-bha-over-50-are-christian.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheChurchMouse+%28The+Church+Mouse%29 . The original post from the British Humanist Association is here: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/771 . You can tell I don't have Mouse's expertise with links.

It seems to me that the BHA questionnaire was appallingly badly designed. I don't know whether this is cock-up or conspiracy, but for a start, what's anyone supposed to make of a question asking 'Are you religious?' It's not a description many people are keen on these days, and I'd be tempted to answer 'no' myself. We see it in phrases like 'conventionally religious'; it's got a bit of musty, out-of-date feel to it, it often comes with slightly negative connotations. After having asked for a person's religion, I wonder what the motive for the second question was?

Then there's the third question: 'Do you believe that Jesus Christ was a real person who died and came back to life, and was the son of God?' For a start, what does 'died and came back to life' mean? How does it differ from someone being revived in hospital? At best, it's an extremely crude statement. The truth is, the New Testament authors never came up with any consensus at all on what happened. Luke describes Jesus as eating a piece of fish after the resurrection, suggesting that he had a normal body. The same writer, however, makes Paul describe the appearance on the Damascus road as a 'vision', and visions aren't corporeal. However obsessive some sections of the church may have become about defining exactly what took place, I can only thing that Luke didn't care about the details. We don't know whether a body came back to life, or what. What we can say is that some of Jesus' followers became convinced that he'd risen - whatever that means - and that this belief sis still with us today.

Then there's the issue of what we mean by 'son of God', an entirely separate question. I think I'd have to answer with 'don't know'. It's a cock-up of a questionnaire which isn't going to produce any meaningful data.

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